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The History of Mystras

A Byzantine city of the Peloponnesus located 6 km NW of Sparta. Today it is derelict and is an important resource for knowledge of the history, art and civilization of the last two centuries of The Byzantine. The history of “the dead city” known nowadays as Mystras has been in existence since the mid 13th century, when the conquering of the Peloponese by the Franks took place.

In 1249 Vellarduinus the second, built a fortress on the eastern side of Taygetos,at the top of a steep, cone shaped mountain named Mystras or Mizithras, due to its shape or due to the name of its once proprietor named Mizithras.

After the defeat of the Franks at the battle of Pelagonia in 1259, the castle of Mystras was handed over to the Byzantine Emperor Michael Paleologos. Since 1262 it had become the foundation of the Byzantine General, when the main historical era began, and lasted for two whole centuries.. The inhabitants of neighbouring Lakedemona began building their homes around the castle, so the inhabited area named “Chora” was surrounded by walls. In time, a new area was created outside the walls, which was named “ Kato Chora” , guarded by other walls. In 1308, the ruling system changed and Generals became official Commanders. During the mid 14th century, Mystras was considered to be the capital of Byzantine Peloponese. So, the Despotato of Moreas was created. Wise Despots such as Emmanuel Katakouzinos, Theodore Paleologos II, Konstantine Paleologos II and finally the last Emperor of the Byzantine, contributed in order for Mystras to extend its power to the whole of Peloponnese and for it to become the center of political and spiritual life of the Empire as well as the center of Renaissance of Litera and Art. Wise men, artists and scholars would gather in the estate of the Despot, most prominent and well known being George Gemistos or Plithon. In 1460, Mystras surrendered to the Turks and its decline began to take place. During the period 1687 to 1715 ,Mystras as well as the whole of Peloponnesus was ruled by Venetians. In 1770, during the revolution of Ourlof ,a small troop of Greeks and Russians captured the Turks within the Castle. At that time ,the Turkish residents of the city surrendered on condition that they would be able to exit along with their families.However, they were assasinated by the noncompliant people of Mani.It was only when the Metropolitan himself entered battle with a cross, was the fighting halted and the defenders of Mani sustained. During the Greek Revolution of 1821 the participation of Mystras is quite significant. In1825 ,it was ravaged by the Egyptians under Ibrahim’s rule and was slowly abandoned. Contemparary Mystras was then founded, which is the present village on the foothill of the mountain. With the foundation of the liberated state the authorities of Lakonia relocated to the ruins of Mystras, however later, in 1834 King Othonas founded the new city of Sparta based on the first town plan elaborated in Greece ,with the town of Gytheo to success a similar plan. From then on, Mistras was slowly being abandoned by its last residents.

Churches of Mystras

  • Ευαγγελίστρια, μονώροφη με χαρακτηριστικό πλατύ νάρθηκα.
  • Άγιοι Θεόδωροι, με το χαρακτηριστικό πασίγνωστο οκτάγωνο τρούλο, η μεγαλύτερη και αρχαιότερη εκκλησία του Μυστρά. Διατηρεί εντυπωσιακές τοιχογραφίες μεταξύ των οποίων και προσωπογραφία του Αυτοκράτορα Μανουήλ Παλαιολόγου με χρονολογία 1423. Εδώ και ο τάφος του Δεσπότη του Μορέως Θεοδώρου Α’.
  • Αφεντικό, έτσι ονομάζεται τρίκλιτος διώροφος τρουλωτός ναός με δύο εκατέρωθεν παρεκκλήσια εκείνο των «χρυσοβούλλων» επειδή εσωτερικά καλύπτεται με αγιογραφική σύνθεση αγγέλων να κρατούν χρυσόβουλλα των ετών 1314, 1319, 1320 και 1322, και το άλλο του Ανδρόνικου που εικονίζονται ο Αυτοκράτορας Ανδρόνικος και ο Δεσπότης του Μυστρά Θεόδωρος Α” Παλαιολόγος.
  • Όλες οι παραπάνω εκκλησίες βρίσκονται στο ένα τμήμα της πόλης του Μυστρά του Βροχοτονίου. Στο άλλο τμήμα δίπλα στον εντυπωσιακό πύργο εκκλησία χτισμένη μέσα σε σπηλιά, πρόκειται για το καθολικό της μονής της Παναγίας της Περιβλέπτου του 1350.
  • Πάνω από την Περίβλεπτο ορθώνεται η μονή της Παντάνασσας (γυναικείο μοναστήρι) η εκκλησία της οποίας είναι το καλλίτερο διατηρούμενο μνημείο. Εκεί βρίσκονται και οι τάφοι της δέσποινας Κλεόπα Μαλατέστα και της Θεοδώρας, της συζύγου του Αυτοκράτορα Κωνσταντίνου Παλαιολόγου,
  • Αγία Σοφία, πάνω από τα παλάτια των Δεσποτάδων, μικρή και απέριττη του 1350 και τέλος
  • Άγιος Νικόλαος σταυροειδής τρουλωτός κτισμένος επί τουρκοκρατίας.

 

Γενικά οι εκκλησίες του Μυστρά αποτελούν χώρο μάθησης της βυζαντινής αρχιτεκτονικής ζωγραφικής, αγιογραφίας και χωροταξικής μελέτης της εποχής λίγο πριν την αναγέννηση.