Monemvasia Tourist Attractions
This little walled town situated at the foot of a 300m/985ft high crag projecting into the sea on the east side of the Peloponnese takes its name from its single entrance (móni émvasis). For centuries an almost impregnable stronghold, it is now almost deserted, most of its inhabitants having moved to the new village on the mainland.
But even in its abandonment it preserves its magnificent situation.In recent years the local people have increasingly been returning to the old part of the town, giving it a new lease of life and making it a busy and attractive tourist center.The ancient name of the town, Minoa, points to a Cretan settlement. 6km/4mi north are the remains (town walls and temples of the first millennium B.C.) of the Mycenaean town of Epidauros Limera. Monemvasía first appears on the stage of history, however, in the eighth century, when it became a place of refuge for Greeks fleeing before the Slav invasion of Laconia. It soon developed into a flourishing port, which was able to repel a Norman attack in 1149 and was taken by Guillaume de Villehardouin in 1249 only after a three year siege. Only fourteen years later, however, in 1263, he was compelled to return Monemvasía, together with Mistra and Maina, to the Byzantine emperor, by whom he had been taken prisoner. In 1460, faced with the threat of Turkish attack, the town submitted to the authority of the Pope. Later it passed under Venetian rule, but in 1540 fell into the hands of the Turks, who held it (with another Venetian interlude between 1690 and 1715) until 1821.Boat services from Athens (Piraeus), Boat services from Athens (Piraeus), Kythira and Gythion. Yacht supply station. By road, Monemvasía is 98km/61miles from Sparta and 64km/40miles from Gythion.
The lower town of Monemvasía is entered on its south side through the only gate in the walls, built by the Turks in the 16th century on earlier Byzantine foundations. Through picturesque lanes we come to the main square, in which stands a Turkish cannon.
In the square of the lower town of Monemvasia stands the Elkómenos church (14th C.; rebuilt 1697). Over the doorway is a broken carved panel depicting two peacocks, evidently from the templon of an earlier church. The church originally possessed a celebrated icon of Christ Elkómenos (led to the Cross) and a fine icon of the Crucifixion. Higher up is the domed church of the Panayía Myrtidiótissa, in severer style (14th C.; iconostasis).
Saint Nicholas Chapel
At the east end of the lower town of Monemvasia is the chapel of Áyios Nikólaos (1703).
In a square on the south side of the lower town of Monemvasia is the 17th century church of the Panayía Khrysafiótissa, with a large dome. Beyond this stretches the sea wall with its gun embrasures.
Upper Town & Ayía Sofía Church
A paved lane zigzags its way from the lower town at Monemvasía to the upper town, which in earlier days was strongly fortified. Here, on the edge of a precipitous crag, is the church of Ayía Sofía, built in the time of Andronikos II (1287-1328), which, like the church at Dafní, has a large central dome spanning both the nave and the lateral aisles. Notable features of the exterior are the fine capitals and a carving of Salome's dance.
The summit of the crag at Monemvasia is crowned by the curtain walls of the old castle, from which there is a fantastic view.
Entrance fee: Adult Free
Useful tips: Site open continuously.
The Archaeological Collection of Monemvasia, which was inaugurated by the Minister of Culture in 1999, contains finds from the local area. The town, a major stop on naval routes, has a history which dates back to the 6th Century A.D.
Northwest of Monemvasía, on the road to Sparta, is the farming town of Molaoi, where there are the remains of a medieval fortress and an early Christian church.One of the prettiest sandy beaches in the Peloponnese, Elias, is just nine km from Molaoi.