Mystras

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Mystras (Greek: Μυστράς, Μυζηθράς Mizithras or Myzithras in the chronicle of Morea) also known as Mistra, Mystra and Mistras is a fortified town on Mt. Taygetos, near ancient Sparta in Morea, within the Prefecture of Laconia in the Region of the Peloponnesus. It lies approximately eight kilometres west of the modern town of Sparti and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Contents

History of the Site

The active history of Mystras began in 1249 when Mystras became the seat of the Latin Principality of Achaea that was established after the Latin conquest of Constantinople in 1204. In 1261, the Byzantines, Michael VIII Palaeologus, recovered the area of the principality as ransom for Prince William II Villehardouin, the ruler of the principality who had been captured. Mystras was then made the seat of the Despotate of Morea. Mystras prospered under the Byzantine rule, and William II’s palace was used by the emperors.

This prosperity was reflected in the churches of the despotate, especially as noted in the frescos of the Peribleptos Church that date from 1348 to 1380. These are a rare survival of late Byzantine art. Mystras was also the last center of Byzantine scholarship to survive before the conquest of the despotate by the Ottoman Turks in 1460. The Turks held the area until the start of the Greek War of Independence in 1821, except for the years 1687 to 1715 when the Venetians occupied the Mystras. The city was abandoned in 1832.

Of the many churches that had been in use in Mystras, two are occupied.


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Influential Personalities

Monastery of Vrontochi

The Monastery of Vrontochi comprises a group of large buildings, some ruins and an outer wall which surrounds the entire complex. At the peak of its existance it was the wealthiest monastery at Mystra and called Vrontochion. This monastery complex was founded by the cleric Pachomius of the Peloponnese as a means of his services to the Emperor.

In the course of 20 years, he founded the two large churches (The Holy Ss. Theodoroi and the Panagia Hodegetria or Aphentiko).


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Monastery of Pantanassa

The Monastery of Our Lady, Panagia the Pantanassa (Queen of all) is a female convent founded in the 15th century (1428 AD) by John Phrangopoulos. It is an excellent example of various styles of church architecture blending together harmoniously and blending into a single architectural unity.

This monastery includes a catholicon of mixed architecture with exterior porticos and a bell tower. On the upper floor the wall paintings are dated from the mid fifteenth century. The paintings of the ground floor are from the eighteenth century.

Local tradition

Tradition has it that Theodora Tocco, the first wife of Constantine XI Palaeiologos, was buried in the Pantanassa. However, the historian Phratzis records that her mortal remains were buried in 1429 in the Monastery of the Life-Giving Spring (the Agia Sophia of Mystra).

The Churches

  • St. Demetrios, St. Demetrios (the Metropolis) is a three aisled basilica with a narthex and bell tower. The church dates from the thirteenth century. On the upper floor of the church a cross-in-square church was added in the early fifteenth century. The interior paintings date from the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries.
  • Evangelistria
  • Agia Sophia
  • Peribleptos
  • St. George/St. Chr.
This article is marked as in progress by {{{1}}}, who is actively developing it. It has yet to achieve a stable or complete form and is currently being worked on. Please carefully consider before making major edits to this article.

World Heritage Classification, UNESCO

  • Date of Inscription - 1989
  • Reference No. 511
  • Criteria: (ii), (iii) and (iv)
Mystras, the 'wonder of the Morea', was built as an amphitheatre around the fortress erected in 1249 by the prince of Achaia, William of Villehardouin. Reconquered by the Byzantines, then occupied by the Turks and the Venetians, the city was abandoned in 1832, leaving only the breathtaking medieval ruins, standing in a beautiful landscape.[1]

References

  1. United Nations - Copyright © 1992-2008 UNESCO World Heritage Centre

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