The castle of St George in Livathos
The castle of Saint George is one of the most well known and historic sites in the region of Livatho. The fortification of the hilltop was begun by the Byzantines but it was the Venetians who gave the castle its final form in the 16th century. The castle served as the island’s capital until 1757 when it was damaged in a major earthquake. Recent renovations have restored some of the castle’s former glory, while the views from this strategic point are magnificent and encompass a large part of the island, including Argostoli and the area of Karavado. Within its wall are the remains of various churches and dwellings, while beneath the castle gates lies the ‘Kastro’ quarter with the metropolitan church of Evangelistria, a typical example of Ionian baroque, in which notable post-Byzantine icons from the ruined churches of the Castle have been preserved. South of Kastro lies the historic convent of Saint Andreas Milapidias, where the old church has been converted into an ecclesiastical museum with notable post-Byzantine icons. One of the most important preservation works on the castle was the restoration of the main gate. However, other than regular maintenance, cleaning and restoration no excavations have been carried out to date. It is well known that a tunnel connecting the castle with Argostoli once existed but it has yet to be discovered or explored and has most likely collapsed in subsequent earthquakes…
The Venetian fortress in Assos
The castle is, indeed, one of the largest in Greece and was built by the Venetians in the early 17th century in response to a request from Kefalonians for protection from raids on the island by passing Turks and pirates. The Venetians decided to build a fortress big enough to house the local population and the Assos peninsula was considered impregnable with sheer drops of 155 metres to the sea below. This Venetian fortress has now been listed as a World Heritage Site. The castle became the seat of Venetian government on Kefalonia until the end of Venetian rule in 1799.Even today, the fortress is not an easy place to reach. A zigzag trail climbs the steep hillside through woods and fields.
The castle remained a prison until 1953 when, after the earthquake, the prison was closed and the castle was abandoned. Originally, the castle had four gates but only the two larger ones are still standing today while the smaller gates lie in ruins. Visitors at the main gate enter through a small tunnel while, on the other remaining gate is a carved emblem of the Venetian Lion on the archway above. Not much else remains of those that originally built the castle, only the ruin of a Venetian building called Gentilini House named after its former owner the Venetian High Commissioner.
The most breathtaking views are those over the sea and Assos bay below. Stunning views are a bit of a cliche but the hilltop is definitely worth a visit!