Castles and towers of Avia
Castles and towers of Avia
Avia and more specifically its lowland zone is the most vulnerable area of Mani, the gate from which the entry of any important enemy movement was logically expected. Thus, this zone was equipped with the most well-made and long-lasting defense systems of Mani. The place chosen by prehistoric and historical times to supervise and fight the invaders was the central hill of Zarnata, where in the Middle Ages the famous Castle of Zarnata was constructed.
However, Zarnata is in fact a rearguard: the first strike will take place north of Κoscaraga gorge, the great physical intersection that cuts off and protects the Avia area from the north. Far north of Koskaraga gorge, the inhabitants of Verga, then called Selitsa, along with the other Maniates, erected a low wall to face the invaders. Higher, the Kapetanakides Castle is a well-built fortress of the 18th century, owned by the important family of the Captains, lords of Mani.
Other notable fortifications in Avia are the Conteas tower in Voreio (Gaitses), the Agia Kyriaki tower near Kitries, the Sarava tower in Ano Doloi and the Mavrikios tower on Agios Georgios hill.
The Verga Wall
The Verga Wall is a rather low stone wall without binder, built hastily in 1826 by the Maniots in order to have a defensive support to hold back the large troop of Ibrahim Pasha, who advanced towards southern Peloponnese. The trench was called "Verga" ("stick", in Greek) due to its oblong and straight, in some parts, shape. It seems that the Maniots had in mind an older fortification, built by their ancestors at the same location and did not hesitate to repeat this action.
The castle of Zarnata
The castle of Zarnata is the most important fort of the area and is mentioned by all historical sources of the Middle Ages. However, the place has been fortified from prehistoric times.
The construction of the today's visible fortress complex dates between the 15th and the end of the 17th century. More specifically, the present castle was reconstructed upon the ruins of an older fort by the Turks in 1670, who selected the fortified location of the prehistoric acropolis as a supervision fortress of the entire area.
The 360-meter-long wall is low and has circular and quadrilateral towers. In the center of a smaller, internal defensive enclosure, a fortified residence complex of the late 18th century is preserved, which was the seat of the captaincy of Zarnata. Outside this enclosure, the Zoodochos Pigi church is preserved in good condition and - a bit to the north - a dilapidated circular tower bearing 6 cannons and supervising the northern passage.
Upon the Petrovouni peak, overlooking Chrisavgi village and the old inner passage to Sotirianika-Altomira, rises the Kapetanakides castle, built in the late 18th century by Captain Georgakis Kapetanakis, patriarch of the Kapetanakides family and one of the 14 chieftains of Mani at the time.
The castle exhibits the typical elements of the Maniotic fortress complex and consists of the enclosure, the buildings and the tower. In total, the precinct bore more than 100 crenelations. The eastern side of the enclosure, facing Chrisavgi, where the main gate is located, is curved and the gate is protected by a round tower.
Within the eastern side of the enclosure, the large tower, bearing accessible roof with battlements and bartizans, rises. Several elements of the castle, and particularly the towers, are preserved in good condition and maintain their defensive features, such as the machicolations.
Self-guiding in Mani peninsula
Detailed descriptions and photos of the castles and towers of Avia area are included in Avia topoguide.
Avia topoguide is available for Android devices as one of dozens of regions of Greece offered by the application topoguide Greece. Get the Avia topoguide as an in-app purchase.
Avia topoguide is also available for iOS (iPhone και iPad) devices as one of the regions offered in the hiking application Topoguide Greece. Get the in-app purchase Avia topoguide and explore Mani peninsula.