Byzantine city of castles, 5km north-west of Sparta. Next to this city was created the present city of Mystras, community of four groups of houses with 807 inhabitants in total: Sclaviki, Pikoulianika, Taygete and Vlachochori. On a slope of the mountain of Taygetus, there is the deserted byzantine city which was the capital of the byzantine and medieval area of Mystras. Pattern of byzantine city of the 14th and 15th century, full of churches` and houses` ruins, while the mass of the palaces built on a steep slope are very impressive. The place is of unic beauty and worths of an organized walking. This high hill, with its monasteries and its churches, the deserted houses, the spiral ways and the natural beauties, lets unforgetable impressions. Mytzithras is mentioned as an older name of the city, which was probably the name of some owner of the area. During two centuries, this city was very important while the visit as well as the medidation of its ruins is a remarkable source of Byzantium`s history and civilization. The history of Mystras, begans in the middle of the 13th century, when Franks dominated all over Peloponnesus. In 1249, "Vellarduinus the second" (Frank lord of Morea) had built a fortress (castle) on the top of a steep mountain named Mystras or Mytzithras. Ten years later (1259), Vellarduinus was captured by Byzantium`s emperor Michael Paleologos and he ransomed his freedom by offering the castles of Monemvassia, Mystra and Maini (Mani). Since 1262, the castle of Mystra became the base of a Byzantine general who had annual service. The inhabitants of the neighboring Lakedemona (Sparta), began builting their homes on the slope of Mystra, in order to be secure. The area was protected by walls, but as the number of the houses increased, new walls were built in order to enclose the new group of houses. The first one was named "Chora" and the second one "Kato Chora". At that time the cathedral, which was in Lakedemona, was transfered there. Since 1308, generals almost always were permanent commanders. The area unfolded to a remarkable city and Mystras became the capital of Peloponnesus with permanent lord who had the title of "despot", so it was created the "despotato of Morea". The history of this despotato is a continuous fight against foreign invaders: Slavs, Franks, Albanians, Turks et. al. It is also a characteristic example of the bloom of the byzantine civiliation just before Byzantium`s total submittal to the Turks. First despot of Morea was Emanuel (1348-1380),the second-born son of the Byzantine emperor "John Katakousinos the 6th". He was the founder of the despotato`s prosperity as well as the leader of its blooming related to art. After his death, Matthew became despote (1380-1383) and then Demetrius (1383-1384). Then "Theodor Paleologos the first"(1383-1407) took the authority, son of the Byzantium`s emperor John Paleologe. In the days of Paleologes` rule, Mystras dominated almost all over Peloponnesus. Later, in 1400, George Gemistos or else Plithon founded a philosophic school. This school was very important for the spiritual life of the city. "Theodoros the first", who at the end of his life became a monk, was succeeded by his nephew "Theodor the second" (1407-1443), second-born son of the emperor "Emanuel the second". His younger brother, Constantine Paleologe (1443-1449), was his successor. Emperor "John the 8th" dyed in 1448 and Constantine was proclaimed emperor, one year later, in the cathredal of Mystra, and left for Constantinople. Demetrius successed him, as despot of Mystra, but he was an incapable lord who surrendered the castle to the Turks without even fight (1460). Mystras began to decline in the years of the Turkish rule, although it continued to enumarate over 40 thousand of inhabitants and have a flourishing trade. In 1821, decimated by several slaughters by the Turk-Albanians, Mystras took part in the Revolution, fact that ended in the ruin of the city by the Turk Imbrahim. The area was abandoned. Some inhabitants built houses in the area of present Sparta and others in present Mystra. In this way, Mystras falled to ruins. In 1952, the properties were expropriated and the byzantine city became one of the most interesting archaeologic places in Greece.
The Byzantine city. The whole city is protected by the strong fortress which "William the second" built on the top of the hill, in 1249. According to the poet maker of the "Chronicle of Morea", this is the most beautiful castle of Peloponnesus. In the castle`s area, one can see remains of walls and the enclosure and ruins of cistern, circular rampart and Frank castle. Little by little, around the castle, there were built palaces and houses of lords, at the north side, as well as houses of citizens, at the south side, and churches. A road separated the city in two areas. However, in the end of the 13th century, houses were built even out of the city`s fortification walls. This new group of houses was named "Kato Chora" or else "Messo Chora" while the other, inside the walls, was named "Pano Chora". Soon, it was built a second wall to protect "Kato Chora" but the houses continued to be built even out of the second wall. In this way, a third group of houses was built which was named "Exo Chora" (=land which is outside). This arrangement of Mystra is still visible.
In "Pano Chora", below the castle, one can see the despot`s palace which is a huge ruin, the significant church of Agia Sophia, the palace`s church, built in 1350, with excellent wall paintings, as well as the "Perivleptou" monastery, built in the middle of the 14th century, of which only the main temple is saved. It preserves the most beautiful wall paintings of Mystra, made during the reign of Emanuel Katakousinos.
At last, worth seeing are the monastery of Padanassa, with the beautiful outside pottery dacoration and the remarkable wall paintings which John Frankopoulos, minister of the government of Constantine Dragachi, dedicated to the queen of the world in 1448, the church of Evangelistria, of the 14th century, with wall paintings of that age, and the church of Saint John, with the excellent wall painting, of the 15th century, which represents the Crucifixion.
After passing the "Gate of Monemvasia" we are in "Kato Chora". The church of Agioi Theodoroi dominates there, built according on the plans of Dafni`s church, in 1296, with a lot of wall paintings, as well as the church of Panagia the "Odigitria" (=Leader), of 1311, with excellent wall paintings and wrought in relief decoration.
The catredal church dedicated to Agios Demetrios, built probably in 1311. It has the style of a royal church and it has interesting wall paintings in the vestibule and the main temple, representing scenes of the torment and interment of Agios Demetrios, et. al. In the cathedral church is also roofed the Byzantine Museum of Mystra in which, exept the bas-reliefs found in the area, it worths to see the part of the reddish with the hologram and the coat of arms of Isabella Lousinian, the inscriptions, the byzantine pictures, the wall paintings and the bric-a-bracs.