Monemvasia is a small town located at a small island that is connected to the mainland by a short causeway 200m in length at the South-East part of the Peloponnese region.
The town’s name is a synthetic word deriving from the two Greek words, mone and emvasia meaning “single entrance”. People worldwide know it with the nicknames of the Gibraltar of the East, the Rock, the Italian Malvasia.
The town was founded by inhabitants of the mainland in 583. From the 10th century AD, the town developed into an important trade and maritime center. Monemvasia was a part of the Byzantine Empire and remained until 1460. It was the seat of an imperial governor, a landing place for Byzantine operations against the Franks. The main port of shipment for Malmsey wine, and one of the most dangerous lairs of corsairs in the Levant. It seems that in 1419 the rock had become the possession of Venice, though it soon returned to the Despot. The town was fairly prosperous under the Venetian rule until the peace of 1502-3, in which it lost its lands source of its food supply and of Malmsey wine. The Ottomans ruled the town until the brief Venetian recovery in 1690, then again from 1715 to 1821 at the Greek War of Independence.
The Castle in Monemvasia
The Castle in Monemvasia is divided into a lower and an upper town. Many ruins of the original 800 houses and only four out of the original forty churches can be found in the lower town. The upper town is built on top of the rock and is protected by walls. There are the ruins of the Byzantine houses and public buildings and a vast cistern that ensured a water supply at times of siege. A fortified zigzag path from the upper town leads to the Fortress of Goulas on the summit overlooking the town of Monemvasia. At the entrance there is a tunnel that still retains its gates. Among the ruins of houses and christens of the acropolis of the upper town stands St. Sophia, a Byzantine church found on a plan similar to that of Daphni in Athens.
Monemvasia Archeological Museum
The Archeological Museum in Monemvasia is located at one of the best-preserved buildings that was a former Muslim Mosque. At the Museum there are findings from the history of Monemvasia, such as remains of the fortress, walls, temples and houses.
In addition, findings that were used in the daily life of the inhabitants of Monemvasia and ceramic objects, sculptures and marble temples present the permanent exhibition of the Museum. The former Mosque was built during the 16th century and was converted into a Frankish church, a prison and a Greek Kafeneion through the years. From 1999 until today it is the Archeological Museum.
The Church of Elkomenos Christos
Right next to the Archeological Museum of Monemvasia is located the most famous church of the castle town, the Church of Elkomenos Christos. The church is dedicated to Christ who was led chained to Crucifixion, which is why it celebrates on Hoy Thursday in Easter.
The church was constructed in 1697, probably on the site of a former church founded in the 6th – 7th century. At the entrance of the church there are two thrones at the left and at the east that were dedicated to the Byzantine Emperor and Empress. Inside the church there are Byzantine and post-Byzantine icons, including the icon of Christ in chains before He was crucified and the Crown of Thorns on His head.
Church of Agia Sophia
At the top of the hill is located one of the oldest and most important Byzantine churches of Greece, the church of Agia Sophia. The church was originally established in the 12th century by the Byzantine Emperor Andronicus II and was dedicated to Panagia Hodegetria, which means the Virgin who leads the way.
After the Greek Independence it was dedicated to the Wisdom of God and then it took its name Agia Sophia. Even if during the history time and wars had caused serious damages to the church, it was restored in the 20th century. Still today, it stands at the point from where you will enjoy the most amazing views to Aegean Sea.
Church of Panagia Chrysafitissa
At the edge of the town of Monemvasia is located the church of Panagia Chrysafitissam a beautiful 17th century whitewashed church that operates even today.
The Lighthouse of Monemvasia
Another must-see monument of the town of Monemvasia is the historic lighthouse that is located at the very end of the hill. The lighthouse was built by the British in 1896 and automated in 1960 the lighthouse has been recently renovated.
The tower is seven meters (23feet) tall and its focal plane is 15 meters (49 feet). The original stone tower, ruined during World War II, was built near the remains of the Venetian fortress of Monemvasia.
Monemvasia Swimming Area – Directions HERE
Restaurants in Monemvasia
Voltes – Mediterranean cuisine – Directions HERE
Oinomelo Castle – Mediterranean cuisine – Directions HERE
Mateo’s -Seafood -Directions HERE
The Cannon – Italian cuisine – Directions HERE
Skorpios Restaurant – Greek cuisine – Directions HERE
Chrisovoulo Restaurant – Seafood & Wine Bar – Directions HERE
Monemvasia is one of the greatest places that deserve your time to visit once in Peloponnese. For those of you who choose to explore the Peloponnese region, you can use Nafplio as your base and explore many great places on short distance from the city. Find your full guide HERE.