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Tour 2

Sparta and the Byzantine city of Mystras.

Franks built the castle of Mystras in 1249 in their attempt to establish their supremacy over the Peloponnese.
The Frankish prince Guillaume de Villehardouin erected the castle. He built houses, dungeons, storerooms, and courtyards.
As time went by, houses were built on the hillside under the Frankish castle, and a town was born whose fate were to become the centre of civilization and the cradle of the last dynasty of the Byzantine emperors. With their imposing vaulted roofs and arcades these mansions lead up to the Palace, an architectural creation of the Palaiologues.

The most important monument you meet on the way up is the Cathedral of Agios Dimitrios. On the floor of the church is the two-headed eagle, symbol of the Palaiologos dynasty, carved into a plaque. According to tradition, this is where Constantinos stepped when he was crowned King. Next to it stands the carved throne.
In 1449, Constantinos Palaiologos was crowned emperor of Byzantium and he left Mystras for Constantinople.
In 1453 the Turks captured Constantinople, and a few years later, in 1460, the same fate befell Mystras.
Mystras, the brilliant capital of the Despotate of the Morea, was reduced to an insignificant village. The churches into the castle of Mystras are impressive in their elegance and refinement. Frescoes are filled with bright colour and movement.

Going back to Gythion you meet Sparta, the capital of Laconia, a very nice city with neoclassic buildings, whose main road is decorated with high palm trees.