July 11, 2010

Cape Maleas: The Small Holy Mountain

Cape Maleas is famous for its Byzantine churches and monasteries - Mount Maleon is often referred to as the "Small Holy Mountain" (Mount Athos being the largest!). Many monasteries were built in the area of Cape Maleas in the 12th century. In the 14th century the area devolved under the dominion of the Mistras area. On the Cape itself is the Chapel of Saint George, built right into the cliff's face. A few meters away lies the Monastery of Saint Irene perched on a terrace overlooking the sea. Post Byzantine buildings include Saint George Katzilieris, Saint Marina, Prophet Elias, and Saint Dimitrios. Cape Maleas hosts one of the largest lighthouses in the Mediterranean (Built since 1860).

This hardly accessible headland is frequently battered by strong winds and has claimed many shipwrecks that haunt its depths. There is a road which leads to the lighthouse. It is a difficult dirt road of approximately 20 kilometres, with the last kilometres increasingly dangerous as the path veneers precariously along the cliff edge. For enthusiastic walkers, there are paths which simplify its access. At the tope of the headland lies a Venetian fortress (altitude 600 meters).

Cape Maleas was by the ancients accounted the most dangerous point in the circumnavigation of the Peloponnesian peninusula, hence the proverbial expression: "After doubling Cape Maleas, forget your country."

See also: Saint Thomas of Mount Maleon in Peloponnesos