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All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to romapip@quipo.it. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Page added in November 2006.

Lero (Leros)
(relief in the fortress of Bodrum)

Key dates:
1310 The island was acquired by the Knights of Jerusalem, who after having lost their possessions in Palestine and Syria, resettled on Rhodes and the nearby islands.
1457/1460/1502/1505 Ottoman attempts to seize the island
1522 Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent conquered Rhodes and the other possessions of the Knights
1648 The Venetians briefly seized the island
1912-43 Italian rule

View of the fortress

The fortress of Lero is located on a high rock on the eastern coast of the island: it has three enclosures: the fortress was enlarged and strengthened by the Grand Master Emmery d'Amboise (1503-1512).

Inner part of the fortress

According to a legendary account in 1505 (or 1506) the Ottoman corsair Kemal Rais landed at night with 500 men at Lero and hid until dawn: he then tried to take the fortress by surprise when its defenders left to go farming. There was only one knight left in the fortress; when he saw the Ottomans he dressed the women and the children in armour and they all made their appearance on the top of the walls; the Ottomans thought it better to abandon their plan and left the island. A boat which makes a tour of the island is named after Khayr al Din (1465-1546), an Ottoman corsair best known as Barbarossa for his red beard (see image used as background for this page).

Coats of arms of the Grand Master d'Amboise (above) and of the commandeer of the fortress (below) and lintels of the churches

The fortress retains some memories of the Knights' rule as well as some very old churches; the upper part of the fortress however was damaged during WWII: the Italians had fortified Lero and used one of its deep water bays as a base for their navy; after the capitulation of Italy in September 1943, the Germans launched several air strikes and eventually in November occupied the island.

Passage to the keep and view towards the sea

High cliffs protected the fortress from attacks coming from the sea while the three enclosures allowed the defenders to easily resist assaults from land, which they did on four occasions.

Views towards north (left) and south (right)

Lero is made up of the emerging part of a mountain range and at points where it extends into the sea it is very narrow: its many bays provide good natural harbours.

View of and from the Ottoman Bourtzi (Sea castle)

In 1648 the Venetians seized Lero and in the same period they occupied several other islands including Tenedo and Imbro from which they were able to block supplies en route to Constantinople. After the Venetians left these islands the Ottomans strengthened their fortifications on some of them including Lero where a small castle was built to protect the access to the bay nearest to the main fortress.

Move to:
The Knights of Rhodes - Introduction
Rhodes: the Gates
Rhodes: the fortifications
Rhodes: the town of the Knights
Rhodes: Byzantine, Ottoman and Jewish memories
Rhodes: modern Italian architecture
Kos: the fortress
Kos: the ancient town
St Peter's Castle (Bodrum)
Other fortresses
Fortress of the Orthodox church
Patmo (Patmos)

Clickable Map of the Ionian and Aegean Seas with links to other locations covered in this website (opens in a separate window)