Gripping peacefulness and byzantine grandeur in a dreamy natural setting Monemvasia was the most favorable destination of all byzantine emperors. It was once called “Flower” or “Violet”. The Turks called it “Flower castle” (Menexi Calesi). During spring, as nature flourishes, the rocky full of wildflowers landscape transforms into a multicolored garden. So, the names attributed to Monemvasia denote this amazing blossom. A rainbow of colors and scents! It is the ideal season to visit Monemvasia and enjoy the greatest feast of Christianity here. The “rocky boat”, as Yiannis Ritsos, the great Greek poet referred to it, sails through the sea carrying heavy historic luggage and innumerable images of unparalleled beauty. Images that revoke the magnificent Mediaeval past, the unprecedented natural beauty of spring and the deep peacefulness attuned perfectly with the serenity of the setting and the revival of nature.
The central part of the castle in the celebration
As soon as you walk through the gate, you find yourself walking on the street, where Yiannis Ritsos was born and grew up. Narrow backstreets, masonry houses, landmarks at the gates of old mansions and oblong wooden windows open up to an older era. Shops with traditional products, elegant cafes, quaint restaurants, bars at scenic places lay along the street. Nearby is the central square with the church of Elkomenos Christos. The church is a basilica with a cupola, three semicircular arches at its east side and a domed narthex at its west side. Metabyzantine icons dating back to the 17th – 18th centuries decorate the interior of the church. The fitted marble carvings are walled and are all around the monument and date back to the early Christian and Byzantine years. The renowned icon of the “Crucifixion”, which had been stolen in January 1979, was eventually found in 1980. It was at first exhibited at Athens’ Byzantine Museum and in 2012 it was brought back to the church, where you can admire it today and where it is strictly safeguarded. This particular icon is considered to be one of the largest and most beautiful examples of what is known as the Palaeologean Renaissance and it is of inestimable value.
The deep devout Epitaph procession
Elkomenos Christos is of the highest religious interest during the Holy Week. On Good Friday, the procession of the Epitaph on the cobblestoned narrow streets of this mediaeval town makes up an unparalleled event. Believers follow the Epitaph with white candles, while the psalms of lament of the epitaph resound on the rock of Monemvasia creating a mystic atmosphere of deep devoutness. The flourishing bougainvillea and the reflection of the moon on the sea compose an unprecedentedly imposing setting. The mournful ringing of the bells exudes a sweet but melancholic feeling that blends with the magnificent setting of Monemvasia.
The Holy Fire Οn Holy Saturday, people gather once again in the Church of Elkomenos Christos. The Holy Fire is passed on from candle to candle while “Christ is risen” echoes in a silent, devout and pious atmosphere and all the believers exchange the “kiss of love”. After the liturgy, the beautiful taverns in Kastropolitia serve the traditional Greek Easter soup- magiritsa along with a lot of local specialties.
The bonfire effigy of Judas Iscariot The celebrations reach a peak on Easter Sunday. The traditional bonfire effigy of Judas Iscariot takes place in the precinct of Elkomenos Christos church. The human effigy made of wood and straw contains a small amount of explosives and burns in an utterly impressive way, offering a panorama of fireworks! On Easter Sunday all kinds of local delicacies are served to celebrate and enjoy the happiness of this great day of Christianity.
Accommodation As for accommodation, there is a wide range of hotels or rooms to let, both outside and inside the castle, as well as in the centre of Monemvasia or in the marvelous town of Neapolis in Laconia, where spectacular hotels with impeccable service are available. In the wider area of the Municipality, a great number of quaint picturesque villages provide hospitable hostels that exude traditional flair and at the same time they are fully equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and amenities. Scenic fishing villages like Plytra, Archaggelos and Elia are only some of the most charming accommodation suggestions. Elia, situated at the centre of the Laconic gulf, is famous for its beautiful sunset and its picturesque setting. Its scenic port is decorated with a lot of little lamps during Easter, creating a sight you cannot help but capture and immortalize in your camera.
Food Innumerable taverns and restaurants in Monemvasia will definitely meet the gastronomical requirements of even the most demanding gourmet palates. When it comes to fish dishes, there is an even wider list of local delicacies that you should definitely savour. Indulge in barbounia savori (fried and quenched with vinegar and rosemary). The area is world famous for its utterly fresh delicious seafood (snails, limpets and crabs), amazing cooked food (cock cooked in tomato sauce with chilopites or noodles and stew) as well as exceptional pies.
Strolls in the castle • In Ano Polis of the castle, climb Goula to enjoy sweeping views and capture the amazing moments. • In the same area, it is worth visiting Agia Sophia, built in the 13th century and is reminiscent of Agia Sophia in Constantinople. The views to the sea are spectacular. • In Kato Polis, it is worth visiting the Muslim mosque- a preserved building of the 16th century, which houses today the Archaeological Collection of Monemvasia, as well as notable byzantine churches. • Panagia Myrtidiotissa (18th century) • Panagia Chrysaphitissa (16th century) • The temple of Agios Nikolaos (17th century) • The house of Yiannis Ritsos
Experiences out of the castle Make good use of your mornings enjoying short beautiful outings in Monemvasia: • Stroll in Neapolis, the southern town of Europe built according to the town planning of the Bavarian architect Birmah, in 1837. Neapolis is nowadays a modern town that keeps intact the flair of its past. It celebrates a beautiful pier with picturesque buildings characterized by amazing Aegean architecture. Around the beach, there are charming lodgings, cafes, restaurants, bars serving ouzo and little snacks where you can enjoy tasty delicacies, along with amazing sea views. • Visit Krithina Mountain, in Neapolis, where there are a lot of picturesque villages with panoramic views on the Laconic gulf. The massif ends up at Maleas cape. • Excursion at the scenic village Kyparissi, which celebrates an amazing island flair and beautiful neighborhoods. • Walk along the picturesque port of Gerakas, where you can taste fresh fish and seafood.