The turmoil and the long-lasting wars, but also the geographic position of Messinia, led to the fortification of many cities with impressive castles which have been preserved up to this day. Their architecture follows the developments of martial technology and fortification techniques. Impressive amenities, such as the aqueducts, were built inside the castles, in order to ensure the survival of the population who lived or took refuge there during raids. Most castles were built mainly by the Franks on the sites of older Byzantine or ancient Greek buildings and were later reinforced by the Venetians, always aiming to provide secure shelters for seafarers and for their own travels to and from Venice.
Locations of castles: Pylos, Koroni, Methoni, Androussa, Zarnata, Stoupa, Mila, Kalamata, Old Navarino, Pidima, Kyparissia.

The Castle of Koroni
Built on the ruins of ancient Asini, it stands in the center of the current settlement and constitutes an example of excellent fortification technique. With its enormous gates, samples of gothic architecture, it immediately impresses the visitor, who can admire the underground reservoirs in its interior, the octagonal tower built by the Turks, the ruins of the Byzantine church of Aghia Sofia (12th century) and the church of Aghios Charalambos. From the open and flat area of the castle, the view to the Messinian Bay and the summits of mountain Taygetus in the background is unique.

The castle of Methoni
The castle of Methoni lies at the southernmost point of the west coast of the Peloponnese, in a place which had been fortified since the 7th century BC. Until 1204 AD it was used as a fort by the Byzantines, while in 1209 AD the Venetians, acccording to the treaty of Sapientza, became the rulers of the area. During the first era of Venetian occupation (1209-1500), Methoni was established as a financial centre and commercial port and the town reached its peak. It was then that the magnificent castle was erected with its massive fortification walls, one of the most distinctive defensive structures of the medieval Venetian architecture. In 1500 the Sultan Bayezid II (1447-1512) seized the castle of Methoni, initiating a period of turbulent history and prolonged decline in the region. By 1685 the Venetian force under Francesco Morosini (1618-1694) reconquered Peloponnese, but the Ottomans came back in 1715; this time their dominance was complete and would remain unchallenged until the early 19th century Greek War of Independence. Methoni became the seat of the Pasha of Western Messenia until 1828, when it was liberated by the Moreas expedition force led by the General Nicolas Maison. Today, the castle is in excellent state of preservation, while considerable remains of the medieval town still survive within its area: the Byzantine church of St. Sofia, the 1833 church of the Transformation, erected by the French liberating force (1828-1833), the Turkish baths, along with ruins of urban buildings. Between 1500 and 1573, on the rocky islet to the south of the castle, the Ottomans built Bourtzi (meaning tower); this was an octagonal fort aimed to reinforce the defensive system of the area, but it also served as a prison and torture chamber.

Niokastro (Pylos)
It was built in 1573 by the Turks and remained in their possession up until 1686, when it passed to the hands of the Venetians. In 1715, it was reoccupied by the Turks and some decades later it was besieged during the Orlofika movement by Alexei Orlov (1770) and it was later burnt and then vacated after the failure of the movement. During the Fight for Independence from the Turks it passed successively through many hands and finally it was liberated by the French general Maison (1828). It has a perimeter of 1,566 m and occupies an area of 80 acres. It is divided in two sections: the lower part with the surrounding walls and the upper part with the citadel.
Very few buildings of the settlement inside the walls have been preserved. Today the castle houses a "Center of Submarine Archaeological Research," whose aim is to rescue and maintain the submarine archaeological discoveries made all over Greece. Within the framework of the building program of the Center, the space of the citadel was brought into shape and the former prison cells were turned into working rooms, the powder-magazine became a congress and exhibitions hall and the Maison barracks were restored and now host the collection of the French philhellene Puaux, a library and residences for researchers.

The Castle of Kalamata
Built on a hill teeming with pine trees, with a splendid view of the sea and the deep-green valley, it was built in 1208 by William of Villehardouin. Here lived the legendary princess Izabo, who inspired the writer Angelos Terzakis to write the homonymous romantic novel. It has two fortified external trenches and an internal fortress. Ancient stones have been built into the surrounding walls of the castle; fragments of the Byzantine fortification and also relics of a Byzantine temple are preserved as well, the latter identified by some as the chapel of the Virgin Mary the "Kalomata," from whom the city took its name. It is speculated that the castle was built on the ruins of the citadel of ancient Farai. At the foot of the castle's hill you will find the semi-cavernous temple of Aghios Ioannis Prodromos, dating to post-Byzantine years.

The Castle of Kyparissia
With a history of 4,000 years, inhabited already since the Mycenaean period, Kyparissia, a town that combines the beauty of the mountain and the charm of the sea, knew a period of great prosperity during the Hellenistic times. Standing on a rocky hill east of the city, there was the ancient citadel of Kyparissia. In its place, a castle was built during the Byzantine period. During the Medieval years, the region was named Arkadia due to the many Arcadians who resorted there because of the raids of Slavs in their region. In 1205, the castle was occupied by the Franks, while from 1715 to 1821 it was under the possession of the Turks. Today, the castle, also called the "Castle of Giants," overlooks the entire town, surrounded by traditional houses, mansions and beautiful cobbled streets.

The castle of Zarnata
The castle of Zarnata is located in Mani, very near the village of Kambos, in Avia. It is a rather small castle, which, however, had a considerable presence in the area, in various historical phases, since it was built in a strategic location, overseeing all passages towards Mani. The castle's provenance is still unclear. Some say that it was built by the Franks, others by the Venetians; the majority, however, believe that it was a Turkish creation, since many sources mention Vizier Ahmet-Kioupourli as its founder. What is certain is that it played a very significant role in the Greek Revolution; it is also known as Koumoundourakis castle, from the bey of Mani Panayiotis Koumoundourakis, whom Theodore Kolokotronis rushed to help, after the former was deposed.
The castle took its final form in the 17th century. At its foundations traces of a polygonal wall are preserved, with many archaeologists believing that this was the site of the acropolis of Enopi. Others identify the area with Gerenia, one of the cities that comprised the Free Laconians League. Today the visitor can see part of the walls of the castle, a three-storey tower, a residence complex and two churches: Zoodochos Pighe, with its excellent chancel screen, built around 1776 in the middle of the castle, and the abandoned Aghios Nikolaos, with the murals dating to the 15th century.



Full of splendid Byzantine churches and monasteries, Messinia has an exceptionally interesting Byzantine past which the visitor is called to discover.

The Church of Aghii Apostoli

A Byzantine church, built in 1317 by the Byzantine Emperor Andronikos. On Wednesday, March 23 1821, Theodoros Kolokotronis, together with Petrobeis Mavromichalis, Papaflessas, Nikitaras and other Greek warriors liberated Kalamata from the Turks and assembled with the population and the clergy at the square of Aghii Apostoli, where the first Christian mass was said on free Greek territory, after 400 years of slavery. On the same day, in this place the "Messinian Senate" convened and an important document was drawn up that was sent to "the European Courts," where they explained the national aims of this revolt and asked for the “philanthropic contribution” of the Great Forces of that time in order to shake off the Turkish oppression.

The monastery of Voulkanos

Not far from the archaeological site of Ancient Messini, in the ruins of the ancient temple of Ithomatas Zeus, the well-known Holy Monastery of Voulkanos (or Epano Kastritissa or Katholiko or Koryfis) was built during Byzantine times. According to tradition, in this place some hermits found the icon of the Virgin Mary, which was the reason they built the monastery. A little below, between the mountain of Voulkanos and the lower hill of Aghios Vassilios, in the narrow passage between the two mountains, the new, large monastery of Voulkanos was later built. The old monastery has been designated as a listed monument, but the new monastery has its own history, since in 1821 it was the base of operations of the Greek rebels against the Turks. In the monastery, which celebrates on the 15th of August, important manuscripts and relics of saints are preserved (those of Ioannis Chrysostom and Dionysios the Areopagite), holy utensils and vestments (those of Patriarch Gregorios the 5th), and also the miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary, work of Luke the Evangelist. Each year on its celebration day a big religious festival and trade fair takes place and there is a procession of the icon of the Virgin Mary, which is carried up to its original residence, the monastery standing on the top of the mountain.

The small church of Aghia Theodora

If you head towards Diavolitsi, Dessila and Karnasi, a region famous for its numerous waters and its beauty, in the village of Vasta you will come across the small church of martyr Aghia Theodora, built in the 10th century. The church has the following special feature, to which it also owes its uniqueness: 17 big and small trees, 200-250 years old, seem to sprout from its roof; their roots however are not visible, which means that they go through the stonewall, which is 6 cm thick. Under the foundations of the church there are sources of potable water, which flow during the whole year and which the pilgrims consider to be holy waters. It is a wonder of nature, a unique sight worth visiting.

The monasteries of Alagonia (Taygetus mountain)

Mardatsi or Mardaki, the Holy Monastery of the Assumption of the Theotokos. It is located in the region of Nedousa and was built in 1504. During the Turkish rule and the Greek War of Independence, it was a shelter for “kleftes” and “armatoli” (Greek rebels) and later the base of operations of Papaflessas, Anagnostaras, Nikitaras and other warriors. According to popular tradition, no Turk ever set foot in the monastery because its head monk, Nikoforos Pratis, had cured with various herbs the Sultan’s daughter from a serious illness and an order prohibiting Ottomans from trampling the monastery had been issued.
Sideroporta (iron door), the Holy Monastery of the Assumption of the Theotokos, was built in 1586 and stands near the villages of Karveli and Lada. Initially called "Panaghia i Perivleptos," it took its current name from an iron door donated by its owner, Parthenios Psomas, in 1623. It is the best-maintained monastery of Alagonia. However, various interventions (lime washes) during the last decades covered the marvelous murals of the temple.
The Monastery of Aghios Ioannis Theologos was built in the 18th century in an enchanting location across the village of Alagonia. Unfortunately, only its little chapel is preserved to this day.
Mele, the Holy Monastery of Timios Prodromos (the Precursor). It stands between the castle of Mele and the village of Artemissia, and it is considered to have been built in the 17th century. The beautiful Byzantine church with exceptional "folk"(naïf) hagiographies that cover the entire nave and the narthex still exists. In the monastery there was a school, which was founded in 1712 and where renowned monk professors taught theology, philosophy, geography, mathematics, ancient Greek and Latin.

Holy Monastery of the Transfiguration of the Savior – Andromonastiro

For archaeologists and historians, the Holy Monastery of the Transfiguration of the Savior, known as Andromonastiro, located in Petralona, is an inexhaustible source for the study of monastic life in the period between the 13th and the 19th century. Its architecture and Byzantine art are fascinating. Moreover, every year, on August 6 it receives hundreds of pilgrims.
Andromonastiro is the most significant monastic complex in Messinia, and one of the most beautiful in the Peloponnese. It is located approximately 30 km from Kalamata, very near Ancient Messini, in an area of amazing natural beauty, with agelong plane trees surrounding it, waters rushing through the nearby remote, verdant ravine, and olive groves sprawling around it. A glebe of the Voulkano Monastery, Andromonastiro comprises the main church, surrounded by chapels and auxiliary spaces, also towers, the three-storey building of the dining area, as well as blocks of cells. One remarkable detail is that the monastery's church has been built above a spring, which provided the town of Androusa with water during the Middle Ages and the Turkish rule.
Andromonastiro is a significant reference point for the collective memory of the people of the area, but unfortunately, for more than a century it had been left to ruin. The 26th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities succeeded in including the first phase of its restoration in the NSRF (National Strategic Reference Framework); thus a series of works has begun, which are part of a wider framework regarding the reconstruction of this significant religious monument.