The castle of Koroni taken from the harbour across the bay.
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Koroni is a castle with impressive fortifications at the southwestern end of the Peloponnese which has 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 the Venetians and the Turks.
An 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.
In the 6th or 7th century AD, the Byzantines built a fortress there. The remains of a classic temple to Apollo can still be seen on the highest point of the headland, the ruins intermingled with an early Christian basilica and a small Byzantine Church.
In 1205 the town was captured by the Franks but then in 1207 they were beaten by the Venetians who set about strengthening the walls. The town together with Methoni became a vital link in the chain of defended harbours which sustained Venetian trading and commerce.
In 1500 the fortress and town were captured by the Ottoman troops of Sultan Bayezid II, who personally led the operation.
In 1532, the Habsburg emperor Charles V ordered the Genoese admiral Andrea Doria to attack Koroni as a diversion to the Turkish campaigns in Hungary. Doria managed to capture the city, and to lay waste to the surrounding coast.
In spring 1533, the Ottoman Emperor Suleiman the Magnificent sent 60 galleys to retake the city. They blockaded the harbour, but they were defeated by Doria, highlighting the weakness of the Ottoman Navy at that time.
An Ottoman land army however was successful in laying a siege around the city, forcing its surrender on 1 April 1534. The weakened Spanish garrison was allowed to leave the city unharmed.
In 1685 the Venetians under general Morozini returned and stayed until 1715. After that, Koroni remained under Turkish occupation.
The fortress suffered serious damages after a heavy bombardment during the Orlov events in 1770.
N.B. The Orlov revolt (was a Greek uprising in the Peloponnese and later also in Crete that broke out in February 1770, following the arrival of Russian Admiral Alexey Orlov, commander of the Imperial Russian Navy during the Russo-Turkish War (1768-1774), to the Mani Peninsula. The revolt, a major precursor to the Greek War of Independence (which began in 1821), was part of Catherine the Great's so-called "Greek Plan" and was eventually suppressed by the Ottomans.
The main entrance, the gate of the Castle of Koroni, is formed of a large square construction, which stands out from afar. The top of the lower part ends in a pointed arch. At the highest point, where there was a room for the guard of the gate, a curved bow is formed.
At the time of its prosperity, the Castle of Koroni had a propylaea before the entrance, which was maintained until the Greek Revolution, with pilasters, right and left, and above the entrance a stone was embossed with the Lion of St. Mark.
In the Greek revolution, the Greek fighters were unable to capture the city. Koroni was liberated in 1828 by the French General Nicolas Joseph Maison, after the battle of Navarino.
At the highest level of the castle is the church of Agios Charalambos, that was originally a Catholic church, it was then turned into an Ottoman mosque and later an orthodox temple. (This church was being renovated in 2018.)
Agios Charalambos is near what is left of the famous Byzantine church of Aghia Sophia (God's Wisdom), built in the 12th century on the ruins of an ancient temple dedicated to Apollo and a Christian basilica.
The Monastery of Saint John the Baptist was built in the Venetian castle of Koroni and is a nunnery, old calendarist, built in 1918.
Over the imposing gate of the Monastery is built in Byzantine style a chapel of the Holy Trinity. The first big yard that immediately follows has at its centre the Catholic monastery, the church of Saint John the Baptist.
It is a temple of moderate dimensions, of Byzantine style with a dome and two bell towers. It was built in 1922, was painted with hagiographies the same period and was inaugurated in 1928.
Behind the church and right of the bema lie the graves of the founders of the Monastery of Saint John the Baptist, Archimandrite Theodoulos and Abbot Theodoula.
At the southeastern corner of the monastery complex, is the "cave" of the Elder Theodoulos, where lived his ascetic life the founder of the Monastery.
The main premises of the Monastery of Saint John the Baptist (cells, workshops, warehouses, etc.) are housed in two long buildings in the centre of the fortress, in a lush and brushed garden of olive trees, fig trees, various fruit trees and vegetables.
The main occupation of the brotherhood of the Monastery of Saint John the Baptist is the cultivation of land and handicrafts. The products of the workshops of the monastery, especially weaving and knitting projects are exhibited at the "Needlework Exhibition", which is housed in a separate building located right of the main gate.
There is a wonderful little shop where you can purchase many things made by the nuns.
At the southwest edge of the castle of Koroni, visitors will find the stone-built church of Panagia Eleistria.
The temple was constructed in 1900. Nowadays, the church of Panagia Eleistria constitutes an important religious centre where the religious ceremonies of the town of Koroni are mostly held. The temple is situated within a fascinating wood with a beautifully landscaped surrounding space.
The view from this spot is captivating. The visitor can see the open sea and the large beach of Zanga.
The church was inaugurated in after the discovery of the Panagia Eleistria icon about 1897.
It was found thanks to an old woman in Koroni, who had been dreaming for 15 years that Virgin Mary was showing her where to find the three small icons: the Crucified, the Theotokos (Virgin Mary) and the Saint Loukas.
The relief icons were found in the crevice of a big rock on 21st, 22nd and 23rd January 1897. The combination of these constitutes the actual icon of Eleistria.
Underneath the church, from a door on the far side and down some steps, in the rock where the icon of Panagia was found, there is a little church named :"Evresi" (discovery) for obvious reasons.
The Panagia Eleistria icon is miraculous and attracts many visitors from around the country, who invoke Virgin Mary to help them heal various diseases.
Considerable restoration work has been carried out at Koroni, the central bastion was badly damaged by an explosion during World War II when the Germans were retreating after occupying the castle for much of the war.
A couple of families still live inside the grounds of the castle today.