Article and pictures by Stephen Wass, all rights reserved.

The modern town of Koroni was founded in the 9th century on the site of the ancient city of Assine. The remains of the classical temple to Apollo can still be seen on the highest point of the headland, the ruins intermingled with an early Christian basilica and a small Byzantine Church. In 1205 the town was captured by the Franks but they in their turn were expelled by the Venetians in 1207 who set about strengthening the walls. The town together with Methoni became a vital link in the chain of defended harbours which sustained Venetian trading and commerce.

Following the capture Methoni in 1500 and the subsequent massacre of its defenders, the local population were unwilling to mount a defence and abandoned the town. In 1532 the Genoese admiral Andrea Doria assaulted the town at the behest of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V but was only able to hold it for 2 years before it was retaken by Turkish forces. In 1685 the Doge of Venice Francesco Morosini mounted a siege in order to re-establish Venetian control over the area. He landed to the west of the town and constructed a line of cirumvallation to prevent relief coming from the Ottoman army based at Kalamata. The fortress fell after a two parallel galleries packed with 250 barrels of gunpowder had been used to blow up the massive western bastion. The fortress returned to Turkish control when Venetian forces pulled out in 1715. Following the Greek uprising of 1821, the Greeks attacked the town but were unsuccessful in taking it. The fort was eventually surrendered together with Pylos and Methoni to the French general Maison in 1828.

Visiting Koroni

Like Pylos and Methoni, Koroni is accessible by bus from Kalamata but the best way to get around these sites is with a hire car. Parts of the eastern defences of Koroni are firmly embedded within the town itself and this makes access to some sections of the site difficult at times. Walking up a narrow lane from the harbour brings you so a turning place with some parking in front of the square gatehouse.

This originally was protected by a small outer enclosure. The curtain on the northern side of the headland is in places built from huge ashlar blocks over 2 metres long which may be remains of the original classical city wall. The Venetian walls into which they are incorporated were further strengthened to carry an artillery parapet three metres thick. Once through the gate a further lane leads up to the modern gate of the Monastery of the Prodromas. The precinct of the monastery occupies most of the area originally taken up by the first Byzantine fortification which occupied a triangular area on the highest point of the headland. Glimpses can be had of the dividing wall which formed the eastern side of this work. Although it is possible to access the temple and church ruins, the ruined western bastion and octagonal Turkish tower behind are inaccessible although views can be had from the lanes beyond the fortification to the west.

It is possible to reach the southern curtain beyond the adjacent churchyard to enjoy striking views of the square towers set above a massive sloping talus to the west before turning to the east and following the wall along the cliff top towards the eastern defences. These consist of four massive circular artillery towers in a north south line cutting across the headland. The southern most two are linked by a double wall and terrace with an outer moat.

Considerable restoration work is underway here (2008), the central bastion was badly damaged by an explosion during World War II. The southernmost tower encloses a single huge chamber with the roof being supported by a central octagonal pillar 11 metres high. The chamber contains four casements at floor level covering the approach to the harbour whilst there are five further emplacements on the roof. At the north east corner are two linked circular bastions at different levels containing embrasures and musket loops.

Article and pictures by Stephen Wass, all rights reserved.

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