The Byzantine State of Mystras
Trip Start May 08, 2010
39Trip End Jan 23, 2011
When you come to Mystras you feel as though you are making a pilgrimage to Byzantine Greece. Going up the hill you enter through the castle gates, and walk through the narrow lanes of this once invincible fortress.
The castle was built by the Franks in 1249 in their attempt to establish their supremacy over the Peloponnese. From up here the Frankish Prince Guillaume ruled over the world of Evrotas. He built bastions for his knights, houses, dungeons, storerooms, courtyards
During the two centuries of Mystras' existence, many churches and monasteries with domes and chapels were erected, representing all the painting trends of the capital.
The Cathedral of Aghios Dimitrios is the important monument you meet on your way-up and it is the first to be built. On the floor of the church is the two-headed eagle, symbol of the Palaiologos dynasty carved into a plaque. This is where Konstantinos stepped when he was crowned king. Next to it stands the carved throne. In 1449 Konstantinos Palaiologos was crowned emperor of Byzantium and he left Mystras for Constantinople. In 1453 the Turks captured Constantinople, and a few years later, in 1460, the same fate befell Mystras.
Towards the northern corner of the enclosure stand Mystras’ two most impressive churches, Agii Theodori and the Panagia Odigitria
Aghia Sophia stands near the highest gate while on the slope to the east is the Pantanassa monastery, built the 15th century. A very impressive church with its frescoes filled with bright colour and movement. The Pantanassa today is a hospitable convent with clean cells looked after by gentle nuns, the only living beings in Mystras. Strolling through the narrow lanes of the dead city, you finally come to Perivlepto, the monastery built under a rock with marvelous frescoes. It is here that the ascent to the castle begins.
Winding stairways, arcades, courtyards. Everything in ruins: crumbling facades, turrets with ravaged openings, damaged plaques, decayed mansions.
The endless valley stretches below you. At some point you reach the bare part of the mountain. In front of you a steep path leads to the top of the hill. In an impregnable position, its ramparts and fortification impose themselves on the landscape. The security this castle offered in the face of foreign and local enemies permitted its bishops, lords and enlightened clerics as well as other men of intellect, to transform this town "protected by God" into a cradle of the Renaissance.
(See the previous entry ....more on Mystras)