castles of Greece

Old Navarino; Paleokastro; Port de Junch; Zonklon; Anavarin-i ati.





Approaching Paleokastro from the East.


History/Description: Old Navarino was built around 1278 by Nicholas II St Omer, for his nephew Nicholas III. Nicholas II was Lord of Thebes and bailiff of the Achaea from 1287 to 1289. Lock (01:96) notes that he was very wealthy and suggests the castle was as much about his status as defence. In any case it is strongly sited on a high outcrop (with vertical drops on most sides). By 1320, however, Byzantines from Mystra were seizing castles from the Franks, and in an appeal to Venice, the Franks offered Navarino to the Venetians in return for arms supplies and protection. In 1378, elements of the Navarrese Company arrived in the Morea, and captured the castle in 1381; the Venetians in 1423, with the Turks taking it (in 1501?).[03: 194] The construction of the new castle to the south of the bay (in 1573?), which was equipped with artillery, led to the eventual abandonment of Paleokastro, until the War of Indpendence

The main gate has partially toppled and is partially obscured, but it is still possible to enter (or scramble over the walls to the E. of the gate). Once inside, the wall walk is very nearly complete and accessible. The remains of a fine road lead from the castle down to where the harbour lay. You'll come across it on the way up; for some reason, I found that stumbling off the winding footpath onto this abandoned road, which must have been very fine in its day, very poignant. Paradissis [03: 192ff] reckons the castle is built on ancient ruins, and that the reservoirs are ancient.

Directions: It is a bit of a hike unless you have a car. From Pilos, head to the nature reserve at the N. end of Navarino Bay. The car park at the far end of the nature reserve is as near as you can get with wheels. Then there's a a path leading round the southern spur of the rock. The path curves round and climbs steeply to the entrance to the castle. Once inside you can get up onto the wall walk. If you'd like a longer walk, you can reach the castle from the N. but it looks like a tricky scramble in places.

Take your binoculars, you can see Nestor's Palace from up here, the view from the wall walk is one of the best in the Morea. The vertical drop from the top of the eastern wall is impressive.

The road up from the harbour.


Looking E. along the S. wall.


Interesting blend of masonry here. I think the 'v' shaped battlements are Venetian (the Arsenale in Venice has just the same style), so the later work I assume is Turkish.


Looking S. along the wall walk towards Sfaktiria (where Spartan troops were famously defeated in the Peloponnesian War, 431 to 404 BC) and Navarino Bay to its left (where British, French and Russian ships sank a Turkish fleet in 1827).


More interesting masonry. The flat bricks look Byzantine (though I am not aware that Byzantine forces ever held the castle). The work of Greek masons perhaps.


The S. wall, looking W. This wall guards the only practical approach to the castle and is (or was) backed my a range of buildings and at least one second wall. Jumbled remains only can be seen now.


View over E. rampart - looking down. A group of tourists are walking along the path below. The W. and N. sides are nearly as steep.


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Last updated Sept 4 2010