The castle of Santa Maura

11/12/2015

The castle of Agia Mavra is situated near the channel, 1.2 km outside Hora, and is the island’s link with Sterea Hellas.

The area was named Castle of Agia Mavra in Medieval years, and for a period of time the name applied to the whole island. The original building was constructed by the Sicilian, Ioannis Orsini, in 1300. It was built to protect the new capital of the island, which was transferred here from the town of Kaligoni. In the Castle, one can admire the church of Agia Mavra.

According to tradition, the church was built in the 15th century by Helen Palaiologina who, persecuted in Constantinople, came to the island for the wedding of her daughter to the Count of Lefkada. Helen built this church in honour of Agia Mavra who protected her from the storm. Despite the tradition, historical sources mention the existence of Agia Mavra long before the 15th century, thus the historians claim that the island was named by the French knights of Duke Walter B’ around 1330, in honour of their country Agia Mavra (Sainte Maure).

After the island’s occupation by the Turks in 1479, the church became a mosque. In 1485, Sultan Bagiazit ordered the construction of an aqueduct and a bridge joining the city with the castle. Today, one can only see the ruins of these constructions. In 1500, the Venetians restored the Castle, and in 1684, Morosini placed a lion, the symbol of Venice, over the gate. Apart from the church of Agia Mavra, the Castle housed the church of Latin Pandokrator and other buildings such as water tanks, three schools, barracks, hospitals, storage rooms and the head-office of the politicians.

A fire in 1888 caused the destruction of the castle. After its renovation, it was used as barracks and later as a refuge camp, while, during World War II, the Castle suffered Italian attacks and bombardments. On its exterior, one can still see a few canons, as most of them were removed in 1864, after the union of the Ionian Islands with the rest of Greece. Today the castle is open to tourists and houses many cultural events during the summer.

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