Tuesday 24 June 2014

Mystras: An Introduction and a Map

Mystras: An Introduction and a Map of the Site

Opening hours:
01Apr - 31Oct:   Mon-Sun:  0800-2000
01Nov – 31Mar:  Mon-Sun: 0800-1500
Telephone: 30 27310 83377, 23315
Mystras is the Hamlet of Churches in Greece. At the same time that you know it has been presented a thousand times before  in both guide books and scholarly articles, you somehow feel it is worth getting into the act and having a stab at putting it on stage just one more time. Mystras is the great classic. It has a kaleidoscopic scenario, backdrops to die for, and a huge cast of characters, many open to a million different interpretations. 

 From: Yiorgosthalassis.blogspot.com

I have been to Mystras many times. It is about six kilometers west of Sparta in the Peloponnese, a wonderful place, and not just for the churches.  By the time you drive up towards the site and pass the imposing statue of Constantine who was first a despot here and then the last emperor of the Byzantines, you have probably already noticed that the town of Mystras uses old Byzantine lettering on shops and civic notices. Everything about Mystras invites you to step back in time and experience that brief moment when Mystras was poised for greatness.

My Mystras is going to be primarily about eight churches, seven built in its heyday and one during the Ottoman occupation.  There is a lot to tell and I intend to do it in pieces, starting with a history and two churches: the Hodegetria-Aphendiko and the Metropolis.  The others will follow in time.  I can sympathize with the Austrian emperor who, after listening to a Mozart piece, complained that there were too many notes. That is exactly the problem with Mystras – too many notes. How much information is too much?  When is an aside (so tempting) merely boring? Do visitors  need every last detail about the wall paintings?  Do all those experts really know what they are talking about anyway?

If my effort makes Mystras’ story just a little more comprehensible and visiting the churches just that much more interesting, I will be happy.  After all, no production involving a classic can ever be definitive.


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