Tag Archives: Missolonghi

New Missolonghi Hero

Many museums and monuments in Greece close on a Monday, a fact I’d totally overlooked when planning my Missolonghi research day. Not only that, it was May Day, a public holiday. My husband, Alan tried to cheer me up suggesting we go to the museum anyway, perhaps there’d be useful information outside.

To my amazement the door was open and my hopes rose when a man stepped forward proffering a guidebook for €8. With my camera around my neck he had me sussed. ‘Sorry, no photographs!’

I couldn’t help telling him I was excited to visit the museum as I’m writing a book.

‘About Lord Byron?’

‘Yes, but especially the final siege.’

He stared for a moment, digesting my answer. Then his demeanour changed. ‘Really? You know about the siege? Come, bring your camera. I’ll show you.’

We enjoyed a private tour resulting in loads of photos to digest at leisure. My new hero, Dimitris has worked at the museum for thirty years, his passion tangible.

I’d previously seen some of the key exhibits and paintings via the internet, you’ll not find me complaining about Wikipedia! However, most value came from paintings, and memorabilia not seen unless you visit the museum. A glass cabinet containing the silver chalice used for the last communion had me entranced, shame the rebounding camera flash rendered the photo useless…but I saw it and it’s lodged for later use.

A renowned dandy, Byron (below left) loved to dress up in different uniforms and his portrait painter was a permanent member of his entourage.  My favourite portrait (below right) was of leader of the Souliot force, General Nótis Bótsaris.

The most valuable insights came from paintings showing the city’s topography. Over 9,000 people were besieged in Missolonghi. My original thoughts that they’d all be crammed together changed once I saw these paintings. The area behind the walls was free of houses, a big clue to how the residents managed to survive nightly bombardment.

I’d previously read about an attack by 2, 000 Ottoman troops against the off shore island of Klisova, on 6 April 1826. Now I’ve seen the museum’s painting of the attack and read the information provided I’ll certainly include the grisly episode in my novel.

Just a few days later, on the eve of Palm Sunday, the Christians realised they had to break out, come what may.

On a more lighthearted note, here are some photos taken at our guide’s insistence:

When Dimitris unfurled these flags with a flourish he announced, ‘The flag of Spetses.’ I earned another brownie point when I replied, ‘Ah, home of Bouboulina.’ As a remarkable shipping captain Bouboulina ferried goods and arms across the Mediterranean to support rebels. She has a cameo appearance in Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa and she’ll pop up in book two.

RICOH IMAGING

Finally, Dimitris ushered us inside this formal office, previously used by Missolonghi mayors. It was an effective breeding ground for higher office as six former mayors became Greek President. Perhaps Dimitris saw presidential potential when he insisted Alan take a seat.

Thank you for your hospitality Dimitris, I’m indebted to you.

Come back next week for the scenic journey to Delphi, with hidden gems on the way.

Missolonghi Heroes

Missolonghi is a walled city, towards the Corinth Gulf, where British poet and philhellene, Lord Byron died in April 1824. A year later the city was besieged a third time by combined Turk and Arab forces. After holding out for twelve months, starved and desperate citizens followed their beleaguered fighting force in the now famous exit  on the eve of Palm Sunday, April 1826. Although circa 7,000 people attempted escape less than 1,000 made it to safety. Hundreds of women and girls became slaves, and a macabre display of severed heads adorned the city walls.

Many of those who could not flee, including children and elderly, gathered in the home of Christos Kapsalis, who ignited powder kegs to prevent them being captured alive.

RICOH IMAGINGThe ‘Sacred City of Missolonghi‘ has a wonderful Garden of Heroes. Once a battle site it now forms a tranquil space to stroll and contemplate. Among the plaques and marble memorials I found this simple stack of kegs a very moving tribute. These heroic acts are commemorated annually with a parade through the town culminating in a re-enactment in the Garden of Heroes.

These dreadful events inspired poet, Dionysios Solomos  to write his poem Free Besieged, the foundation of the Greek national anthem.

Research for a sequel to Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa, sparked my interest in Missolonghi when I discovered that one of my characters, Cretan rebel leader, Captain Kazanis played a part in the siege. I soon realised fact was better than any plot I could dream up, now all I need to do is find a way to get him there…

Missolonghi sits on the edge of a huge lagoon – an amazing geographical feature.

Walking within Missolonghi’s walls gave shape and scale to a city far larger than I’d imagined from academic research. I even looked down cannon barrels to see where Ottomans camped . When Ibrahim Pasha demanded the city surrender their famous response was, ‘The keys to the gates dangle from the tips of our canons’.

In a garden full of memorials I was delighted to find the pillar dedicated to Notis Botsaris; in my version of events he and Kazanis become brothers in arms.

RICOH IMAGING

Next stop, the Museum of the History and the Art of the Sacred City of Missolonghi. Lord Byron had a club foot, and thanks to the museum I’ve seen his shoes – I’ll certainly use this fabulous detail.

It’s no good, I can’t do Missolonghi justice in a single blog post. Come back next week when I’ll take you inside the museum to meet my new hero…