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The castle of Koroni taken from across the harbour.


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Koroni is a castle with impressive fortifications at the southwestern end of 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 is the church of Agios Charalambos 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.

Nearby you will find the church of Agios Charalambos that was originally a Catholic church, it was then turned into an Ottoman mosque and later an orthodox temple.

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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.

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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, and at the southeastern corner of the monastery complex, 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.

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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.

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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.