Mystras, also called the ‘Wonder of the Morea’, was built as an amphitheatre around the fortress – palace erected in 1249 by Prince William of Villehardouin. Reconquered by the Byzantines (1261), then occupied by the Turks (1460) and the Venetians (1687-1715), the city was abandoned in 1832 after the Greek War of Independence, leaving only the medieval ruins, standing in a beautiful landscape. The complex of the ruins of Mystras offers the image of a city with a great history that was deserted by men and threatened by the return of encroaching vegetation, which is splitting the walls and covering the slopes, and in this natural way destroying or covering fragile traces of history.
The beauty of the churches of Mystras, which during the Renaissance of Paleologus had been covered with dramatic frescoes, the renown of the libraries of Mystras and the glory of its writers (including Georges Gemiste Plethon and Jean Bessarion who brought neo-Platonic humanism to Italy) gave substance thereafter for the legend of the ‘Wonder of Morea.’
During the Renaissance Mystras never recovered its past grandeur, although it still numbered some 40,000 inhabitants. The silk industry was the manufacturing and trading city’s only resource. Then Mystras was burned by the Albanians during the Magna Revolt in 1770 and was in a condition of decadence when it was definitively abandoned in 1832.
In 1989 the ruins, including the fortress, palace, churches, and monasteries, were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.