The castle of Koroni is situated at the southeastern part of the Messenian Bay; in the 13th century it was, along with the castle of Methoni, a significant commercial centre and a communication hub between the west and the east.
According to an ancient tradition, Koroni took its name from a copper coin (kourouna) discovered during the digging of the foundations for its walls. According to another version, its first inhabitant, Epimilides from Koronia, Boeotia, gave it the name of his birthland, which the locals changed to Koroni. The city has also been identified with ancient Aepia, one of the seven cities given by Agamemnon to Achilles, in order to convince him to return to battle.
The castle of Koroni was built by the Venetians toward the end of the 13th century and ever since then it was a source of contention between them, the Ottomans and the Franks, as to who would rule it. Its strategic location -atop the peninsula’s highest spot- made it ideal for the supervision of the whole area. The castle is an excellent sample of the Venetian fortification technique with bulky gates, underground passages, sturdy walls and square towers. The tumultuous events connected with the castle’s history gave rise to a plethora of legends, many of which contained a grain of truth. From the top of the castle the view to the Messenian Bay is nothing less than enchanting.
The Castle of Koroni belongs to a long series of impressive fortification structures strewn all over Messinia. It continues to stand proud and imposing on the top of a hill, despite the fact that it has been destroyed several times since its peak, which dates between the 13th and 17th centuries.
The castle initially fell into the hands of the Franks, during their conquering campaign from Morea, but quickly passed under the dominance of the Venetians, who slowly occupied the entire Messinian coast. Under the Venetian interests, the castle-town of Koroni flourished, becoming renowned for its industry. Both Venetians and Greeks lived in the castle, and their life was shaped around the intense pace of a productive and flourishing city. The prosperity of Koroni is recorded in the chronicles and journals of the many travellers who stopped there during their travels.
A tumultuous period followed when Koroni changed hands, something which left its mark on the region and on the castle, which underwent multiple interventions by its successive conquerors. During the first Venetian Occupation (13th – 15th century) a large enclosure was added to the eastern part of the castle, while a double semi-circular bastion was added to its north-eastern part, and the walls were reinforced. In 1500, the city fell into the hands of the Ottomans, who reinforced the south-east side of the castle, adding two circular bastions. In earlier times, a bastion had been built on the west of the castle by the Venetians, which underwent successive construction phases. Only a small part survives today. Subsequently, Koroni was occupied by the allied fleet of Emperor Charles V, and then by Morosini, while in 1715 it was re-occupied by the Ottomans. In 1770 Koroni was bombarded by the Orlofs, and was almost completely destroyed. Later the city was conquered by Maison, and enjoyed a short peak period until the late 19th century, when the castle and the city were gradually deserted.
The fort covers a relatively large area, is nearly triangular in shape and has impressive square towers. Almost every corner includes a vault, that is, a gun powder room. Several stone-carved tombs are preserved in its interior, a Turkish bath, Venetian cisterns, as well as the ruins of the Church of Saint Sophia, an early Christian Byzantine three-aisled basilica, possibly from the 7th century. At a close distance lie the Church of Saint Haralambos and the Old Calendarist Monastery of John the Precursor, built at the beginning of the last century. In the middle of a fenced area inside the castle we find the so-called Resalto, a marble column in memory of the fallen Greeks of 28 February 1824, who tried to take the castle from the Turks, but who tragically met with death.