The rock of Monemvasia from the shore.
'... it is impossible to find anywhere else in the world another fort as impregnable, invincible and unassailable to any kind of war machine, as this one.' (George Phrantzes, quoted in Paradissis, p.164).
Monemvasia was probably founded in the 6th century by refugees from the Slavic invasions. It became a wealthy trading city, and 'Malmsey' (a type of grape or wine) comes from Malvoisie, its medieval name. It must have been the target of many assaults. The Normans tried to take it in 1147, and the Franks succeeded in 1249 – albeit only with help from the Venetians, a three year siege, and a series of concessions to the inhabitants. It had to be handed back to the empire in 1262 as part of the ransom for William Villehardouin. From 1460 onwards, the inhabitants did a succession of deals, with a Catalan corsair, Pope Pius II and the Venetians, to keep their independence. The Venetians had to surrender it to the Turks in 1540, but were back in 1690 until 1715. There is a wall around the lower town, then a steep path to the top of the rock with further fortifications.
Directions: It is possible to stay in Monemvasia or in the new settlement on the mainland, from which its an easy walk to the lower town, then a steep path to the top of the rock with further fortifications.
The entrance to the lower town.
View from the battlements on the rock.
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Unless otherwise stated, the text, images and design of this site are (c) the author. This page last updated 7 Jan 2007