Old Navarino Castle

Pylos, Greece

The Old Navarino castle is a 13th-century Frankish fortress near Pylos, Greece. It is one of two castles guarding the bay on which it sits; the other is the Ottoman-built New Navarino.

The castle sits atop an imposing 200-metre rock formation on the northern edge of the bay, flanked by sheer cliffs; the naturally defensible site has probably been occupied since classical times.

In 1204, following the Fourth Crusade, the Peloponnese or Morea came under the rule of the Principality of Achaea, a Frankish Crusader state. The castle was built by Nicholas II of Saint-Omer, the lord of Thebes, who in c. 1281 received extensive lands in Messenia in exchange for ceding his wife's possessions of Kalamata and Chlemoutsi to the princely domain.

The fortress remained relatively unimportant thereafter, except for the naval battle in 1354 between Venice and Genoa, and an episode in 1364, during the conflict between Mary of Bourbon and the Prince Philip of Taranto, due to Mary's attempt to claim the Principality following the death of her husband, Robert of Taranto. 

From the early years of the 15th century, Venice set its eyes on the fortress of Navarino, fearing lest its rivals the Genoese seize it and use it as a base for attacks against the Venetian outposts of Modon and Coron. In the event, the Venetians seized the fortress themselves in 1417 and, after prolonged diplomatic manoeuvring, succeeded in legitimizing their new possession from the Prince of Achaea, Centurione II Zaccaria, in 1423.

In 1423, Navarino, like the rest of the Peloponnese, suffered its first Ottoman raid. After 1460, the fortress, along with the other Venetian outposts and Monemvasia and the Mani Peninsula, were the only Christian-held areas in the peninsula. Venetian control over Navarino survived the First Ottoman–Venetian War (1463–79), but not the Second (1499–1503): following the Venetian defeat in the Battle of Modon in August 1500, the 3,000-strong garrison surrendered, although it was well provisioned for a siege. The Venetians nevertheless recaptured it shortly after, on 3/4 December, but on 20 May 1501, a joint Ottoman land and sea attack under Kemal Reis and Hadım Ali Pasha retook it.

In 1572/3, the Ottoman chief admiral (Kapudan Pasha) Uluç Ali Reis built the New Navarino fortress, to replace the outdated Frankish castle, and the latter declined rapidly in importance. By the late 16th century, the old castle had only a token garrison, and it became increasingly dilapidated and partly ruined through the 17th century. During the Morean War, the Ottomans concentrated their defenses at the new castle, and the old castle's 100-man garrison surrendered to the Venetians under Francesco Morosini without a battle on 2 June 1686. Along with the rest of the Peloponnese, the fortresses remained in Venetian hands until 1715, when the Ottomans recaptured them. The Venetians considered either improving or demolishing the fortress, but ended up making few modifications before it was retaken by the Ottomans. Neither were any major repairs or improvements made by the Ottomans, though it was garrisoned with a token force. In April–June 1770, the area was temporarily held by the Russians, during the Russo-Turkish War of 1768–74 and the Russian-inspired Orlov Revolt in Greece.

After the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence in March 1821, the Greeks captured the New Navarino fortress and slaughtered its garrison on the first week of August 1821. The area remained in Greek hands until 1825, when Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt captured the old castle on 29 April, followed by New Navarino on 11 May. The Ottoman-Egyptian garrison remained there until it was handed over to the French troops under General Nicolas Joseph Maison in spring 1828. The French found the old castle essentially a ruin.



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Pylos, Greece
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Founded: c. 1281
Category: Castles and fortifications in Greece

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User Reviews

Panayiote Stamatiou (6 months ago)
The hike up is intense, no real "path". The government essentially just has metal bars in the rock that you use to scale up. Be prepared if you choose to go, that being said, it's definitely worth it for the view of the beach below!
Grėtė Lelė (12 months ago)
Amazing easy level hiking trail to this fortress. From above you will have a breath taking view. During the summer, I would recommend to start hiking early in the morning due to high temperatures.
Laura Porro (17 months ago)
What a stunning place! The steep and uneven path up to the castle is totally worth it. It is a vast ruin, with fantastic views of the bay and the archaeological site. There is also a cave on the way up. The path is very rocky and in places you have to climb using your hands.
Nicki Barker (2 years ago)
Definitely worth the scramble up for the views at the top. Bring water and a picnic and make a day of it. Follow the trail up to the castle and wander across the hilltop ruin to the north, where you will find a track down to Nestor's Cave and then Voidokilia beach for swimming. Then take the easy, flat path between the cliffs and the lagoon back to the car park.
Guillaume BALLY (3 years ago)
Warning, it is dangerous as there is no protection anywhere, and some part of the castle are in bad conditions. Other than that, if you are careful, it is a amazing place to visit. The path is not great but you only need basic equipment to climb to the castle. It will take you about 15/20 I would say. The view at the top is amazing. Be careful again and stay safe.
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