In 1204, Constantinople was captured by the Crusaders, and the Achaean Principality was established in the Peloponnese. But local people continued to resist. To protect from the attacks of rebellious highlanders, William II of Villerhardouin, the ruler of the principality, ordered the construction of a fortress on the hill in 1249. It allowed to control the gorge that connected Laconia with Messenia. The fortress was called Mystras.


Mystras

Photo: pixabay.com (CC0 Creative Commons)

 

Mystras

Photo: pxhere.com (CC0 Public Domain)

In 1262, a battle between the Latins and Byzantines took place. As a result, Villarduin was captured and imprisoned for 3 years. The key aspect for his release was the transfer of fortresses of Monemvasia, Mystras, Hierakion and Maina to the Byzantine Empire. But, breaking all arrangements, Villerhardouin tries to regain his former possessions. Having escaped from the conquerors, locals seek refuge in the fortress.

Mystras

Photo: By Ronny Siegel, from Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)

 

Mystras

Photo: Panegyrics of Granovetter/flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

 

People needed a place to live, so the rapid construction of the city started. Soon a fortified wall with two gates was also built around.

Mystras

Photo: By Tomisti, from Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

 

Mystras

Photo: Miltos Gikas/flickr (CC BY 2.0)

 

Mystras

Photo: Gabriela Fab/flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

 

Mystras

Photo: I, Sailko, from Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Not only the residential houses were built. In the late 13th – early 14th centuries, two monasteries appeared, the Metropolia and the Brontochion. Both of them featured large libraries.

Mystras

Photo: By Vadimph, from Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

 

Now on the territory of the Metropolia there is a museum, in the exposition of which there are objects found during excavation.

Mystras

Photo: By Ronny Siegel, from Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)

 

Mystras

Photo: I, Sailko, from Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

 

The monastery of Brontohion was not so lucky. Only two of its churches remained: the church of Saints Theodores and the Hodigitria church. All the rest was ruined. The church is famous for its frescos, created in the beginning of the XIV century.

The church of Saints Theodores

Mystras

Photo: Marmontel/flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

 

Mystras

Photo: Panegyrics of Granovetter/flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

 

Mystras

Photo: Andy Hay/flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Hodigitria church

Mystras

Photo: Marmontel/flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

 

Mystras

Photo: Marmontel/flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

 

In the first half of the 15th century the monastery of Pantanassa was erected. It has preserved quite well until our days, and is the only functioning women’s monastery in Mystras. On its territory there is a church unique in its architecture and style of painting.

Mystras

Photo: Ed88, from Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

 

Mystras

Photo: Marmontel/flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

 

Mystras

Photo: I, Sailko, from Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

In the middle of 14th century the Church of St. Sophia was built near the entrance to the “upper city”. During the Turkish rule it was used as a mosque.

Mystras

Photo: By Ronny Siegel, from Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)

 

Mystras

Photo: Marmontel/flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

 

Another monastery called Peribleptos was built in the 14th century. It features unique frescos dedicated to the life of the Virgin. The church of this monastery is embedded into the rock.

Mystras

Photo: Ed88, from Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

 

Despot’s Palace, where city rulers have lived for a long time, also deserves attention.

Mystras

Photo: By Gregor Hagedorn, from Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

 

The St. George Church is also fascinating.

Mystras

Photo: karol m/flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Now the ancient city of Mystras is an open-air museum which narrow winding streets, palaces and churches. There are no hotels, cafes and restaurants. All this is in the nearby town of Neo-Mystras. And the museum itself is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Mystras

Photo: Ronny Siegel/flickr (CC BY 2.0)

 

Mystras

Photo: I, Sailko, from Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

 

Mystras

Photo: pixabay.com (CC0 Creative Commons)

 

Mystras

Photo: pixabay.com (CC0 Creative Commons)

 

Mystras

Photo: taver/flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

 

Mystras

Photo: Spiros Vathis/flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

How to get to Mystras:

You can get to Mystras from the capital of Greece, Athens, where the international aiport is located. One of the best ways is to get from Athens to Sparta (about 3 h) and then by another bus from Sparta to Mystras (about 15 min).

Also you can rent a car in the Athens airport.

Mystras hotels:

Mystras on map: