The castles of Messinia are considered among the most important remnants of medieval Greece. They were built during Byzantine rule in the 13th and 14th centuries, when a number of fortresses were constructed in the area as part of a defensive system against the Slavic tribes. The castles were also used for political purposes, as they served as residences for feudal lords who would administer their estates from them.
In the heart of the Peloponnese, in area Messinia, are a series of castles, fortresses and stately homes. They were built during the Venetian occupation in the 15th to 17th centuries. The Venetians were known for their love of elaborate architecture and they brought this passion to Messinia.
These castles are built on hilltops or rocky outcrops that provide natural protection from invaders. Some have only one tower while others have multiple towers with surrounding walls and courtyards which could house horses, livestock or even soldiers. Luckily there’s still enough left for you to explore!
Let me introduce you the Castles of Messinia
1) The Castle of Kalamata, Messinia
Kalamata is a city in Messinia, Greece. It is the capital of the regional unit of Kalamata and its largest city, as well as a former prefecture. Kalamata has a castle that was built in medieval times as a fortress and remains intact to this day. The castle is located in the northwestern part of the city of Kalamata. On a low rocky hill above the river Nedon. Its foundation dates back to the Byzantine period, but its present form is due to a major reconstruction by the Frankish prince and founder of the principality of Achaia, Godefridus I Villehardouinos, at the beginning of the 13th century.
The monument has the typical form of a Byzantine castle. At its steepest point, at the top of the hill, there is a tower shelter with a domed water tank, where remains of a church have been found. An inner fortified enclosure surrounds the top of the hill, while a second, wider enclosure protects a larger area on the more accessible and vulnerable eastern side. The castle lost its strategic importance during the 18th century and was abandoned by the beginning of the 19th century. Ibrahim’s army damaged it in 1825. Zacharias Papantoniou, a writer and prefect of Messinia, transformed it into an alsium in the early 20th century.
2) The Castle of Koroni, Messinia
Koroni is a town in the region of Messinia, whose port has been active since ancient times. The most important archaeological site is the ancient acropolis, from which you can enjoy panoramic views towards the Ionian Sea. The most impressive monument on the site is surely its acropolis It stands at an altitude of 250m above sea level, surrounded by sheer slopes on all sides except for some narrow paths leading to it through ravines (gates). Ancient acropolis existed at the location of the castle since before the Trojan war. Its name was Aisini and it was one of the 7 cities offered by Agamemnon to Achilles to ease his anger according to Homer.
A castle with impressive fortifications at the southwestern end of Peloponnese which existed since the 7th century AD and was completed and reconstructed by the Venetians in the 13th century. The city flourished in the following centuries, but it was constantly in the middle of the long conflict between Venetians and Turks. As many castles in Peloponnese, the city became important and flourished after the 13th century and the Frankish occupation. The Venetians made a major reconstruction and expansion of the castle which finished around the end of that century. Koroni was liberated in 1828 by the French General Nicolas Joseph Maison, after the battle of Navarino.
3) The Castle of Methoni, Messinia
The Castle of Methoni is a medieval castle that was built at the southern tip of the Peloponnese peninsula in Greece. The fortress was built by the Venetians after 1209 during their rule over Messinia as a defense against pirates and invaders. It is located on one side of the Bay of Navarino. On a rock penetrating the sea and is separated from the land by an artificial moat. Today, it serves as a museum dedicated to its history and archaeological significance.
The structure has been modified several times over its lifetime. With most activity taking place during its initial construction due to constant threats from Ottoman forces nearby. During the first years of the Greek Revolution (1821), Methoni was one of the few castles that was not taken by the Greeks. In 1825, the forces of the Egyptian Ibrahim pasha landed in Methoni (invited by the Turks to fight the Greeks). The headquarters of Ibrahim was the command building of Methoni, above the entrance of the castle. The French general Maison, who freed the town together with others in the Peloponnese, settled in the same building in 1829.
4) Castle of Pylos
The castle of Pylos is located in the prefecture of Messinia, Greece. The Turks built Niokastro in 1573, and the Venetians captured it in 1686. It came again under Turkish domination in 1715, along with the castles of Koroni and Paliokastro. The Acropolis was captured by Greek fighters in 1821, in the first months of the Greek Revolution. It was captured by Ibrahim Pasha in 1825, and remained under his control until 1828, when it was liberated by the French general Maison. It was used as a prison from 1830 to 1941. During the Second World War it was used as the headquarters of the Italian and, later, the German forces.
The most important buildings in the castle is. The Church of the Metamorphosis (Transfiguration) is a cross-in-square domed church dedicated to the Transfiguration of Christ. It was used as a mosque and later converted into a Christian church. The Museum is housed in General Maison’s building, a rectangular, two-storeyed stone building erected in the 19th century. It has been reconstructed and now houses the Museum and the offices.
5) Castle of Palaiokastro
Palaiokastro or Paleokastro or Paliokastro or Palionavarino is a castle and an acropolis. Overlooking the Gialova lagoon, at the north side of the bay of Navarino. Τhe medieval castle was built in 1278 by Nicholas II of Agios Omer, the French feudal lord of Thebes, who had become baron of Kalamata after his marriage with Angelina Komneni, widow of the prince of Achaia Guillaume II de Villehardouin. The original name of the castle was Port de Jonc (Port of Boulra).
After many conquerors had passed by and left their imprint on the castle, we arrived at the historical epoch of the Greek Revolution. In 1821, in the early days of the Greek Revolution, the Greeks occupied Paleokastro. On 20 October 1827, Paleokastro took part in one of the most important naval battles in world history, the Battle of Navarino. Turkish cannons fired at the European allied ships from Paleokastro (as well as from Niokastro).
The Messinian castles are an important part of the history and culture of Messinia. There are many different types and styles of castle, from the medieval period to modern times. They have been used for everything from storage bins to fortresses to tourist attractions.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this little tour of some of the castles in Messinia! We know why we love them, but what about you?