It is said that there were once 40 churches in the Monemvasia fortress. Today several of these are still standing, first and foremost Aghia Sofia in the upper town, the only structure still in good condition there. The view is breathtaking – when the right weather conditions prevail it is possible to see as far as the mountains of Crete.

In the main square of the lower town in front of the cannon is the church of Elkomenos Christos, where the most important Christian artifact in Monemvasia is kept – an impressive icon depicting the Crucifixion. Its theft 32 years ago was a great blow to the faithful of Monemvasia, but fortunately it was recovered in 2011.

In Chrysafitissa Square is the church of the same name, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Also important are the churches of Myrtidiotissa and Aghios Nikolaos although the latter, according to local legend, has never functioned as a church.

Panagia Myrtidiotissa

A domed basilica built during the second Venetian occupation. The worship of the Panaghia (Virgin) Myrtidiotissa originated on the island of Kythera, which had trade and cultural links with Monemvasia. According to a local tradition, the church was founded in the 17th century by the then Monemvasiot bishop of Kythera, Filotheos Darmarios.

The church is also known as Panaghia Kritikia because of the influx of a large number of refugees from the island of Crete.

Structural features of the church such as the round skylights, the design of the door, the facade pediment and other details indicate the influence of Western architecture. The gilt wood-carved altar screen with its prominent Renaissance characteristics of the 16th century originally belonged to the Church of the Elkomenos Christos.

Lower Town, Monemvasia

Free entrance

Aghios Nikolaos

A cross-domed church built in 1703 on the ruins of two Byzantine churches.

The inlaid inscription on the pediment over the entrance states that it was built from scratch by the Monemvasiot doctor and philosopher Andreas Likinios. The coat of arms with the two-headed eagle belongs the founder’s family.

The building’s structural and morphological elements such as the circular skylight, slightly pointed arches, gables and decorated cornices indicate influences from Western architecture. According to oral history, the building never actually functioned as a church. During the second Turkish occupation it served as an arsenal. After the war of  independence under the rule of Ioannis Capodistrias (1829) it housed a school.  From 1839 until about the middle of the 20th century it was a primary school. One of its former pupils was the poet Yiannis Ritsos.

Monemvasia Lower Town

Free entrance.  For opening hours please call 2732061403.