Updated:
11-oct-2012



I visited this castle in 2010.

Kizkalesi Castle or Maiden's Castle, locally known as Kizkalesi, lies on a small island, some 400 meters from the coast, in the bay of the town with the same name in the province of Mersin in Turkey.

Together with the opposite Korykos Castle on the mainland, this sea castle protected the port of Korykos and of course their histories are linked closely together and almost identical.

I do not know the medieval name of Kizkalesi Castle. The name Kizkalesi dates back to early 20th century.

In ancient times there was an antique harbor city named Korykos or Corycus here. It is possible that the site of Korykos was heavily fortified prior to the Arab invasions, but there is no evidence to confirm this.

Around 1099 Korykos was conquered by the Byzantines. The erection of the castles can probably be credited to the reign of the Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos. Except for reconstruction during and after the Armenian period of occupation in the late 12th century (far more extensive in the sea castle than in the land castle), the circuit walls and towers of both castles date from the early 12th century.

The emperor's daughter, Anna Comnena, tells us that the royal eunuch Eustathius was dispatched as an admiral and was directed to fortify Korykos. The strategy was to defend it from any possible seizure by the Crusader Bohemund I de Guiscard. A large garrison was maintained at Korykos under the command of a certain Strategus Strabo. Exactly when the Armenians occupied the Byzantine castles at Korykos is unknown.

By 1198/99 the site seems to have been under the control of Leo I, King of Armenian Cilicia, as Simon, the Baron of Korykos, was in attendance at his coronation. Following Vahram's brief tenure as Lord of Korykos (1210-12), the Hethumid Baron Oshin held the position until the late 1260's. In the 4th quarter of the 13th century the Armenian historian Hethum followed Grigoris as master of the port. Some years later he died tragically in a battle against the Mamluks. In 1318 Hethum's son, another Oshin, took 300 troops from the garrison at Korykos and succeeded (temporarily) in driving out a band of Turks.

In 1360 Peter I, the King of Cyprus, assumed control over Korykos when it became clear that the Mamluks were soon to conquer all of Cilicia. Robert of Lusignan was dispatched from Cyprus to administer the port. With Cypriot assistance the residents of Korykos were able to repulse a Karamanid attack in 1367. This fortified port proved to be a profitable toll station until its capture by the Karamanids in 1448.

Since Kizkalesi castle is protected by a natural water barrier as well as the formidable shoals of the island, the Byzantine constructed only a single, somewhat geometrical circuit with square towers. The smooth ashlar in the castle consists entirely of materials taken from the neighboring abandoned late antique city. This original construction survives only at the south and east and is in sharp contrast to the Armenian reconstruction (with rounded salients) at the northwest. The plan conforms to the topography of the island.

At present the town of Kizkalesi is a small holiday resort. Kizkalesi Castle can be visited. I don't know if there is an entrance fee. Sadly enough I didn't have the time to visit this beautiful sea castle. So, all my pictures were taken in the early morning from the beach and Korykos Castle.

A plan of Kizkalesi Castle taken from 'The Fortifications of Armenian Cilicia' by RW. Edwards.

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