|he Spinalonga Peninsula lies opposite Elounda and is joined to its eastern shore, forming a sheltered bay. The name Spinalonga is a corruption of the Greek phrase "stin Elounda", "at Elounda". From this corruption, the Venetians and Greeks managed to produce the name Macracantha: spina = acantha (thorn) and longa = makra (long). However, whatever name was used later came to be synonymous with human misery, for in 1903 the castle was turned into a leper colony. |
Fortunately, the advances of science enabled the colony to be closed in 1957.
Today, the peninsula is joined to the main body of the island by an isthmus cut by French sailors in the late 19th century and known as Poros.
A narrow bridge crosses from the island to Spinalonga.
This was the site of ancient Olous, near to the city of Naxos, the whole of which into the sea, as proved by the ruins that can be seen on the seabed when the weather is calm. It was an independent and autonomous city. To the south of Elounda are the remains of a rectangular building if the Geometric period. From the finds made on the site, the archaeologists have concluded that this must have been a temple to the immortal lovers, Aphrodite and Ares.
From Elounda there are boat trips to the rocky islet of Spinalonga. The islet, which in 1954 was renamed Kalydonia, lies off the northern tip of the peninsula. In 1579, the Venetians built a seemingly impregnable castle on the rock, whose dimensions are only 200 x 400 m.
he castle was designed to protect Elounda Bay and the whole area of Mirabello as well against any kind of invaders.
Throughout the Turkish- Venetian war, which lasted 24 whole years, the castle with its enormous cannon, resisted every attempt to capture it.
And when the Turks finally took the rest of Crete, Spinalonga remained in Venetian hands.
Photos and text taken from "Crete - today and yesterday"
and "Crete - A tour of all the towns and villages"
The road to Vai