An Entire Medieval Town Lies Behind This Giant Rock
Monemvasia was settled in the 6th century by the inhabitants of ancient Laconia seeking refuge from the Slavic invaders who dominated much of Greece between 500 to 700 AD.
The island had been separated from the mainland by an earthquake in 375 AD. Over the next several centuries, Monemvasia changed hands again and again, back and forth, between the Venetians and the Turks, until it was liberated during the Greek War of Independence in the early 19th century.
Monemvasia, in modern-day Greece, was an exceptionally well-defended trading port for hundreds of years.
The fortress at the top of the rock was first built in 583 when mainland inhabitants fled Slavic invaders.
By the Middle Ages the town was an important trading center that was also well defended. Fields within the fortress could feed up to 30 men. Monemvasia withstood Arab and Norman invasions in the 1100s.
Monemvasia was part of the Byzantine Empire for 200 years, and many churches from that time period remain. This abandoned church is just ruins.
The church of Agia Sofia is in much better shape. It sits at the high point of the rock.
This map depicts Malvasia, the Italian name for Monemvasia. The rock was a major port for Malmsey wine coming from the rest of Greece.
The town was founded on the rock’s high plateau, and over the centuries it spread and moved downhill.
Monemvasia supported as many as 40,000 people during the 1400s, when it was a major trading center. It was also a traditional hideout for pirates.
Its influence started waning in the 1770s. It was no longer the trading destination it once was. The Ottomans ruled Monemvasia until the Greek war of independence in 1821.
Monemvasia is a combination of two Greek words: mone and emvasia, meaning “single entrance.” This single entrance was made permanent in 1971, when a bridge was built connecting the rock to the mainland. Today, many of the ancient buildings have been restored, and are boutique hotels.