Hagia Sophia Church

Monemvasia, Greece

The Church of Hagia Sophia is a Byzantine church in the medieval town of Monemvasia, Peloponnese. It forms part of the wider archaeological site of Monemvasia. It was built on the upper town of Monemvasia, and was originally dedicated to Panagia Hodegetria. It is the most important monument of Monemvasia. The Venetians, who held Monemvasia for some time, used it as a Catholic church dedicated to Madonna, while during the Ottoman period it was converted into a mosque before being restored to Christian worship upon Greece's independence.

It is generally accepted that Hagia Sophia dates back to 1150, during a period when Monemvasia saw impressive economical growth and the settlement spread throughout the rock and not only on its invisible side, and is associated with the successful repulsion of the Normans in the year 1147.

During the years of the first Venetian rule (1463-1540) it came into the hands of Catholic Romans, while during the first period of Ottoman Turkish rule (1540-1690) it was converted into a mosque. During the second Venetian rule (1690-1715) it became a church again, a Roman Catholic one this time, the katholicon of a monastery dedicated to Madonna del Carmine.

In 1715 the church was once again converted into a mosque, and remained so until 1821, when Greece gained its independence; the minaret was demolished and the Greeks dedicated the church to the holy wisdom of God, hence the new and current name.

The church belongs to the so-called Epirotic octagonal-room with dome type, and is considered to be one of its finest examples. Inside the church, the fragments of murals date back to the 12th century.

The frescoes in the chancel portray scenes from the life of Saint Nicholas and are associated with the theft of the saint's relics, which were stolen by Italian merchants from Lycian Myra in 1087, who then arrived in Monemvasia's harbor while transporting them to Bari. Other surviving murals of Hagia Sophia include that of the archangels on the narthex and one of the Ancient of Days. The church also contains surviving sculptured marble decorations, an important example of 12th century sculpture.



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Monemvasia, Greece
See all sites in Monemvasia


Founded: c. 1150
Category: Religious sites in Greece

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User Reviews

Nikos Parastatidis (5 months ago)
Impressive church with stunning views. Make sure it is open if you’re interested to see its frescoes. It is a short but steep climb. Wear comfortable shoes and sunscreen and don’t forget a bottle of water.
Richard Kuenzinger (2 years ago)
It’s a hard walk, but it’s a beautiful church and open on the weekend. Take water and snacks up the mountain and enjoy the views.
Ivanka Metodieva-Kirilova (2 years ago)
The people was curious to me! The place is a spiritual one but most of them never stopped and felt it.... All visitors of the Upper city of the Monemvasia were walking and sweating around... making photos but I really enjoyed to sit there and imagine what was the accent Greek lifestyle... How they had built all these amazing churches and houses, streets... How they supply themselves with water or food...
Paola Evelina (2 years ago)
A gorgeously kept Protestant church built in the 1500 and poetically located on top of Monemvasia’s rock. You’ll have to climb quite a bit under the burning sun, but every bit of sweat will be worth it! The interiors are austere and simple, with some rests of frescos on the walls. Just magical!
Daisy Thompson (7 years ago)
Amazing castle fortress and a gorgeous church at the top. Wear good shoes as the hike is slippery and rocky! The views are incredible and a slice of history not to be missed.
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