In a previous post, I wrote about the northeastern citadel inside the castle of Ioannina, in the northwestern region of Epirus in Greece. Today I continue with the southeastern citadel, which is known as “Its Kale”, which in Turkish means the inside castle.
As much as the northeastern citadel bears Aslan Pasha’s name all over it, Its Kale bears the name of Ali Pasha. His grave is protected by an iron cage that is a replica of the original that was destroyed in 1940.
Ali Pasha was an Ottoman Albanian ruler who seized control of Ioannina in 1788 and did not relinquish it until his death in 1822. The powerful ruler of western Rumelia was 82 years old when he was killed by the Ottoman Empire army led by Hurshid Pasha; the army was sent to subdue him following his separatist actions against the Sultan Mahmud II. His head was cut off and sent to the Sultan. The headless body was buried in the grave.
The Palace of Ali Pasha was a building complex that covered a wide area of the citadel. Today we can see the ruins of the selamlik (the men’s greeting room) that has been built next to Bohemond’ s tower (you can see it in the background of the picture above).
Bohemond I was the son of Robert Guiscard, Count of Apulia and Calabria. In 1082, fighting with his father who was leading a Norman invasion, he defeated the Byzantine army and captured Ioannina, where he built the tower whose ruins we can see today right next to the ruins of Ali Pasha’s Saray.
There are no other remnants of the middle Byzantine period of the city’s history in Its Kale. It is known that during this time the citadel was the center of the city’s administration. The ruling noblemen had their mansions in the citadel.
The main building in the Saray (Palace) complex houses today the Byzantine Museum.
Following the death of Ali Pasha in 1822, the building continued to be used as an administrative center until 1870, when it was destroyed.
The Greek Army entered Ioannina in 1913 and built a military hospital where the main Saray building was. IIn 1958 the building was remodeled to become a chalet for the Royal Family but was rarely used as such.
East of the Saray lies Fethiye (Conquest) Mosque, which was originally a wooden structure built shortly after 1430 to commemorate the conquest of Ioannina by the Ottoman Turks. In 1611 it was replaced by a stone structure. It took its current form in 1795 when it was reconstructed by Ali Pasha.
Next to the Mosque is the “gunpowder room” and to its north the palace kitchens, dating back to the early 19th century; today it is a cafeteria.
Across the field from the kitchens, there is a complex where we can find the palace’s treasury. The building next to it has become the Church of the Holy Unmercenaries (Agioi Anargyroi).
The building next to it has become the Church of the Holy Unmercenaries (Agioi Anargyroi).
Here the visit to Its Kale ends.
If you ever visit it, make it early in the morning, so that you can hear the birds and the lake breeze and the chanting of the priest in the church nearby.