Niokastro (New Navarino), Pylos
|Altitude:||Elevation ≈ 20 m
|Time of Construction:||1573|
|Castle Type:||Coastal Fortress|
Niokastro or New Navarino is built on the hill above Pylos and is considered, along with Palaiokastro, the guard of the passage of the natural port of Pylos. The castle was highly developed and equipped compared to the old castle, intending to fully exploit the cannons, while simultaneously ensuring the greatest possible protection of the inner settlement and the fortification itself from the hostile fires.
It was built in 1573 by the Ottoman Turks who kept it under their control for more than a century. The construction of the new fortification started immediately after the defeat of the Ottoman fleet in the Naval Battle of Lepanto in 1571. The Ottoman dominance was followed by Venetian rule (1686-1715) and the very short Orlov Revolt in 1770. The final liberation came in 1821 with the Greek Revolution and the arrival of the allied French expeditionary forces.
The robust and well-preserved castle is one of the best saved fortification constructions in our days. An abundance of architectural elements and the buildings themselves that are enclosed in its walls, reveal the path of Niocastro in time: the Turkish fortification, the quarters of General Maison, the later additions during the period of the second Venetian dominance and the church of the Transfiguration of the Saver (former mosque), along with the acropolis of the castle with its six walled sides and ramparts.
The great strategic importance of the fortress for the control of the passage in the entrance of Navarino led to numerous occupations of the area by various major powers during the centuries.
The castle has two entrances. The entrance that is found on the main street, turning right at the main road of Pylos towards Methoni, is the one used in the present days. The fortification has six towers (ramparts): the northern tower, the southern tower and the towers of St. Patrick, St. Agnes and St. Anthony. The tower known as Castello da Mare was built by the Turks for the protection of the area and was later embodied in the rest of the fortification.
“Shipwrecks” Exhibition (Niokastro), Pylos
The building of Pasha in Niokastro (opposite the church of the Transfiguration of the Saviour) hosts the thematic exhibition “Shipwrecks” since August 2012. The exhibition is a lively narration of the stories of the most well-known shipwrecks that occurred around the Peloponnese. The exhibition was organized under the supervision of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities which used to be based at the Castle of Pylos.
In the beautifully arranged central room of the exhibition, the visitor walks on a big map of the Peloponnese where each shipwreck is marked with a different colour. You will learn all about the shipwreck of Mentor, Lord Elgin’s boat, who had an accident during the transfer of Greek purloined antiquities – the Parthenon marbles – to Great Britain. In one of the showcases Elgin’s derringer and other objects discovered in this shipwreck are on display. You will also learn about the method of cleaning the artefacts that are found at the bottom of the sea and the role that freshwater fish play in the preservation of such objects. Additionally, you will learn about the Roman shipwreck that occured a few kilometres outside Sapienza. Extraordinary finds, such as huge columns and sarcophaguses, have been pulled out of the water. We should note that this is the first under-construction underwater park in our country. You will also see the perfectly preserved hazelnuts found at the sunken merchant ship, along with other very interesting objects.
At the end of your visit you can ask to watch the video that presents the significant work and contribution of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities in this initiative. You will see pictures of the divers – archaeologists and the rest of the stuff in action, along with scenes from the underwater finds in the various shipwrecks. This is definitely worthy of your visit if you go to Niokastro. You do not have to pay any additional fee to access the exhibition.
Old Pylos Castle (Palaiokastro)
Palaiokastro was built in the 13th century A.D. by the Franks, in the area of ancient Korifasio, the ancient county town of Pylos. Later additions to the fortification were also made by the Venetians and Turks.
It sits atop an imposing rock formation above the cave of Nestor, guarding the beach of Voidokilia and the Sykia Pass which separates Palaiokastro from the isle of Sfaktiria. The high spot where the old castle was constructed, offers a unique view of Pylos, but also of the entire beach of Gialova and Navarino Bay. The altitude and position of Palaiocastro gave it great strategic importance. Thus, the naturally defensible site was considered a target of great importance for occupation by several foreign powers during the centuries. It was definitely ruled by the Genoese, the Venetians, the Franks and the Turks.
|Altitude:||Elevation ≈ 120 m|
|Time of Construction:||1278|
|Castle Type:||Acropolis Fortress|
The castle was considered almost impregnable to its enemies – and sophisticated attackers, with an only accessible entrance; the one that was found on its south side, in the end of the pathway that starts from the beach near the Sykia Pass. What is more, the Sykia Pass was also very difficult to cross and conquer, as it was very narrow and the besieged ones were able to ward off their mightier enemies by using small cannons that were placed along the walls. Palaiokastro began to decline when the Turks decided to obstruct the Sykia Pass, the most important entrance to Navarino. Gravity fell on the other – larger – entrance of the bay, and on Niokastro (the new castle of Pylos), which was built to safeguard this very entrance.
In the interior of the castle, the visitor will walk around a large yard that used to host various buildings which unfortunately collapsed over the years. Your attention will also be caught by the existence of large troughs (attention is required when approaching them), which were used for the collection of rain water, as there was no well or other natural water source in the area.
Nowadays, access to the ruins of the castle is not allowed, as at its entrance which is located at the end of Chrisi Akti/ Divari, there is high risk of parts falling from the fortification of the castle. There is an alternative way of accessing the castle, from the pathway that begins near the entrance of the cave of Nestor and leads to a hole in the castle’s walls. You can access the castle from that hole.
A visit to Palaiokastro is a must-do for the visitors of Pylos!