„Gynaikokastro Castle is one of the most important Byzantine fortifications of the Palaiologan period.“
Gynaikokastro Castle is one of the most important Byzantine fortifications of the Palaiologan period.
The fortress was founded by Emperor Andronikos III Palaiologos between 1328 -1341 in order to strengthen the defense in the context of the wider defense plans of Thessaloniki, second most important city of Byzantium.
The castle halted the dynamically emerging Serbs form the North while protecting Thessaloniki and also served as a safe place for gathering the crops of the Macedonian plains.
Castle Gynaikokastro crowns the top of a hill close an ancient, Iron Age cemetery.
Its name is due to the strong walls which, according to the stories, enabled the defense even by women, such as the legendary Maroulia. It's situated on the top of a natural 106m. hill fort, which according to archaeological findings, had been inhabited during the Iron Age.
The outer perimeter of the castle has a total length of 614m. Covering an area of about 25 acres.
The castle gates are on its south and on its northeast side.
The castle's precinct is quite irregular, with almost curved sides that follow the formation of the rocky subsoil.
It's periodically reinforced with rectangular and semicircular towers while a large part of the north and west sides stand damaged.
Inside the castle overhangs are coupled with bows, resulting in the widening of the ramparts to ensure more space to his defenders.
On the northeast side of the castle lies the acropolis, covering an area of 2 acres, which is protected by a separate quadrangular fortification. On its top there's a square tower (dimensions 13m. over 9m.), which is the best preserved and the most distinctive point of the castle.
The tower is based directly on the rocky ground and has two cisterns / tanks in the basement, which were used to store drinking water.
In the western part and within the walls there is a well with a diameter of 2 meters and a depth of 28 meters. Part of the well appears to be covered by debris; it is estimated that its actual depth reaches 70 meters.
According to residents, it is assumed that there was a secret gateway close to its bottom which led to a nearby river. Probably through the dungeon the inhabitants were able to be supplied with drinking water during periods of siege.
On one of the floors of the tower, it is assumed that there there was a chapel; fragments of frescoes have been found which included a monogram of the Byzantine dynasty of Palaeologi.
Furthermore, the visitor may see the remnants of the two gates, a central in north-east and a smaller subsidiary in acropolis.
A small post-Byzantine basilica years can also be seen in the western edge of the hill; there aare also remains of a private bath in the northeastern slopes. Historical data indicate that the basilica honored Holy Martyr John Nannos, who was born in Thessaloniki around 1785 and martyred in 1802. The ruined church at the foot of the Byzantine Castle is considered to be older than 1838, a date carved on a marble slab in entrance of the church.
The destruction of the fortifications, apart from long-term neglect, was contributed by the extensive use of stones by the Palaio Gynaikokastro villagers; they were refugees who left Asia Minor after 1922 that used the castle as their main source of building material for the construction of a new settlement.
The excavations conducted in 1984-1993 clarified the perimeter of the castle; in addition, the main gate and the buildings were revealed. Furthemore, the main tower of the acropolis was restored.
In 2007-2008, under EU funding, there were extensive restoration works designed to improve accessibility of visitors.
The Archaeological Museum of Kilkis houses important findings from the area; cinerary urns from the site of the Iraon Age cemetery, as well as weapons, knives, double axes and jewelry, indicative of the sex of the cremated dead; there is also a representation of the burial ritual.