Friday, May 4, 2012

Photos of The Byzantine Rock City of Monemvasia, Greece

Pictures, Images & Photos of The Monemvasia, Greece.

Pictures, images & photos of Monemvasia (Μονεμβασία) nicknamed the Gibraltar of the East or The Rock. The island of Monemvasia is linked to the east coast of the Peloponnese by a bridge built in 1971. It is 300 m wide and 1 km long with steep cliffs rising to a plateau 100 meters above the sea. Ancient walls ring the plateau making a powerful medieval fortification.

In 583 when the Slavs & Avars invaded northern Greece refugees founded a settlement at Monemvasia. Its natural defences and harbour meant that by by the 10th century Monemvasia was an important trading town for the Peloponnese. Its defences held against the Arab and Norman invasions until 12 48 when it fell after a 3 year siege to William II of Villehardouin. When William was captured at the Battle of Pelegonia by the Byzantines in 1259, Monemvasia retroceded to Michael VIII Palaiologos as part of William's ransom.

Apart from its natural fortifications the strength of Monemvasia lay in field that grew corn on the plateau making it very hard to take by siege. Monemvasia also made Malmsey wine. It remained part of the Byzantine empire until 1460, becoming the seat of an Imperial governor, a landing place for Imperial operations against the Franks and the main port of shipment for Malmsey wine.

Monemvasia held out against the Ottomans becoming the only domain of the Despot of Morea, Thomas Palaiologos and one of the last towns of the Eastern Byzantine Empire. Thomas Palaiologos had no forces to defend Monemvasia and finally sold it to the Pope who in turn was unable to defend the island so allowed it to be garrisoned by the Venetians.

Although Monemvasia was a prosperous town for a while as the Ottomans took the Peloponnese it lost its source of wine and food and in 1540 when a treaty between the Ottomans and the Venetians saw Monemvasia come under Ottoman rule. The Venetians recovered Monemvasia in 1690, then again from 1715 to 1821. On July 23, 1821 the town was liberated from Ottoman rule by Tzannetakis Grigorakis during the Greek War of Independence.

The commercial importance of Monemvasia had declined and the buildings on the plateau fell into ruins leaving a medieval fishing village at the foot of the cliffs. Its picturesque medieval houses and Byzantine churches became its saviour and today it is an important and thriving tourist destination with boutique hotels and tiny squares with cafes.

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