The castle of Methoni, one of the most typical castle town examples in Greece, stands imposingly on the southwestern part of the Peloponnese. Right next to it is the small fortified island of Bourtzi, with which it is connected through a small arched bridge.
The castle was built in 1209 A.D. by the Venetians. In antiquity the area was known as Pedasus, the “vine-clad” one, according to Homer, a name which testifies to the abundance of vines in the area. Homer also refers to it as one of the seven cities given by Agamemnon to Achilles, in order to assuage his anger and to convince him to return to battle. According to Pausanias and Strabo, the city was called Mothoni, while Thucydides refers to its loose fortification in the 5th century.
The natural harbour close to the castle and its trategic location resulted in its becoming a source of contention among several powerful peoples throughout the centuries, who coveted the area for their own financial and diplomatic interests. It was impossible for Franks, Venetians and Ottomans to pass from this strategic place without claiming owenership.
The castle reached its great prime during the 1st Venetian Rule, between the 13th and the 15th century, while its final decline came about around 1828, when its inhabitants were transferred outside the walls, leaving it to ruin. Despite is abandonment, the castle continues to echo with the memories of glorious times long gone, and today it is an attraction point for thousands of tourists.
It was the Venetians who began to build the Castle of Methoni, while during its occupation by the Franks and Ottomans, it unavoidably underwent their alterations. The castle is an exceptional example of a fortified building, and its construction is evidence of how important it was considered to be by the various people who passed through it; not only as a fort and a base, but also owing to the strategic location of the region in general.
The first references to the castle are found in the maps and engravings of the first travellers, who moored in the port of Methoni, using it as an interim stop during their travels. Thanks to their drawings, we now know substantial details about the original form of the castle and its evolution.
The Castle of Methoni covers an area of approximately 93,000 square metres and is divided into two parts. The south part is taken up by the city, which is surrounded by a simple wall, while the city’s fort lies at its northern part, with exterior fortification owing to its defensive purpose. The castle is separated from the land by a ditch and can be reached via a wooden bridge. The central entrance gate of the castle is one of its most impressive features: it ends in an arc, with pilasters with Corinthian capitals on its left and right, possibly the work of the Venetians after 1700. The castle’s walls underwent various modifications and reconstructions over the centuries, depending on the protection requirements of each era.
Several buildings survive inside the castle: the Church of Metamorfosi of Sotiros, which possibly belongs to the second Venetian Period, a gun powder room from the first Venetian Period, two Ottoman baths, the ruins of the homes of its Venetian masters, and the building where initially, the pasha, Ibrahim, and later General Maison, lived, the ruins of the Byzantine church of Saint Sophia, as well as the famous “Column of Morosini”, a smooth granite column with a capital on top, believed to have supported the bust of Morosini or the winged Venetian lion. There are also ruins from a cemetery for British prisoners from the Second World War.
Characteristic of Methoni is also Bourtzi, a small embattled islet to the south of the castle. Bourtzi was built after 1500, and at various times was used as a fort, a prison, a lighthouse, and a refuge during periods of raids. It consists of a two-storey octagonal tower, surrounded by a low wall, ending in a circular dome. Each floor has a parapet with battlements, and there was a cistern on the ground floor. Bourtzi was connected with the rest of the castle via a small bridge.
Even though it is in ruins today, the Castle of Methoni continues to awe the visitor with its atmospheric ambience. As it stands alone, imposing, prey to the winds, it gives the impression of a silent and austere observer.