Monemvasia - Greece

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Monemvasia is a beautiful town in the South-East of Greece with a rich history. Known by the Franks as Malvasia, Monemvasia (Μονεμβασία, Μονεμβάσια, Μονεμβασιά) means "single entrance". The "Kastro", "Rock" or "Castello" infact, (some of the many nicknames of Monemvasia) is a medieval fortress with only one entrance.

Monemvasia is located on a small peninsula off the east coast of the Peloponnese, in the prefecture of Lakonia. Its remains include the defensive structures and the small adjacent town and Byzantine churches.

The rock is 300 m tall and 1.8 km long. The village is situated on the southeastern side of the rock, which overlooks the Palaia Monemvasia bay. A small hamlet with about 10 houses lies to the northwest. A field of grass covers the northwest and top, accessed by a rocky, zig-zagging pathway. The fortress lies on the north side of the colorful rock, which ranges from grey to peach melon and pink.


Monemvasia was founded in 583 a.D. by people seeking refuge from the Slavic and the Avaric invasion of Greece. From the 10th Century a.D., the town developed into an important trade and maritime center. The fortress withstood the Arab and Norman invasions and conquests in 1147. Cornfields that fed up to 30 men were grown inside the fortress.

Monemvasia was a Byzantine town that existed continuously under the domain of the Empire until 1471, when it was sold to the Pope by the Despot of Morea Thomas Palaeologos (in 1474 Venice captured it.) It was successively governed by Venetians and Ottomans in intervals:

* Venetian: (1470 - 1540)
* Ottoman: (1540 - 1690)
* Venetian: (1690 - 1715)
* Ottoman: (1715 - 1821)

The commercial importance of the town continued until the Orlov Revolt (1770) in the Russo-Turkish War, which saw its importance decline severely.

The town was liberated from Ottoman rule on 1821, during the Greek War of Independence.

The citadel has been uninhabited since 1920.

In more recent history, the town has seen a resurgence in importance with increasing numbers of tourists visiting the site and the region. The medieval buildings have been restored, many of them converted to hotels.

Some facts

Monemvasia was the birthplace of the poet Yiannis Ritsos, considered to be one of the four greatest Greek poets of the twentieth century.

Monemvasia has about 40 churches, the most important of which is the church of Elkomenos Christos. The church was famous for the picture of Christ Elkomenos (Dragged to the Cross), which was removed by Isaak Angelos and trasported to Constantinople.

The Venetians called it the "Neapolis of Malvasia" because of the aromatic wine "Malvasia" that was transported to the West via Monemvasia.

In 1540 the Turks captured Monemvasia after a three-year siege and named it "Castle of the Violets". The Venetians recaptured it in 1690, but in 1715 they sold it to their adverseries. It was liberated by the Greeks on July 23, 1821.