Kastrologos
Castles of Greece

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Paleochora, Aegina, Piraeus & Islands,Attica

Paleochora of Aegina

  
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Paleochora of Aegina
Location:
Paleochora of Aegina island
Region > Prefecture:   Greek Map
Attica
Piraeus & Islands
Municipality > Town:
City of Aegina
• Paleochora
Altitude:
Elevation ≈ 280 m 
(Relative Height≈100 m)
Time of Construction   Origin
around 896  
BYZANTINE
H 
Castle Type   Condition
Fortress-state  
Not Good
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

It has been over 200 years since the inhabitants of Aegina left the safety of the fortress of the hill of Paleochora in order to move once again near the harbor to build their new town.

Since then, Paleochora, the so called "Mystras of the Saronic Gulf" stands devastated, wrapped in a veil of mystery and silence, surrounded by a unique and beautiful landscape.


Location & Strategic Scope

The fact that there were two natural sources of drinking water and a lot of water tanks for its storage, as well the fertile region of Mesagros which provided them with food, made the living conditions in the Castle-State easy.

Also, the location was ideal because the hill was a natural fortress which at the same time allowed the citizens to have an extensive view of the Saronic Gulf.

Moreover, they were well camouflaged, since the stones and other building materials were suitably blended with the rocky landscape.


History

Aegina in the antiquity was economically and commercially powerful playing a role in wars and naval battles. Located in a strategic position controlling the sea route towards Athens, northern mainland and Peloponnese, Aegina offered its inhabitants the possibility to develop commerce and to master the seas. It thus comes as no surprise that many states wished to conquer it, amongst them, Athenians, Spartans, Persians, Macedonians, Romans, Venetians, Saracens and Turks. This was also the reason that forced the citizens to look for a shelter up on the hill of Paleochora in order to save themselves from invaders.

According to Dr. N. Moutsopoulos, it seems that the relocation of Aegina’ s capital to the hill must have taken place in about the 9th century A.D., after an invasion of Saracen pirates.

On this hill the Aegineans founded their new city on the site of an ancient one, building houses, churches, mills, carving out paths and of course, finally, a Castle.

Having suffered from frequent pirate raids from the 9th to the 12th century, Aegina gradually became a shelter for the pirates, whom many of the locals were forced to join. Otherwise they had to flee in order to survive.

After the 4th crusade and the Fall of 1204, Aegina was given to the Venetians and once again the island goes through a difficult period, occupied in turn by the Dukes of Athens (from the Catalan Company, and the Latin Governors of Karystos).

In 1451, Aegina passed to the sovereignty of Venice which lasted until 1540.

In 1462, the fortress of Paleochora was built with funds given by the Venetians in exchange for the skull of Saint George which was kept (since the Catalan occupation) at the church of Saint George the Catholic.

In 1537 the island came under the threat of the legendary Turkish pirate (of Greek origin) Barbarossa. The pirate asked the Venetian governor to surrender the island. When the governor refused, he unleashed a terrible attack that went on for 4 days. Although the Turks had a lot of casualties, they were superior in arms and troops. As a result, after 4 days of terrible fighting, the Turks managed to occupy Paleochora and completely destroy it.

The first period of the Ottoman occupation had just begun. However, the pirate raids were now worse than before. Progressively the inhabitants moved again to the hill and started to rebuild the city. However they were leaving under the fear of the pirates.Their only chance to survive was to join the pirates or to leave the island. Soon the piracy from Aegina became an international problem.

In order to crush piracy, the Venetians sent Fransisco Morozini against them, and he besieged Paleochora for 8 days. When Morozini left the island, he took 600 inhabitants with him and left the castle completely ruined. Thus in 1687 the island of Aegina returned to the sovereignty of Venice.

The second period of the Ottoman domination began in 1715. By then, the Aegineans had once again developed their economy and improved their commerce.

Since 1800. progressively, the residents of Paleochora began to abandon the settlement of the hill in order to settle lower around the harbour.


Structure, Fortification & Buildings

According to the legend, 365 churches nestled on the hill of Paleochora, one for each day of the year. It is believed that the actual number was around 50. The fact is that 33 churches stand today on Paleochora.

The fortification of Paleochora was completed in 1462 at the top of the hill at an altitude of 355m. On the east side of the wall we can distinguish 3 different phases of reconstruction.

Castle-States like Mystras, Servia and Paleochora were built following similar styles, with 3 rows of walls. In Paleochora, we have evidence that the cells of the monastery of Saint Kyriaki and Zoodochos Pigi were parts of the fortifications of the external perimeter. At the second fortified level, the middle wall was protecting the houses of the nobles and public buildings. The fortified hilltop was stronger with round and square towers.

According to the Evliya Tselebi’s report in the early 17th century, Paleochora was in very good condition and he was impressed by the settlement and the strength of the fortifications. There were, at that time, 500 stone houses. One hundred of the houses were of the Muslims while the rest belonged to Greeks.

In the destruction of the city by Barbarossa in 1537, the castle had suffered many losses but apparently it was restored, because in 1654 Morozini had to besiege the city for several days. When Morozini captured the city. he destroyed the fortifications completely.


Sources

  • Xeni Petritou-Triantafillou "PALEOCHORA-The Medieval Acropolis of Aegina", PERPINIA publications, Athens 2011



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