Gytheio was the seaport of Ancient Sparta. It is the site of ancient Cranae, a tiny island where, according to the myth, Paris and Helen spent their first night together before departing for Troy.

In Roman times Gythium remained a major port and it prospered as a member of the Union. As purple dye was popular in Rome, Gythium exported that as well as porphyry and rose antique marble. Evidence of the ancient Gythium prosperity can be found by the fact that the Romans built an ancient theatre which is well preserved today and is still used occasionally. The ancient theatre and the city's Acropolis (west of the theatre) were discovered by the archeologist Dimitris Skias in 1891. Some time in the 4th century AD, the city was destroyed. What happened to Gythium is not recorded but it is thought to have been either sacked by Alaric and the Visigoths, pillaged by the Slavs or destroyed by the massive earthquake that struck the area in 375 AD.

After the earthquake Gythium was abandoned. It remained a small village throughout the Byzantine and Ottoman times. Its importance grew when Tzannetos Grigorakis built his tower at Cranae and more people came and settled at Gytheio. During the Greek War of Independence, refugees flooded into Mani and made Gytheio a major town.



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Gytheio, East Mani, Greece
See all sites in East Mani


Founded: 5th century BCE
Category: Historic city squares, old towns and villages in Greece

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The Church of the Holy Cross

The church of the former Franciscan monastery was built probably between 1515 and 1520. It is located in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Old Rauma. The church stands by the small stream of Raumanjoki (Rauma river).

The exact age of the Church of the Holy Cross is unknown, but it was built to serve as the monastery church of the Rauma Franciscan Friary. The monastery had been established in the early 15th century and a wooden church was built on this location around the year 1420.

The Church of the Holy Cross served the monastery until 1538, when it was abandoned for a hundred years as the Franciscan friary was disbanded in the Swedish Reformation. The church was re-established as a Lutheran church in 1640, when the nearby Church of the Holy Trinity was destroyed by fire.

The choir of the two-aisle grey granite church features medieval murals and frescoes. The white steeple of the church was built in 1816 and has served as a landmark for seafarers.