The Heraklion archaeological services were on full alert after part of the Venetian fortress of Koules gave way – for the second time in two years – a day before International Monuments Day. This time a small section fell onto the pebbled area in front of the fortress, where the crane used in consolidation works is moored.
Consolidation and restoration works on the cavities scooped out by seawater undermining the foundations of the fortress started last month, after years of delay due to lack of funds. Unfortunately, the new damage demonstrates that consolidating Koules is going to be harder work than originally estimated. Work stopped for a few hours while a team of archaeologists, architects and engineers from the 13th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities inspected the building. The damage is not judged serious in itself, but it will delay the consolidation work.
The work includes the sinking of six boreholes in the seabed two metres from the fortress. A total of 90 concrete “pipes” 20 cm in diameter will be sunk 6 metres deep, creating the foundations of a protective wall around Koules. This wall will be about 2 metres wide, in order to act as a breakwater for the waves and prevent further cavities from forming under the fortress.
Work began in early March. After about two weeks, however, the contractor stopped because he was afraid that large rocks removed by the crane during the clearing of the seabed near Koules might form part of the fortress itself. An inspection by archaeologists of the Ephorate of Marine Antiquities proved that this was not the case, and work was resumed.
A study is also under way for the restoration of the section of the fortress which fell in February 2005, provoking a storm of protests to the Ministry of Culture by local agencies. Large rocks will be placed along the underwater part of Koules, filling in the cavities, while the foundations will also be consolidated.