The fortress of Eptapirgio is a veritable open-air museum of the byzantine era, located atop the highest point of Thessaloniki. It has stood guard over the city for centuries.
The fortification, known as Edi-Kule, was erected by the Paleologian dynasty, but there were fortresses from earlier periods too — hellenistic, roman and early christian — already in place.
Although known as the «fortress of seven towers», there are actually ten. Two are triangular and the rest are square-shaped. Entryways (Portares) guided you to the interior of the complex. One of the most stunning structures was the Trigonio tower. It was strategically placed at the boundary of the Acropolis, uniting it with the city walls, running for kilometers towards the sea.
Throughout its life, the Eptapirgio has had a number of reconstructions, with structures from early byzantine and turkish times, as well as later ones, still visible. It was created to offer protection to the city and its citizens, and at one point was the administrative centre of the area. Today, it is acknowledged as one of the most perfectly preserved fortifications of its era in Greece, and has also been used as a prison.
Approximately in the 1890s, the former stronghold was converted into a jail, which operated until 1989. This resulted in the destruction of the structures within the fort — nothing was left of them. The fortifications themselves were only slightly altered, yet their purpose underwent a vast alteration: from protecting inhabitants from external threats to isolating people from the external world.
Every convict was kept in the jail, regardless of their sex or the type of offense. The jail-yard was formed of five particular areas, which had a sentry station, jail cells, a prison church, offices, solitary cells and other extra structures. It was frequently mentioned in various rembetika songs, as Eptapirgio, and also known as Edi-Kule. Being a place of confinement for political detainees, it was often referred to in music.
After the jail shut down, it was assigned to the ministry of culture. In 1970, excavations and investigations were started, and in 1990, the full renovation of the castle began. By 1995, a digital representation of the Eptapirgio was formed. Presently, pastimes are held in this formerly incarcerated area.
On the sturdy walls of the Eptapirgio, you can observe inscriptions that attempted to record any alterations and reconstructions of the fortress. These blocks inscribed with words were constructed of marble and set in numerous parts of the walls. One of these marks from the past is the engraving over the Eptapirgio entrance. It indicates the refurbishment commanded by Cavus bey, the first ottoman ruler of Thessaloniki, in 1431, right after the city was taken. In 1591, the fortress, based on another engraving, was utilized as the army governor’s lodging.
The Eptapirgio, with its prison premises, administrative buildings, a church and towers (like grain, maiden and bloody, which were named during the turkish period), is a must-visit spot for those who come to Thessaloniki. Its excellent panoramic view has made it the perfect choice for the construction of a strong defensive wall. From its height, one can survey the entire city, making it a great source of attraction for thousands of visitors.
The bus no. 23 will take you to Eptapirgio, linking the new and the old parts of Thessaloniki.
At a stone’s throw from the Eptapirgio there are quaint coffee shops and bistros, where you can take a break. After you are finished exploring the fortress, you don’t have to rush off right away. Just 800 m away, you can find the Vlatadon monastery, which is a part of the Unesco world heritage. You can stay in Eptapirgio until the evening to watch the beautiful sunset.