The Three Unknown Castles of the Peloponnese

Three unknown and different castles inspire us to visit.

Larissa Castle

Argolida – Larissa Castle

The Acropolis with its eventful history

The castle of Argos is called Larissa causing misunderstandings, however in reality the word Larissa is of pre-Greek origin and means fortress. Although it is visible from the main street of Argos and at night when it is illuminated it can be seen even from the area of ​​Nafplio, it is not particularly well known – it is overshadowed by Palamidi, Akronafplia, and Bourtzi.

The site has been fortified since prehistoric times and supervised sea and land routes to Attica and the Aegean – you will understand it from the unobstructed view: Argolic plain and gulf, to the east Mycenae, ancient Tiryns, the Arvanitochoria, further Nafplion, behind the mountains, in the west the entire coastline up to Astros Kynourias.

In the Acropolis, traces of the Mycenaean fortifications and ancient walls are preserved, however, the current image comes mainly from the medieval era, from the Byzantines and the Franks, that is, who, according to archaeologists, highlighted the castle of Larissa as one of the four strongest of Peloponnese. And the Ottomans passed through here later as well as the Greeks during the Revolution, when Theodoros Kolokotronis manned it with an army under Dimitrios Ypsilantis to delay the armies of Dramalis besieging Argos.

Chlemoutsi Castle

Elis – Chlemoutsi Castle

The jewel of the Franks

Nikos Kazantzakis writes: "When I entered through the narrow, wide-open castle door and walked through the Gothic ruined halls and the grassy courtyards and grabbed a sycamore tree to climb to the upper floor and stood on a stone, I felt like making a shrill voice, like a hawk. A sudden joy overcame me, as if the weather took on a rapid pace in my mind, and in a flash, the Franks came to the Peloponnese, overran it, filled it with fair-haired children and wild castles, and disappeared...".

He refers to Chlemoutsi Castle, which although relatively unknown to the general public, is one of the best-preserved castles in Greece. It has towered despotically over the village of Kastro for eight centuries, since the years of Geoffrey of Villehardouin, i.e., the time of the greatest prosperity of Kyllini, which the Franks loved as few places in the Greek area.

Byzantines, Catalans, Venetians, and Turks passed through here for a while, but only the written sources testify to their presence. The Franks built it and they took it off, which is why it is considered one of the best examples of Frankish fortress architecture in the Peloponnese. In its restored halls it hosts a rare museum of its kind, dedicated to the age of the knights and the great heyday of the Frankish rule.

In Chlemoutsi you will see two enclosures, towers, vaulted entrances, and of course, you will enjoy the impressive view of the plain of Elis and the Ionian Sea – the castle protected one of the most important ports of the Eastern Mediterranean, the famous port of Glarentza (today's Kyllini) and capital of the principality of Achaea, Andravida.

Tower of Kapetanakides by
Tower of Kapetanakides by

Messinia – Kapetanakides Tower

Shelter of chieftains

Kapetanakides Tower, which is preserved in good condition in the settlement of Charavgi, is a private castle, a fortress complex of those used to be built by the powerful families of Mani. Georgakis Kapetanakis was one of its 14 "captains", and the beautiful complex of the late 18th - early 19th century is a typical example of local architecture and temperament.

However, it also played a more significant role during the Greek Revolution, since within its walls the captains who took the lead against Ibrahim, who captured Kalamata and the surrounding areas in May 1825, found refuge within its walls. A year later, in the famous battle of Vergas, this small castle hid munitions and commanders, while the captains themselves fought on the front lines of the Battle.

As a house - fortress, it has a fortified wall with a defensive circular tower, the main tower house, a church, and various auxiliary buildings. Its master was Nikitas Mandrapilios. Note the wall with its ramparts and successive battlements and the famous “cages” – upside-down cones like wasps' nests, which protrude into the masonry to give freedom of movement and have small holes for weapons.

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