MEZAPOS-TIGANI-KASTRO MAINIS

The name MEZAPOS is a compound word consisting of the adjective μέσσος and the noun άπα (=water) that signifies a place with water (D. Vagiakakou, “Ancient and Medieval names of Mani”). The noun άπα denotes either a water place or a steep sea coastal area.

Mezapos is a village of the Municipal compartment of Vitylo of 25 residents (census 2001). It is built next to the ancient city Messa, where the constant geological landslides created all around both under water and water caves. The natural port of Mezapos used to be visited by the Spanish, French, Maltese, Turkish and pirate ships. Today it is the safe haven of the small fishing boats.

In the beginning of the 19th cent, the English traveler William Martin Leake, who was the officer of the British army, characterized Mezapos port as the safest port in Mesa Mani.

North of the village, there is the Byzantine church of Vlacherna (12th Cent.) with splendid frescos. Within a short distance from Vlacherna, there is the church of Episcopate, which, since 9th cent, was the headquarters of the bishop during the Byzantine times. One can see pillars of Ionic style and rare frescos, such as Pantocrator, Panaghia Vrefokratousa, Aghio Mandilio, Aghio Keramio, etc. The Episcopate was called Mainis and it was one of the oldest Episcopates under the surveillance of the Cathedral of Corinth.

There is no doubt that Greece and, especially, Mani has many beauties, outstanding sights and goodhearted people, mainly in places where greed and commercial profit haven’t affected people. On the way to Mezapos, the view is wonderful. It’s a consolation that the mass tourism hasn’t yet discovered Mezapos and its beauties. We shouldn’t overlook though, that during August it is crowded with all those who come back to their birthplace for vacations, whereas more and more people discover this unique place of serenity and comfort.

The stonewalls, being in full harmony with the environment, follow the morphology of the ground enriching and decorating the agricultural landscape. They create natural levels to keep the earth and water, prohibiting the erosion of the ground.

To the west and opposite side, the anchorage is blocked by Cape Tigani (=pan), which took its name because of its shape.

Mainis castle existed since 886ac and in 950ac it is mentioned in the writings of Konstantinos Porfirogennitus as, “the residents of Mainis castle”. Its presence is connected to the name of Mani and it used to be the governmental center of the southern part of the peninsula. During the Byzantine times, it belonged to Mezapos. The castle is called the Byzantine castle of Mani. Many years later, a Frank guy married to a Greek girl declared that the Franc prince of Achaia, Gulielm Villeardouin after the treaty of the castle of Monemvasia, in order to subdue the uneasy residents of Taygetus, built this castle, which he called castle of Big Maini, Old Maini or simply Maini. This is the Frankish castle.

Nevertheless, since the findings from excavations are only a few, the right places for the castles haven’t been found. Regarding the Byzantine castle of Maini, which is the oldest one according to the last excavations, it is traced in Tigani of Mezapos, in the area of the villages Aghia Kyriaki and Mezapos, in the spot, which is nowadays called Kastro. It has features from Ioustinianos rule, so maybe it was built at that time.

The Frankish castle, though, is traced in the ruins of the citadel of the ancient Ippola, at Ano Poula in Cape Grosso in Mesa Mani.

The beginning of Christian churches is around 5th and 6th ac cent. One is in Tigani, which is a unique sample.

Under the chapel of Vasiliki, ancient research brought to light 70 graves from the 7th cent. They also traced one arched chapel and remnants of a two-floor residence.

To the south east side of Vasiliki there are three public tanks.

One can go to the castle from Mezapos on foot; it is two hours and a half walk, or by sea. It’s easier, though to go from the small village of Aghia Kyriaki where from it only takes half an hour to reach the sea and the castle. It is the same road as at the Byzantine times and this is obvious in certain parts.

Bibliography: «Τα κάστρα της Μαϊνης» (The castles of Maini), by Pan St. Katsafadou

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