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25/10/2007

Monemvasia

Prefectural Administration of Lakonia


Monemvasia
Monemvasia - The central lane in the lower city
Monemvasia, the houses of the lower town

In his book Lakonika, the historian Pausanias refers to this rocky outcrop as akra Minoa (i.e. Cape Minoa). This indicates that the rock of Monemvasia, at least in Pausanias day, was joined on to the coast opposite. From the historical sources, we know that a powerful earthquake rocked the southern coasts of the Peloponnese in AD 375, and we can thus not exclude the possibility that the rock was separated from the mainland as a consequence. The foundation of the city of Monemvasia, again according to the sources, is dated to around the 6th century AD, in the time of the emperor Maurice. It was first settled by inhabitants of Lacedaemonia and neighbouring Epidauros Limeras, who were attempting to escape the Avar raids. The strategic position of Monemvasia was recognised early on by Belissarios, Justinians general, who began to fortify it and make it a secure base for the Byzantine fleet. In the 9th and 10th centuries, the Byzantines completed the fortifications of the castle, and the castle-city of Monemvasia became a great naval power. With the fortress walls built in the upper and lower towns (diplokastro), the city became impenetrable. It was first laid siege to in 1147 (fortunately unsuccessfully) by the Norman fleet under Admiral Georgios Antiocheas, under orders from the king of Sicily Roger II. In 1246, after a three-year siege, Monemvasia was finally handed over, with conditions, to the Franks of William de Villehardouin. In 1262, after the battle of Pelagonia, the Byzantines ransomed de Villehardouin in exchange for the castles of Monemvasia, Mystras, Gerakio and Mani. Monemvasia was then designated the seat of a Byzantine general and an Orthodox metropolitan diocese. In 1460, the inhabitants of Monemvasia acknowledged Thomas Palaiologos as their leader, who had escaped to Italy. He granted Monemvasia to the Pope who, in his turn, granted it to Venice in 1462. From this point on, until the 18th century, Monemvasia was the source of conflict between the Venetians and the Ottomans. The castle-city was finally liberated on 23 June 1821

Lower city
The central lane in the lower city is acontinuation of the road leading from the central gate of Monemvasia castle, an idyllic paved lane which intersects the lower city and branches off to all the sites of the medieval city
The houses of the lower town maintain the colours and architecture of old. Whilst walking through the cobbled lanes the visitor can admire the mansions with the apses, the Venetian coats-of-arms and, amongst them, the house of the great Greek poet Yannis Ritsos.


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