The settlement which is divided into two sections, built at different levels, each with a separate fortification. Remains of numerous Byzantine and post-Byzantine buildings are preserved in the area of the Upper Town which is not inhabited today.
View from above and the Upper Town
High above the Lower Town is what was, originally, the larger section of Monemvasia. A steep climb up narrow, medieval steps will bring you onto the vast plateau that was once a thriving town. Now completely ruinous (the last residents descended to the lower town in 1911) with the notable exception of church of Ayia Sofia, a true indication of its extraordinary location is to peer (carefully) over the edge to the Lower Town below and the Peloponnese mainland in the distance.
It is situated next to the metropolis, at the only "square" of the town. The mosque was built by the Turks in the 16th century.
Nowadays it houses the Archaeological Museum of Monemvasia.
The entrance is free.
The Gibralter of the eastern Mediterranean, an impregnable 'island rock', Monemvasia was the medieval seaport and commercial centre of the Byzantine Peloponnese.
The name speaks for itself - a derivation of 'Moni Emvasis' - single entrance, a reference to the single causeway/bridge that connected it to the mainland.
Founded in the 6th century, the town/island remained in the hands of the Byzantines for almost 700 years, falling to the Turks in 1540. It this time it had become extremely wealthy, but Turkish rule precipitated a steady decline in importance, wealth and therefore population.
Other than a brief prosperous interlude in the 17th century, Monemvasia's more recent historical signficance was in 1821 when it became the first Turkish garrison to fall in the War of Independence.
Nowadays its little more than a monument to the past - with only some 10 families in permanent residence (at its peak it is estimated that some 60,000 people lived here).