There is an island off the coast of Greece that appears to be nothing more than a massive rock – but it was once an important port and center of trade.
The rocky island was once part of the mainland until its connection was severed by an earthquake in 375 AD. People nonetheless settled there and built a town called Monemvasia.
The inhabitants built on the highest points of the island first and gradually worked their way downward. They constructed a fortress on top of a cliff in 583 AD.
During its centuries of existence, Monemvasia changed hands several times. It was part of the Byzantine Empire for two centuries until the empire fell in the mid-15th century.
Monemvasia then shuttled back forth between the Republic of Venice and the Ottoman Empire. It remained a possession of the Ottoman Empire for about a hundred years until the Greek War of Independence in the 1820s.
Monemvasia was an important center of trade during the Middle Ages; at its peak, it was home to 40,000 people. During the 15th century, it was also a popular hideout for pirates.
Monemvasia began to decline in the 1770s, and large parts of it were abandoned.
Today, Monemvasia is a popular destination. Many of the medieval buildings have been restored and, some have also been converted to hotels.
While many of the churches are still ruins, the Agia Sofia, which was built in the 12th century, was restored by Eustathios Stikas roughly 800 years later.