GYTHION is located
in middle south of Peloponnesus at the center of the Laconian Gulf. It is
a lively, charming little harbor town. The most of its houses are two- or
three-storey neo-classical mansions, stuck to the steep side of the Mt.
"Koumaros". A long sea-side promenade, the colorful fishing boats, the narrow
streets and stairways produce the typical Greek environment which fascinates
every visitor. Today represents the capital of Mani the isolated southern
fringe of the Peloponnesus named after Maina castle, built by William de
Villehardouin in the 13th century. It is the second largest city (4600 inhabitants)
in Laconia after Sparta and the seat of an eparchy.
|Mani is the southernmost part of the Peloponnesus, a great rocky trident of land stretching into the Sea of Crete. Here lies the inhospitable region known as the "deep mani ". Nominally part of the prefecture of Laconia, it is really another country, with its own customs, architecture and code of honor. In such fortified towns, their characteristic, Maniot tower - dwellings silhouetted against the clear Peloponnesian sky , it is easy to see why the Maniates are considered the true heirs of the bellicose ancient Spartans, known as the Lacedaemonians.|
This barren, rock - strewn and depopulated region is home to men whose pursuits, throughout history, were neither agricultural nor peaceful. The maniates often have their own law. The women of Mani are as bold as the men. In life and in death. In the wild fastness of Mani the people have clung to such a faith in customs, traditions and the family as to traced the limits of courage. Throughout the following centuries of treacherous and violent "foreign intervention", it would be the thorny, independent Maniates, fortified in their characteristic, two - and three - stony tower - dwellings far to the south, who would symbolize the Peloponnesian resistance.
Though the Ottomans seizing control, the Maniates never accepted defeat. Just prior to the outbreak of the Greek war of independence, the Peloponnese was in Turkish hands, administered from Tripolis: the Mani, however, had been a sovereign state governed by the indomitable Petrobey Mauromichalis.
Today by "Maniates" we mean brave man, stalwarts, heroes. The towers. There are about 800 towers, isolated or grouped in villages, the oldest go back to the 15th c, their height increased with the power of the family that built them. They were constructed of irregularly shaped blocks of stone, about 15m-25m/50ft-80ft high and square in shape, they comprised three or four rooms. one above the other, linked by ladders and trap doors. Windows were small and few in number and the top floor was crenellated so that tower looked like a castle keep. The greatest concentration of towers is to be found in Kita and Vathia in the south.
Mani's history is a loose thread, interweaving itself with the multicolored strands from Sparta, Rome and Byzantium, the Franks, Venetians and Turks, but always creating a unique design of its own on the fringe of the main Greek pattern. It is a land of caves, churches and strange towers, of fortified villages on bare mountainsides, of Byzantine art and architecture of an extraordinary richness and importance, of feuds, fasting and lamentation. Until the present century it was almost a living fossil of the Middle Ages. It was a region of institutionalized civil war and chronic internal disorder, yet its ironic glory was to start the Revolution of 1821 which created the nation-state in which Mani itself became an incongruity. Today the towers are mostly deserted. Byzantine churches of great beauty, often magnificently frescoed, are collapsing through neglect...
At the southernmost tip of the peninsula is Cape Tainaron (Mattapan). In ancient times this was thought to be one of the entrances to the underworld, where Heracles descended in quest of the dog (Kerberos).
Monemvasia, a name which derives from moni emvasis, the Greek for "single entrance",is a trucated mass of rock Attached, tentatively, to the eastern coast of Laconia by a slender modern causeway. A true island known as the "Gibraltar of Greece" , Monemvasia was settled in the sixth century AD. by Lacedaemonians fleeing Sparta.
Monemvasia with its unique archaeological site and multi-aspect culture, bears living witness to age-old traditions. Lying at the crossroads of important Byzantine sea-ways in the Eastern Mediterranean and with close political and cultural ties to both Mystras and Constantinople, Monemvasia soon became a flourishing naval power with an enviable economy.
|Thanks to the city's political significance, emperors and despots of Morea established the Metropolitan See there and respected it particularly, giving the celebrated town tremendous commercial advantages. Bereft of its former glory in the wake of 1463, the city succumbed to successive Venetian and Turkish occupations.|
|The short-lived second Venetian occupation of the Peloponnese (1685-1715) brought changes to the way of life in the land and Monemvasia followed the general course of history. The city became one of the four capitals of the Reign of Morea and mush interest was shown in building there. Splendid Christian monuments were raised while others were renovated or repaired and the land enjoyed social and economic well-being.||
After 1828 the course of the formerly illustrious Byzantine walled-city followed that of the newly-founded Greek state. The surviving wealth of monuments in the city stands today as a stalwart witness of the great past.
|The Church of Hagios Nicolaos is a monumental edifice of the second period of Venetian rule built on the site of two earlier churches with money donate by the renowned philosopher Andreas Likinios in 1703, as a verse inscription on a stone plaque.|
Nearly 15 centuries of continuous habitation have made the now depopulated town at the foot of the rock, and the Byzantine citable-town, totally deserted atop the cliffs, a fascinating and unique architectural gem. Monemvasia's medieval heritage has been preserved and restored under the careful and informed guidance of two Athenian architects.
|Since 1964, both upper and lower towns have been under the aegis of the Greek Archaeological Service. The upper citable has become an archaeological site, where no further building may take place, and the lower town, a historic monument, whose structures may be renovated only according to state- approved plans.|
|Alexander and Harry Kalligas, the husband and wife team responsible for restoring the medieval buildings to their former glory, treat each commission with the same respect as an archaeological excavation though they do not want the town merely preserved but lived in.|
The new Municipality of Monemvasia was created by the " Capodistrias" plan. Its capital is the town of Monemvasia and it includes the villages of Angelona, Aghios Demetrios, Aghios Ioannis, Aghios Nicoloaos, Velles, Elliniko, Lira, Nomia, Talanta. It has 4,660 residents. The settlement of New Monemvasia, known as "Yefira", at the entrance to the Castle (Kastro) provides tourist facilities for the Castle and the surrounding area. Apart from its development as a tourist resort, Monemvasia has very good agricultural produce (olive oil, citrus fruit, a small industry producing traditional almond sweets, confectionery and sesame sweets. The local wines are exceptional (from the barrel and standardized) and some of these are organically produced.
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