The Upper Town and the church of Agia Sofia are open and can be visited again from 07:30 to 14:30 daily.
Designation of a neighborhood in Ano Polis Monemvasia.
The project “Designation of the area of Agia Sophia church and the Central Gate of Ano Polis in Monemvasia” was integrated in the Operational Program “Competition and Entrepreneurship” (Priority Axis 03- Business Environmental Enhancement Project) and was implemented by direct labor and between the time span 7/12/2013 and 31/12/2015, initially by the 5th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities and then by the Ephorate of Antiquities of Laconia.
As far as these particular projects are concerned, a neighborhood was discovered and designated in Ano Polis, including the cluster developed in the central gate along with individual spaces, as well as the nearby anonymous temple, two residencies (Residences 1 and 2) and a street network, which connects the gate with the most glamorous byzantine monument of Monemvasia, namely the church of Agia Sophia or Virgin Mary Odigitria.
These monuments constitute an interesting unit in the residential complex of the Castle Town, providing with an intuitive, instructive way, information for the organization and ministration of the town-castle with a continuity spanning from the 6th to the 19th c. At the same time, the creation of small alfresco herbarium units designated the significance of the local flora.
After these interventions had been completed, a central neighborhood in Ano Polis was rendered to the public with the monuments solidified and exhibited, their historical and educational value presented, while their social character was enhanced through their integration in the Castle Town touring network.
The protection and designation of the monuments, the retention of their authenticity, the upgrading of the esthetic and educational value of the architectural components that had been saved, as well as the configuration of a touring network in an unexplored, until today region of the town were the actual goals of this particular intervention.
Agia Sophia or Virgin Mary Odigitria’s church restoration
The project “Restoration of Virgin Mary Odigitria or Agia Sophia’s church in Ano Polis in Monemvasia, in Monemvasia Municipality, in Laconia p.e., in the Peloponnese Region” was integrated in the Operational Program “Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship” (EPAN II) NSRF for the period 2007-2013) and was fulfilled by the Directorate of renovation of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Monuments with the collaboration of the company “EFKTITOS S.A.” as a contractor for the project.
The church was established in the 12th century and is an octagonal, cross-in-square structure. In its west end, a vaulted narthex is configured, while in its south end a domed cistern is developed, along with a portico that connected it with the main temple. According to written reference, the church was consecrated to Virgin Mary Odigitria.
After the 1821 revolution, it was consecrated to the Wisdom of God, as the temple was considered to be a replica of Agia Sophia in Constantinople. From the wall paintings, which date from the end of the 12th- beginning of the 13th c., very interesting iconography has been saved; Christ as the “Ancient of Days” in the Holy Place for instance, scenes from the life of Saint Nikolas in the Offertory, as well as Jesus with two worshipping angels and two full-length archangels in the narthex. Of impeccable quality and excellent accomplishment is the sculpted decoration of the church, dating from the 12th century.
During the A’ Venetian rule (1464-1540), the monument probably officiated as a temple of the Catholic doctrine, while during the A’ Ottoman rule (1540-1690) it was converted into a Muslim mosque, the “Fetihe” or “Sultan Suleiman”. During the B’ Venetian rule (1690-1715) it became the Katholikon of a west doctrine monastery, consecrated to Madonna del Carmine, with the addition of a two- storey exonarthex. It officiated again, after the B’ Ottoman conquest (1715-1821), as a Muslim mosque, this time, while after the emancipation of the town in 1821, it was reverted to Christianity.
At the same time, preservation and designation of the wall decorations of the dome were fulfilled by a works of art maintenance technician of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Laconia, while the subproject “Excavation probing concerning the restoration of Virgin Mary Odigitria or Agia Sophia’s church in Ano Polis in Monemvasia, in Monemvasia Municipality, in Laconia p.e., in the Peloponnese Region” was implemented by direct labor. Precious information was brought to light after excavations conducted in the area, concerning the construction phases of the monument, its history and the way it was used.
Panagiota Skagou- Arcaeologist of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Laconia
• Το φωτογραφικό υλικό μας παραχώρησε η Εφορεία Αρχαιοτήτων Λακωνίας