Koroni emblematic community

Koroni in a windy day

Koroni, a picturesque town by the sea, is built on the eastern edge of the new municipality of Pylos-Nestoras. Koroni and Methoni, facing each other, constitute the two sister-cities which guard the Messinian first finger of Peloponnese. Koroni stands proudly on a promontory surrounded by strong walls and bears a long history. It has a harbor and a beautiful seacoast. Modern Koroni is situated in the region of ancient Asini. The Franks, Venetians, Turks and Genoese are some of the several major powers who conquered the region and have left behind indelible marks of their presence. 

The town was founded since ancient times. Pausanias, a Greek geographer and traveler, in his book "Messiniaka" reports the original location of Koroni in today's Petalidi, a town a few kilometers north of Koroni. He also reports the existence of many temples dedicated to Greek gods as well as a copper statue of Zeus. In the centuries that followed the town of Koroni moved to its current location where the ancient town of Asini had once stood. In the 6th and 7th centuries AD, the Byzantines built a fortress there.

Following the fall of Constantinople in the Forth Crusade in 1204, a Venetian fleet under Premarini and the son of Dandolo occupied Koroni and converted the port into a provisioning station "where all passing ships could receive a month's rations, a custom maintained -we are told- when the place became a regular Venetian colony."

In 1500 the Ottoman troops of Sultan Bayezid II besieged the fortress and the town. Apart from a short period under Habsburg Empire rule in the Siege of Coron in 1532-1534, the fortress was defended by a few noble families as Baffa, Trasci, Marchianò, Mazzuca and Stratigò. On August 11, 1685 the Holy League took hold of Koroni; out of the 1,300 citizens captured, a fourth of the prisoners was given to the Maltese knights. From 1686–1715 Koroni was under Venetian rule. It returned under the control of the Ottoman Empire until 1828, when it was liberated by the French General Nicolas Joseph Maison, when  it became part of the Modern Greek state.

The fortress of Koroni dates back to the 6th-7th century – and is an example of the Venetian fortress architecture. It belongs to the category of castles that is still inhabited in recent days. The highlights of the fortress are: the church of Agia Sophia and the Holy Monastery consecrated to John the Baptist.

Apart from its famous fortress, another symbol of Koroni is the church of Virgin Eleistria, patron saint and protector of the city. Rooted in the very soul of the inhabitants is a deep faith in the Holy Mother of Christ. Many visitors, attracted the miracles they have heard about and by the dedication of the inhabitants, embark on a pilgrimage. Some moved by curiosity and others searching for comfort. 

Historical data, narrations from travelers, myths and beliefs, constitute the maypole of this unique corner of Messinia. The fortress is a living part of the city. During high season Koroni is crowded with visitors, locals as well as foreigners, but obstinately keeps its relaxed, cool, authentic Greek way of living.

Koroni’s genuine Mediterranean landscape is constituted by its climate and its soil, its agricultural production, its extraversion and its cosmopolitan character (legacy from the past). Limpid blue waters, olive oil trees, vineyards, fig trees and prickly pears dominate the picture. Above all it is the Mediterranean Sea, which provides through the years a natural, hospitable environment: the sun, the sea, the geophysical landscape, the weather and the particular location… favorable conditions for the creation, development and coexistence of a variety of cultures. 

Koroni’s agricultural production is based on traditional methods and that is in order to preserve and pass down important elements of local identity to the younger generations. Koroni’s fertile and blessed land produces olive oil, the world known "Koroneiki" variety, olives, raisins, wine, figs, wheat, vegetables, legumes, herbs and dairy products, as well as poultry, sheep and goats which are also part of the Mediterranean diet.

A basic characteristic element of human evolution is that people and societies are in direct dialogue with the natural environment that surrounds them. The Mediterranean basin influenced and still does, not only the social and the economic reality of the people who live around it but also cultivated a common cultural heritage… the Mediterranean Diet.

Koroni is a model of local community in which the representation of traditional structures of culture, customs, raw materials and local food products as well as all other manifestations of social life are accompanied by a rich table. Knowledge, practice and traditions are closely incorporated in the Mediterranean diet and in addition to socializing around the table, appear in everyday life of the citizens.

For the people of the area food isn’t just for nutrition but it is also associated with all the expressions of their social life. Gathering around the table to eat is what traditionally brings us closer to each other, allows us to socialize, reinforces social relations and plays a central role in all social events. Food is praised in songs, stories, proverbs and maxims as seen in oral folk tradition.

Moreover, it should be said that an important chapter in Koroni’s cultural life are the various celebrations and fests that attract large numbers of visitors. Starting from religious festivals local anniversaries, jamborees and revelries, Koroni seems to be celebrating all the year round. Events associated with traditions and customs or nature and their close connection with local agricultural production are also remarkable.

All the above mentioned constitute not only a set of eating habits, but also a complex cultural system which includes the relationship between man and nature, landscape and its sound management, customary rituals, songs, oral traditions and especially the rich local knowledge about the qualities of foodstuff which is a common property of local residents and mostly amongst the elderly.

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