Palea Monemvasia is the name of the castle, as well as the surrounding areas that constitutes this town. This place has a Medieval charm that attracts visitors from different parts of the world. A narrow strait of land on the coast of Southern Laconia, an island today but a peninsula in the past since Pausanias in his “Guide to Greece” named it “Minoa akra”. The name Monemvasia is clearly explained in the “Chronicle of Moreas”, a historical document written during the late byzantine era. Monemvasia is “the only embasis”, the unique entrance to the island over the bridge. An important strategic position, a safe port, a great trading stop.
The byzantine emperor Maurice established Monemvasia in the first year of his reign in 582 AD and the settlers were brought from Lakedaimonia. Its survival after the attacks of the Goths, Avars and Slavs transformed Monemvasia into a great port, on the trade route between the Mediterranean and the Levant. The four golden decrees of the emperor Andronicus II awarded Monemvasia with privileges and estates and the island became the port of Mistras, the capital of the Byzantine despotate in the Peloponnese. Their wealth increased due to the trading of malmsey wine, grains, wood, leather, fur coats and cloth and Monemvasia became self sufficient , not a small accomplishment since during its heyday it had a population of 40.000 inhabitants. After the fall of the city of Constantinople, it remained the only stronghold of the Byzantine Empire not conquered by the Ottomans. 1463 was the turning point since the Turkish-Venetian war led the citizens to the decision to surrender to Venice. “Napoli di Malvasia” was the new name used by the new rulers for almost 100 years of the Venetian presence. Venice surrendered the city of Monemvasia to the Ottomans in 1540 AD for more than 100 years until the end of the 17th century.
Monemvasia is a characteristic example of architecture in a city founded by Greeks, transformed by Venetians, the experts on military architecture and completely restored by Ottoman rulers. It offers exceptional fortifications commissioned by ottoman generals and rulers, built by local masons who imitated the art and techniques taught to them by Venetian architects.
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