Below the Frankish castle on the summit of the hill there grew up first the upper and then the lower town. The Despot's palace became the center of a splendid court and an active intellectual life, particularly when George Gemisthos Plethon developed his neo-Platonic philosophy here in the 15th century, contributing a significant impulse to the Renaissance in Florence. This, combined with the marriage of one of the Despots to a Malatesta princess, was the motive which led Sigismondo Malatesta in 1464 to thrust down through Turkish-occupied territory to Mistra in order to bring back Plethon's remains to Rimini, where they were deposited in the church of San Francesco, the "Tempio Malatestiano".
After the Turkish conquest of the town in 1460 Mistra declined, particularly after Turkish reprisals in response to the Orlov rising of 1770; and when, following the liberation of Greece, the population moved in 1834 to the newly founded town of Sparta, Mistra shrank to a small village below the town walls. The houses and churches fell into decay: a process which was halted only by the considerable work of restoration and conservation carried out by Orlandos and others in the present century. Thanks to their work we are now able to get an impression of the life of this town, ruled by Greek princes married to wives from western Europe, which became a meeting- place between Byzantine and western culture.