Neokastro (New Navarino Castle)
On a headland on the south west coast of the Peloponnese, overlooking the historic bay of Navarino, which is famed for the naval battle of 1827 between the Turkish and allied naval forces lies Neokastro, also known as New Navarino Castle. Given its prime position, it comes as no surprise that the castle was first built by the Ottomans in 1573 to guard the southern end of the bay sheltering the modern town of Pylos. At the north end of the bay is Palaiokastro (Old Pylos Castle).
Like all the castles of the Peloponnese, Neokastro has changed hands numerous times under a series of occupations, each leaving their mark on the architecture. It was captured by Venetians in 1686, then reclaimed by Turks in 1715 (at the same time as Palaiokastro and the castles of Methoni and Koroni). Apart from the failed attempt to oust the Ottomans in 1770 (the Orlov Revolt), it remained under Ottoman rule until it was taken by rebels the start of the Greek Revolution in 1821.
The castle has two entrances, the main access being off to the right of the town’s main street on the main road towards Methoni. The impenetrable hexagonal fortress at the top had six towers on its ramparts, five of which still stand. The tower known as Castello da Mare (Sea Castle) was built initially by Turks as a watchtower and then became part of the larger fortress.
Outside the fortress, within the boundary walls of the castle is the Pasha’s building, named after Ibrahim Pasha, the Egyptian Ottoman supporter who recaptured the castle in 1825 and held it until 1828. It was then commandeered by the French General Maison, and its courtyard, surrounded by dungeons, was used as a prison primarily to hold the Maniot rebels until the early 1900s. From 1941, it was occupied by Italian and then German forces, who also used this as a prison during the Second World War.
The Pasha building features exhibits from underwater archaeology, such as the marble columns and stone sarcophagi that were found off the island of Sapienza, near Methoni. It also hosts the remains several shipwrecks, including that of the Mentor, the ship that carried the Parthenon Marbles, salvaged from the seabed. This is the first museum of underwater archaeological discoveries in Greece.
The former two-storey HQ of General Maison is now a little museum with displays of paintings and drawings from the time of the Greek revolution.
Currently under restoration in the castle grounds, there is a former mosque, which was converted into a Christian church – the Church of the Metamorphosis.
Additional, specialist information on the strange pentagonal ravelin of Neokastro can be found here: The curious ravelin. The permission to publish this article was very kindly provided by its author, Mr Paul Beckmann.
Entrance cost: Full: €6, Concessions: €3
Opening days/times: Tues–Sun 08:00–20:00
Other: Small car park.