One of the most fascinating experiences that Kinsterna Hotel’s space encompasses is its history. Touring the rooms and levels of the mansion brings us in touch with material remains of other times and stories that are moving. Each time we share the little secrets of the mansion with you, we reveal all that makes this building unique, but also capable of housing special moments and giving birth to new stories. It is the imperceptible traces of time, in an area with a centuries-old past, that inspire us and create the evocative atmosphere that captivates.
Where today our footsteps meet the vineyards of Kinsterna Hotel, in today’s area “Ampelakia”, history tells us that it was the Venetians who took the first steps of invasion for the conquest of Monemvasia in the distant 1689. Walking backwards along the line of time, we find the area surrounding the mansion in the hands of Ottomans, Venetians, Byzantines… until we reach the 6th century BC and the Dorian Argives, who seem to have founded the city of Epidaurus Limeras, which developed into an important settlement centre of the classical times, above the Kinsterna estate, on the hill “Kastraki”.
The area in which we welcome you today and which we have shaped by preserving and utilising its history, is very rich. Earthquakes, wars and sieges, pirate raids have tested, but have not broken its remarkable character. On the contrary: they gave the estate a unique character, infused with a cosmopolitan, and at the same time, deeply laconic spirit.
This is why, even today, a seemingly simple experience – like opening a bottle of wine next to Kinsterna Hotel’s cistern – can condense the past, the present and the future, in a single moment. The past: the knowledge we are happy to share with you every moment, recounting what has come before in the space that now graciously hosts us. The present: the unique moments of relaxation and enjoyment that we love to create for you. And the future: all that comes, matures and is born in places like Kinsterna Hotel – blessed by time.Kinsterna Hotel has been created by preserving the layout and utilising the facilities of a mansion with a very charming past. In one of the most historic locations in Greece, in Monemvasia, the luxury boutique hotel has been developed in the “traces” of a richly fortified complex that bears all the beauty and proud simplicity that characterise the local architecture – as it has been shaped by successive conquests and different cultural influences, but also by nature and the landscape itself.
Our inner courtyard is dominated by the large cistern that gives its name to the mansion. Twenty built columns flank it, creating the same strong impression every time we cross the courtyard. The word “cisterna” seems to share the fate of the place of Monemvasia, which history has placed in different hands each time. So our name is a word – an antidote. It was preceded by the ancient Greek word (kisti), then unified with the Latin “sterna” (cisterna) only to be repatriated, in the end, and to take the form that today is our name. To become the Greek/Byzantine “cisterna”.
The places that have been the “passage” of many different cultures – even through conquest – are characterised by two things. The special aura woven by the contrasts and similarities of culture, and an aesthetic full of disparate elements, which in an almost paradoxical way end up perfectly matched. Both of these elements are omnipresent in Kinsterna. To see this, we only need to walk along the paths of the mansion and observe the buildings that surround us. The Ottoman features of the buildings, such as the battlements and the large fireplaces with chimneys, coexist harmoniously with Byzantine and Venetian elements, such as the exterior style of the tiled walls. The rich, complex past of the mansion is revealed more and more at every step of the tour. After all, how many places do you come across an old oil mill – or a hidden storage space under the floor of a suite?
The mansion came into the ownership of the Greek state after the revolution of 1821. Until then, its owner was Ibrahim Beis. In 1870, the estate was purchased by the Kapitsini family, to which the last inhabitant belonged. This was Lina Kapitsini, the last ‘lady’ of Monemvasia, who lived in part of the complex until the 1970s. After 1980 the complex was abandoned and reclaimed by nature. In this unorthodox state of natural deterioration and historical impurity, it was purchased by its current owners.
The year 2006 is a year of renewal, since that is when the process that would bring the mansion back to light began. A team of talented architects, engineers and designers undertook the challenging yet charming task of restoring it. Under the supervision of the competent Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities and using traditional methods, the team sought to bring this historical building back to life in a form capable of serving today. Many local craftsmen, who owe their knowledge to what has been preserved from generation to generation, contributed to the achievement of the mansion’s rebirth as a boutique hotel in 2010.
Cypresses, reeds, blackboards, handmade tiles from Geraki, old marble from Penteli, iron doors handmade in the kiln, old lanterns and other objects “travelled” in space and time meet and coexist in a colourful weaving. As we tour the mansion and estate, we easily spot many features from the original construction and design that have been brought back to remain visible. From the Byzantine vaults and internal water drain to the handmade lace in the rooms and the preserved fireplaces, each room has its own unique story to tell.