The hilltop castle nestled on Mt. Taygetos was founded by the Frankish leader, William II of Villehardouin in 1249. The Byzantines became masters of the castle after 1262. In the mid 14th century, the seat of Mystras was the Despot of Morea. In 1448, the last emperor of Byzantium, the despot Constantine XI Palaeologos was crowned here. In 1460, Mystras surrendered to the Turks. In 1464, Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta seizes the city, but not the castle. Years later, Mystras falls briefly to the Venetians (1687-1715) and then back under Turkish domination. In 1821, Mystras is among the first areas in Greece to gain independence.
The most significant monuments and architectural ensembles of the area include:
- The Fortifications: The Frankish castle with its battlements and towers are the work of William II of Villehardouin. Its walls are arranged in two strong fortified enclosures supported by tall square towers.
- The Metropolis (St. Demetrios): mixed architectural style church; a three-aisled basilica with a vestibule and bell tower and inscribed cruciform plan.
- The Church of St. Theodore: the work of the monks Daniel and Pachomios; octagonal type with side chapels, built between 1290 and 1295, with frescoes of the late 13th century.
- The Hodegetria: work of Father Superior Pachomios in 1310; mixed architectural type, outstanding wall paintings from the period 1312-1322.
- St. Sophia: inscribed cruciform domed church, built in the mid-14th century with chapels and a bell tower.
- The Monestary Perivleptou: a catholic church with inscribed cruciform plan and a dome. The murals of the church are excellent works by various artists from the third quarter of the 14th century.
- Evangelistria: inscribed cruciform church with a dome and frescoes dating back to the early 15th century.
- The Monastery of Pantanassa: exceptional wall paintings dated circa 1430, while those found on the ground floor are of the 18th century.
- The Palaces of the Despots of Mystras (Kantakouzinos-Paleologos): extensive complex of structures arranged in a Γ- shape, built at different times during the 13th-15th centuries; the complex served various purposes throughout the years.
Source: ‘Idiomorfi’ Publications