Medieval, Byzantine and Venetian town of castles, built on a rock. A narrow strap of land connectes it with the opposite Peloponnesian coast. The peninsula where it is built, was named Minoas and it probably was naval station of the Minoans. It is lying on the east coast of Laconia and it is built on a roch , on a hight of 300m, cutted from the land with which it is connected with a bridge. Its name means that the town has only one access. It was built by Laconians, in the times of the emperor Maurice (AD 582-602), it was fortified because of the frequent invasions by the Slavs and it was a port and a shelter. It has 497 nhabitants and three groups of houses: Agia Kyriaki, Gefyra (=bridge) and Monemvasia.
In 846, it was deserted because of a terrible pest while in 1147, flourishing again, it faced the Norman invaders with success. Byzantine Greece was conquered by the Franks but not Monemvasia. It resisted till 1249, when it surrendered under violent siege and after its inhabitants had even eaten mouses and cats. In 1259, it became free town of the dominion of "Michael Paleologe the 8th". At that time, it met great spiritual bloom and it was famous in Europe because of its wine named "malvasia". In 1292, it faced the invasion of the Catalans as well as a period of inner anarchy which was caused by the attempt of some rich families to be imposed in the area. The Venetians` domination followed (1419-1431), the town was ruled by Paleologes family for a while and then it was successively dominated by theTurks (1460), Venetians (1462), Turks (1540), Venetians (1690) and again Turks, in 1715. It was liberated in June 23,1821.
After passing the bridge with the twelve archs, connecting the rock of Monemvasia to the opposite land, one mets the entrance of the "silent" city. Outside, one sees the ruins of walls which reach to the sea but still preserve their grandeur. These walls where double, in the shape of overturned Π, and they were ending in two gates: the big one, clothed with iron plates, riddled by bullets visible till nowadays, and the up gate.
In the town there are the narrow, paved with stones roads. It is like time has stopped in the medieval, byzantine and venetian town of castles with the old mamsions, the byzantine churches very close to the houses, the arcs and the coats of arms of Saint Mark, remains of the Venetians. There are forty byzantine churches -fallen to ruins- of great interest. Among them, the most significant are these of Agia Anna, royal church of the 14th century, which the Venetians repaired, Agios Nicholas, of the 18th century, the church of Panagia the "Cretan", Agios Stephanos, church of italian-byzantine style, of the 16th century, Agios Paulos, of the 10th century, et. al. The most significant one is the church of "Elcomenus" Christ, cathredal of Monemvasia, built in the 13th century by the emperor "Andronick Paleologe the second" on the style of royal church with dome, and repaired by Venetians in 1697. Inside the church, two marble imperial thrones and four byzantine pictures of "Elcomenus" Christ are preserved.
In the town, one notices the strong Venetian influences, on the side of decoration, even at the chimneys of the houses which are built at the east side with balconies, looking on the sea. After passing the mosque, which has been turned into a museum, one can follow the uphill road leading to the castle, on the top of the rock. Unfortunately the ruin of time is great there. On the most steep end of the rock, dominates the church of Agia Sophia, built by "Andronick the second" between the years 1287-1328. It is one of the most beautiful churches of Greece, a rare pattern of octagonal church with dome. Nowadays, there are saved few of its wall paintings, such as this representing scenes of tortured Saints, and remains of the marble decoration. The castle affords unique view of the "down city" and the walls, which look like slipping into the sea.