In the Messinian Mani area, specifically in the old Kardamyli village, a stone tower stands tall. This is the tower of Captain Mourtzinos, and a visit here will leave you undoubtedly impressed. This complex, brimming with rich tradition, once served as a regional defense bastion. It’s a place you must stop by to hear its glorious past. Now, let’s delve into the history behind its imposing walls.
Troupaki - Mourtzinos Tower: A fortress with a glorious history
The Mourtzinos tower, built in the far-off year of 1807, is more than just a tower - it’s a fortress housing many different buildings. Construction spanned two centuries, from the 17th to the 19th, beginning with the emergence of the Mourtzina leader, Michael Palaiologos. This fortress is a characteristic feature of the local “captain” lord’s property in the northern area of Mani.
Your tour of this unique tower starts at its arched gate. Despite being half-demolished, it still stands proud. The base of the tower once served as a prison. As you enter, the first building you’ll encounter is a church dedicated to Saint Spyridon.
This basilica, characterized by its single-aisle construction style, is believed to be older than the other structures. Its four-story bell tower, adorned with a bell that was once pirate loot, will surely catch your eye. This temple was owned by the namesake family, a testament to their economic and social power.
As you continue towards the main gate and step inside, you’ll see the rest of the buildings. One of these is the oda, which served a defensive role in the landscape. The main tower awaits your exploration. Its impressive engineering is evident in the fact that entry was only possible via a wooden bridge, which could be lifted for crossing.
Mourtzinos Tower: The unique space of the museum
The three-story Odas residence houses the museum’s permanent exhibition. This includes a vast collection of maps, engravings, photographs, and drawings. Accompanying texts in both Greek and English provide a wealth of information. Take your time to peruse these exhibits and learn about the fascinating region of Mani.
The museum isn’t just about its collection. The entire complex is an exhibit in itself. From the utilitarian olive presses and vegetable gardens to the tower and sacred temple, each element showcases the multifaceted nature of the space. It’s a blend of defense, production, and spirituality that’s well worth a visit.
The family behind the construction
The Troupakides-Mourtzines family, one of the most powerful in Mani according to 17th-century records, is credited with the tower’s construction. These records have remained unaltered over time. However, the family began to decline after the death of their son Dionysios in 1830. Dionysios was also a member of the "Society of Friends", a secret political organization whose purpose was to overthrow the Ottoman rule of Greece and help in the revolution of 1821.
In the late 1960s, the heirs Maria and Eleni Boukouvalea transferred ownership of the tower to the Greek state. The condition was that it would henceforth operate as a museum.
The close relationship with the revolution of 1821
The Mourtzinos tower served as the residence of Theodoros Kolokotronis ( a major hero of the revolution) for two months in early 1821. After returning from Zakynthos to escape the Ottomans, Kolokotronis chose this location. It was from here that he and other fighters planned the liberation of the city of Kalamata.
How to get to the Tower of Mourtzinos? The Mourtzinos Tower can be found in the old town of Kardamyli. To get there, you’ll need to drive to Kalamata and then on to Kardamyli. This journey covers approximately 373 km and takes around 3 and a half hours. Once you reach Kardamyli, look for the signs that direct you onto a dirt road. This road will take you the final few meters to your destination.
The Mourtzinos Tower is a place brimming with historically significant imagery. Don’t miss the chance to explore it.