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Nominally part of the prefecture of Laconia, it is really another country, with its own customs, architecture and code of honor. In such fortified towns, their characteristic, Maniot tower - dwellings silhouetted against the clear Peloponnesian sky , it is easy to see why the Maniates are considered the true heirs of the bellicose ancient Spartans, known as the Lacedaemonians. This barren, rock - strewn and depopulated region is home to men whose pursuits, throughout history, were neither agricultural nor peaceful.
The maniates often have their own law. The women of Mani are as bold as the men. In life and in death. In the wild fastness of Mani the people have clung to such a faith in customs, traditions and the family as to traced the limits of courage. Throughout the following centuries of treacherous and violent "foreign intervention", it would be the thorny, independent Maniates, fortified in their characteristic, two - and three - stony tower - dwellings far to the south, who would symbolize the Peloponnesian resistance.Link to Top Destinations in Greece...
Though the Ottomans and Venetians took the peninsula in turn; first one then the other seizing control, the Maniates never accepted defeat. Just prior to the outbreak of the Greek war of independence, the Peloponnese was in Turkish hands, administered from Tripolis: the Mani, however, had been a sovereign state within a state for six years, governed by the indomitable Petrobey Mauromichalis. Today by "Maniates" we mean brave man, stalwarts, heroes. The towers. There are about 800 towers, isolated or grouped in villages, the oldest go back to the 15th c, their height increased with the power of the family that built them.
They were constructed of irregularly shaped blocks of stone, about 15m-25m/50ft-80ft high and square in shape, they comprised three or four rooms. one above the other, linked by ladders and trap doors. Windows were small and few in number and the top floor was crenellated so that tower looked like a castle keep. The greatest concentration of towers is to be found in Kita and Vathia in the south.
Mani's history is a loose thread, interweaving itself with the multicolored strands from Sparta, Rome and Byzantium, the Franks, Venetians and Turks, but always creating a unique design of its own on the fringe of the main Greek pattern. It is a land of caves, churches and strange towers, of fortified villages on bare mountainsides, of Byzantine art and architecture of an extraordinary richness and importance, of feuds, fasting and lamentation.
Until the present century it was almost a living fossil of the Middle Ages. It was a region of institutionalized civil war and chronic internal disorder, yet its ironic glory was to start the Revolution of 1821 which created the nation-state in which Mani itself became an incongruity.
At the southernmost tip of the peninsula is Cape Tenaron (Mattapan). In ancient times this was thought to be one of the entrances to the underworld, where Heracles descended in quest of the dog (Kerberos). Today the towers are mostly deserted. Byzantine churches of great beauty, often magnificently frescoed, are collapsing through neglect...
NETWORK OF MANI MUSEUMS-AREOPOLIS - PIKOULAKIS TOWER MUSEUM
This Museum is located south of the 17th March Square and the Church of the Taxiarchon (Archangels).
Areopolis Museum is part of the "Network of Mani Museums", an extensive museum project being set up by the Ministry of Culture and founded jointly with the European Union.
The project aims to present Maniot culture of the Byzantine and post-Byzantine periods through visible remnants of the local people's creativity, while also drawing attention to the numerous monuments scattered all over the peninsular.
The area may be depopulated today, but the beautiful large private homes and public buildings are a testament to the flourishing past. Their grey, heavy stone roofs rise over the thick vegetation. Stone-paved streets cross the villages. The houses are built with stones and wood, and their walls are thick to withstand the harsh weather conditions and the winter snow. Stone-built walls surround the yards, which are guarded by beautiful, heavy, wooden gates. Fortunately, many of these buildings now have been restored and modernized properly, and several have been turned into hotels and pensions, retaining the traditional style. What is more important is that the area has kept its serenity and is rarely crowded with peopleYou can view our portfolio of photos at http://www.panoramio.com/user/45649/tags/Mani