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Where did the legendary “Koutroulis marriage” take place?


Once upon a time there was a knight whose name was Koutroulis. John Koutroulis. The time was centuries ago  when Koutroulis was a knight in Methoni, in western Peloponnesus, under Venetian rule (the first time of Venetian rule,i.e. the period from 1209 to 1500).

In those days Koutroulis fell in love with the beautiful – but married – Asana. They both were Catholics, and at that time, divorce was almost impossible to get. Only the Pope could resolve a catholic wedding.

Koutroulis waited 14 years (some say 17!) until he got that notorious divorce – because at some point in time the Pope finally acceded and said yes – and the amorous couple at last got married in one of the most spectacular and famous weddings in Greece. It still remains a legendary “saying” –I mean… until today – When Greeks refer to:” The marriage of Koutroulis ” they really mean a luxuriously crazy weeding!

Why do I think about all this? Why do I write that? But I’m in the castle of Methoni and just read this story on the worn- out by the saltiness of sea main rampart of the castle gate.


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I hear the sea, gradually eating away the stone walls with a sensual almost inaudible wet sound. So, here it was (circa 1394 approximately) the legendary marriage of Koutroulis the knight. Naturally, that was when the grass which covers today’s ruins was a town with a beautiful castle.

Where did that city go today? “Apart from the walls, a church and a hamam the whole city was destroyed after the War of Independence in 1828. The new Methoni was built outside these ruined walls” had told me earlier on when we were drinking coffee in the new city Dennis Psalidas, President of Cultural Association of Methoni. “The new city was erected on the projects and plans of the French general Maison who took back the whole city from the Turkish-Egyptian occupation forces as well.”

What a castle… One of the most picturesque in Greece. Built on the water and privileged with spectacular views of unforgettable sunsets. It was masterfully built on an important strategic passage.

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The Venetians were involved in two wars against the Turks to get it. Located in the middle of the distance Venice – Jerusalem. During the most flourishing centuries of the Republic of St. Mark, the Castle of Modon (as it was then called) supervised and controlled all passing through seafaring as well as all the Venetian comercial and strategical interests.

The Venetians built a mighty fortress on the ruins of ancient Methoni which stood right here on this very rock on which nowadays the fortress Bourtzi stands. “Mothon Stone” Pausanias named that ancient city.

In 1500 the Turks took Methoni invading the unguarded battlements,which the complacent Christians had abandoned (taking for granted the false information that Venetian military assistance was on the way-it never arrived.)

Gruesome details of the horrors of this invasion survived. The Turks after the horible massacre erected a tower with the heads of all the males (age 12 and over) coated with lime and visible to all passing ships …

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The Venetians eventually retaliated taking and keeping Methoni under their control during the period 1686-1715, but the town after that date was occupied by the Turks again.

No more history lessons. I passed by the Byzantine church of Agia Sophia. It is neat and stands at a picturesque position: I learned that marriages take place here. Oh well, there are very exquisite weddings propably. I do hope of course, the guests would not read the bloody history of the castle …

The hammam is partly ruined, littered with spray-paint and scented like…a… toilet. Sad…

I moved to the south. The sea was bringing a very sweet smell of seaweed and clams. I walked on the spring weeds which besiege the old pavement, the main market street of the old Methoni. “In this road , during the second Ottoman Empire i.e. after 1715 there was in full operation one of the largest slave markets of the Mediterranean. Women and children were scattered on benches waiting to be sold” told me yesterday on the phone a friend, an archaeologist from Pylos.

The good thing at the so beautifully preserved but not so popular forts is that you can stop and enjoy the serenity, away from the hordes of tourists (no, here there are no such hordes …) and to imagine how life was once here. You need a good ground plan of course, and tons of imagination. This castle though gives a good chance for such thoughts.

I passed the house relics and the great bastions. The eastern rampart of the entrance was built in the second period of Venetian rule (1686-1715), during the works of enlargement of the moat that surrounded the fortifications on the landward side, a project implemented by General Antonio Loredan.

The western rampart (rampart Bembo) was constructed in the 15th century. The rest of the north side of the wall has changed various aspects until the early 18th century and from then to now remained the same.

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Yes, okay… well, the story says so … but life? How was it then? How did the Knights live here, how were the slaves scattered all along the street market? What was really happening here under the sieges, how did panic spead when enemy galleons were approaching from the sea close to the straits of Sapienza island?

Questions…I voice them too… but no one answers. No one but two cats arguing for a mackerel which slipped from a fisherman’s basket outside the walls.
I pass the gate of the sea which form two square towers of 16 meters height each. White rocks and sea urchins decorate the shallow depths over for the last Bourtzi octagonal tower. It was a prison and a place of executions during theTurkish occupation. Today it’s a pigeons roost, echoing the seawaves like a huge speaker. Little light falls on the green moistured walls, the brick vault, the rusty bars. I shudder at the thought of all those who left their last breath here . Perhaps someone more sensitive than myself might be able to listen to their cries…from the other world …

Heavy clouds spoil the dazzling sunset which typically someone sees and enjoys from the ramparts. I walk at the east side, outside  the walls, on the beach. Red boats mirrored in the clear sand sea bottom. A thoughtful fisherman reflected on his poor catch. Only one big white seabream shimmers in the basket.

“E.. Uncle Nick … anything today? ” I yelled.
“Baaah… Nothing much… Well … Did you see a cat or two that stole a mackerel from my basket?” he asked.

I did not betray the cats… I said I did not see any cats and I walked slowly on the crispy sand…

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Where am I?

Methoni is located in the southwest edge of the Peloponnese. The quickest way to get there is through KalamataPylos.


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