Touring in Central & Western Greece: Messolonghi

Rio-Antirio bridge, GreeceThe Rio-Antirrio Bridge connecting Peloponnese with the western mainland of Greece
 
 

Messolonghi is a municipality of about 34,000 people in western Greece. The town of Messolonghi is the capital of Aetolia-Acarnania regional unit, and the seat of the municipality of Iera Poli Mesolongiou (Sacred City of Missolonghi). It is best known as the site of a dramatic siege during the Greek War of Independence, and of the death of poet Lord Byron.

The sortie of Messolonghi by Theodoros Vryzakis (1855).AutothisiaLord Byron at MessolonghiFrom left to right: 1) The sortie of Missolonghi by Theodoros Vryzakis (1855) 2) Episode of the siege of Missolonghi by François-Émile de Lansac (1827). Missolonghi Pinacothèque 3) The reception of Lord Byron in Missolonghi in 1824. National Gallery, Athens
 

Due to the heroic stance of the population and the subsequent massacre of its inhabitants by the Turkish-Egyptian forces during the Greek War of Independence, the town of Missolonghi received the honorary title of Hiera Polis (the Sacred City), unique among other Greek cities. The famous British poet and philhellene Lord Byron, who supported the Greek struggle for independence, died in Missolonghi in 1824. He is commemorated by a cenotaph containing his heart and a statue located in the town.

Patras Gulf - Satellite viewAcheloos river, GreeceEvinos River, view from the Bania bridge

From left to right: 1) Satellite view of Patras Gulf 2) Acheloos River 3) Evinos River, seen from the Bania Bridge
 

The town is located between the Acheloos and the Evinos rivers and has a port on the Gulf of Patras. The Arakynthos mountains lie to the northeast. The town is almost canalized but houses are within the gulf and the swamplands. The Messolonghi-Etoliko Lagoons complex lies to the west. In the ancient times, the land was part of the gulf.

Akarnania mountainsTraditional Messolonghi stilt house in the lagoonMessolonghi lagoon, Greece

From left to right: 1) The Akarnania mountains North of Messolonghi 2) Traditional Messolonghi stilt house in the lagoon 3) Messolonghi lagoon – Big photo below: View of Aitoliko
 
Aitoliko, Greece
Aitoliko - View of the town with its bridgesAitoliko - saltwater swampFisherman in AitolikoFrom left to right: 1) View of Aitoliko with its bridges 2) Aitoliko saltwater swamp with flamengos 3) Fishingboats in Aitoliko
 

According to predominant historical opinion, its name came from the combination of two Italian words, MESSO and LAGHI (Messolaghi) which means “a place surrounded by lakes”. Until 1700, Messolonghi was under Venetian dominance. The inhabitants were mostly fishermen living in cabins made of a kind of waterproof straw and reed, standing on stilts above sea water. These cabins or stilt-houses are called “pelades”.

North-west of Messolonghi are the remains of Pleuron (‘Asfakovouni’), a town mentioned in Homer’s works. It participated in the Trojan expedition and was destroyed in 234 BC by Demetrius II Aetolicus. The new town, which was built on the remains of old Pleuron, was one of the most important towns in Aitolia. Its monumental fortification comprised thirty towers and seven gates. The remains of the theatre and an enormous water tank with four compartments still exist today.

View of the Gardens of the cityThe tomb of Markos Botsaris (copy by Georgios Bonanos). The original locates in Athens.View of Messolonghi lagoon

From left to right: 1) View of the city gardens 2) The tomb of Markos Botsaris (copy by Georgios Bonanos). The original is located in Athens. 3) View of Messolonghi lagoon
 

Museums

Diexodos – Museum – Gallery
Centre of Culture and Art

The Messolonghi Byron Society
International Research Centre for Lord Byron and Philhellenism

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