Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Greece Trip. Day 2

In the morning, we arrived at the Benaki Museum and met with Anastasia Drandaki, who showed us works from the collection, focusing on objects that exhibit a combination of features from diverse cultural spheres, such as a pair of basket-shaped earrings (referred to by some scholars as Byzantine and by others as Islamic) and cameo-shaped icons made of glass paste (attributed to Venice or Constantinople). Dr. Drandaki argued for the Venetian provenance of a spectacular icon of the Virgin, for which a Constantinopolitan provenance has also been proposed. We were then taken to the storage rooms where we were given the chance to examine a group of Byzantine silver bowls recently acquired by the museum (dating from the 11th-12th centuries), characterized by the appearance of Islamic motifs.

Later in the morning, we made our way to the Acropolis where we met with Dr. Tasos Tanoulas, the architect in charge of the conservation of the Propylaea. He presented to us on the Frankish fortress at the gateway, which had been used as an episcopal residence for the bishop of Athens during the Byzantine period. Following the Fourth Crusade and Frankish occupation of the city, the Propylaea became the residence of the de la Roche dukes of Athens and remodeled again in the late 14th century under the Florentine Acciaioli rulers. We also had a glimpse of the remains of a Justinian cistern. We then made our way to the Erechtheion, where Dr. Tanoulas, indicated to us the remains of the Byzantine church inside the classical monument, transformed into a secular residence during the period of Frankish rule. Dr. Tanoulas kindly provided access to the interior of the Parthenon as well. Converted in the sixth century into a church, the Parthenon was used as a Latin church during the Frankish period. A Gothic grafitto and a spiral staircase are the most important parts of this phase of the monument.

Our final visit of the day was to the Byzantine Museum where Anthi Andronikou’s presentation focused on icons, fresco paintings and sculptures from Naxos, Cyprus, and Athens housed in the collection, mainly from the 13th century. By analysing stylistic details that are often attributed to Italian influences, she questioned the validity of linking them to the impact of the Crusades and preferred to place the appearance of such influences within the wider context of the common artistic language of the Eastern Mediterranean.

After a two-hour crusader-free pause, we gathered in the hotel’s meeting room for a talk by Dr. Pagona Papadopoulou, one of our group’s numismatists, who offered a general overview of coinage in the Crusader states. Pagona described the evolution of the Crusader coinage in the Holy Land and in Greece systems following the first, second, and fourth crusades, namely how the Crusaders minted imitative coins of local currencies in the conquered lands and gradually started issuing Byzantine- or Arab-influenced gold coins, as well as versions of the French deniers tournois.

Dr. Drandaki re-evaluating the exhibits in the Benaki Museum

A icon attributed to Venice by Anastasia Drandaki

Dr. Tanoulas explaining the secrets of the Frankish Propylaea

Lining up for the tour of the Propylaea

Inside the Palace of the Acciaioli

Anthi Andronikou tracing the impact of the Crusades on a Cypriot (?) icon

An example of sculpture from the Frankish Duchy of Athens

In front of a wooden relief icon with a coat-of-arms

At the end of the day, after Pagona's lecture

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