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Mystras

During the Middle Ages, the Crusaders, while on their way to liberate Jerusalem, repeatedly stopped and conquered small parts of the Byzantine Empire, establishing principalities and naming rulers. Consequently, many French, Spanish, and Italian colonies were to be found scattered throughout Greece, the legacy of which is seen today through the number of Catholics in certain areas. They built fortified castles and whole cities, the finest example being Mystras in the heart of the Peloponnesus, which passed back and forth between French rulers and the Byzantine emperors. It was the Villehardouin family that achieved fame after constructing the palace.

 

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The courtyard of the Saint Dimitri cathedral, the pearl of Mystras, pure Byzantine.

 

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Mystras draws water from many sources and is blessed to have such a variety of vegetation, including cypress, almond,and cherry trees. In spring, thousands of wildflowers of every color are in bloom.

 

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The sober yet inspiring interior of the church of Saint Theodore.

 

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The church of Saint Theodore, seen from the outside. In the background is the snowcapped Taygetus range, celebrated throughout Spartan history.

 

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The ruins of a palace once belonging to a crusader or a despot, the formal title of local ruler, sit upon a hilltop.

 

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Interior of the Pantanassa monastery.

 

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The Lascaris house is notable for its gothic windows, a testament to the artistic influence of medieval western Europe in this lost corner of the Peloponnesus.

 

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Interior of the church of the Pantanassa monastery, where the nuns still welcome pilgrims and light candles before the icons according to Greek custom.

 

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The interior of the Saint Dimitri cathedral. Constantine Palaiologos stood upon the marble plaque during his coronation ceremony. He was the Despot of Morea, which is to say the Peloponnesus, when he learned of the death of his brother and predecessor, Jean VIII. The situation being so grave, with the invading Turks advancing nearer, Constantine did not wait to arrive in Constantinople, opting instead to hold the coronation hastily on site in Mystras.

 

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A curious depiction of Saint Michael with a decapitated head set upon his apron. Is the devil?

 

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The courtyard of the Saint Dimitri Cathedral. Pieces of antique sculpture found during the excavation were placed upon the partition, adding a strange note to the architecture.

 

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The city of Mystras sprawls along the hillside. Below, the plains and city of Sparta, so celebrated during Antiquity.

 


by  Prince Michael of Greece