Monemvasia – Medieval Town in the Peloponnese
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Though Monemvasia is a small town, it has a rich history. Located in a small island in the Peloponnese, Monemvasia is most well known for its Medieval History. The town itself is the site of an old Medieval fortress. The island is close enough to the shore to be accessible by a small bridge, or causeway.
Much of the island is taken up by a large rock, which divides Monemvasia into two sections – the Lower Town and the Upper Town. The rock made Monemvasia a strategic location for the fortress. As far as scholars can tell, people didn’t start living on the island until the Medieval Period.
As mentioned, the town is easily accessible by car by crossing the bridge. To get the causeway, you’ll want to navigate to Gefyra. From there, you can walk across the causeway, drive your car, or take the bus. Though it is possible to stay in Monemvasia, you may find that there are more options in Gefyra. Much of the small village can be explored in a single day. Gefyra is close to Sparta. So, if you’re planning to visit Sparta, Monemvasia needs to be on your list. Even if you drive from Gefyra to Monemvasia, you’ll want to do most of your exploration by foot.
You can begin your sightseeing of Monemvasia in the Lower Town. Once you cross the Main Gate, you are officially in the Lower Town. Once through, you will be led down a street into the town’s main square, called the Plateia Dsami, or Mosque Square. On your way to the square, feel free to browse in any shops you pass, or even take in a meal at one of the restaurants. The mosque, which is leftover from Ottoman rule, is actually still standing.
Once you’re done walking the streets in the Lower Town, it’s time to explore the upper town. To get there, you’ll need to follow the path that leads up the giant rock. Yes, the Upper Town is perched on top of the rock. If you can make the climb, the views are worth it.
The main attraction on the upper portion of Monemvasia is the Church of Agia Sofia, which was built in the 12th Century during the Byzantine Empire. Though much of the Upper Town is in ruins, there’s enough of it left to remind us that Monemvasia was the site of one of the Byzantine Empire’s most formidable fortresses. In the 1100’s, it managed to withstand the Arab and Norman invasions that plagued the area.
The bridge that links Gefyra and Monemvasia wasn’t built until 1971. Since then, many of the old Medieval buildings have been restored. This enables visitors to really get a feel for what things looked like back when it was at its peak. Some of these buildings were even converted into hotels.
Monemvasia was liberated from Turkish rule on July 23, 1821, which was at the beginning of the Greek War for Independence. As a yearly tradition, a new ship is built for the sole purpose of being set on fire during the Independence Day celebrations.
This post was written by Greek Boston