Friday, 8 April 2016

Greece Trip. Day 5

In the morning we set off towards Aipeia near Kalamata, which was on an important route between Messenia and Lakonia and a significant commercial hub. The first of the two churches we saw, dedicated to St. George, was familiar to our group as it had been presented by Bob Ousterhout in his lecture on the first night. Our speaker, Michalis Kappas, an archaeologist and architectural historian at the local Ephorate of Antiquities, presented to us on the site. The church still contains a few fragments of bacini embedded on its exterior, proto-maiolica ware that date to the second half of 13th century. As is the case with the church at Merbaka that we saw on Day 2, the building betrays traditional Byzantine elements. Dr. Kappas noted the significance of the first phase of Frankish architecture in the first half of the 13th century, in the aftermath of the establishment of the Principality of Achaia, which can be seen in the inclusion of spolia, marble columns, and capitals. These monuments with their imported features served as prototypes for local masons who participated in their construction, yet it is clear that they did not have a clear understanding of these when copied. The interior is decorated with frescoes in the apse depicting St. George dating to the late 13th century. Dr. Kappas argued for a Greek Orthodox patron. Bob Ousterhout noted that the church does not have a dome, but rather a cross-vault similar to examples in Epirus, dating to the beginning of the century.

The second church of the day, Agios Nikolaos, built in the first half of the 13th century. This is a multi-phase site, with a chapel constructed later in the century. The church also had a porch on its north side which is a Western architectural feature. Embedded into the wall of the nave were ceramic vases, which had an acoustic function. Two graves were found on the north side in the chapel, in which in one were found a female figure with a belt buckle, quite clearly an elite burial site. The church and chapel each had an altar, however there is no indication that the site was used for dual Latin and Greek rite.

Dr. Kappas in action

Aipeia, Saint George

Aipeia, Saint Nicholas
We continued our journey toward the coast, to Methoni (Modon), one of the two strongholds held by the Venetians in addition to Koroni (Corone) on the other end of the peninsula. After a light refreshment, we headed towards its castle. First built in the classical period, the later Byzantine settlemetn is best represented by an inscription, presently in the museum in Kalamata, which was located in its interior dating to 1084-85 and which mentions a Norman attack. The Venetian occupation began in 1209 (the first of two periods), and a major rebuilding of the fortifications took place at this site. Other noteworthy monuments include the remains of the Cathedral of Methoni converted into a mosque in the fifteenth century, and only part of a minaret remains. We also saw the nave built of a facing of ashlar blocks and rubble masonry. An additional octogonal tower, Bourtzi, is a 16th century Ottoman addition on an islet connected via a causeway.

A general view of the castle of Methone
Interrogating Dr. Kappas

Exploring the cathedral of Methone 

We next made our way to Androusa Castle, the second fortified site of the day. According to the Chronicle of Morea, William Villehardouin ordered its construction. Androusa was the seat of the military commander or castellan of the coastal city of Kalamata nearby. Outside the enclosure of the castle walls, we visited a small church that was perhaps a burial chapel of the Villehardouin family. Dr. Kappas pointed out that the masonry and details, namely the dog-tooth frieze, was similar to the Blacherna monastery (and 5-6 other examples). The best preserved of this group, the church at Androusa is barrel vaulted and local stone was used for its construction.

Cloisonné masonry and dogtooth friezes at Androusa

Measuring pointed arches at Androusa
Michalis Kappas showing the way to the top

Our guide Aristotelis in the Androusa jacuzzi

The last church on our list for the day was the magnificent Byzantine church known as the Zoodochos Pege at Samarina. This jewel is a characteristic example of Komnenian architecture in the Peloponnese, built in the 12th century and equipped with one of the finest sculpted chancel screens of the so-called Samarina workshop (we had actually seen another product of this atelier re-used in the Peribleptos in Mistra). The most fascinating aspect of this jewel was the painted decoration of the narthex: the style and iconography indicate a 13th-century date, which perfectly agrees with the information known from textual sources that Anne-Agnes Villehardouin, the Byzantine princess married to prince William Villehardouin of Achaea, had been the patron of a church dedicated to Saint Marina in this area. This could actually explain the name of the site, Samarina, as a corrupt form of the appellation Santa Marina.

Our arrival at Samarina

A detail of the 13th-century paintings

Opus sectile in the Samarina church, particularly appreciated by the two bloggers

In the evening we gathered in the hotel for round 2 of the Presentations by Junior Scholars. This time the common theme was “Propaganda”, taken up by numismatist Pagona Papadopoulou and crusader sculpture specialist Gil Fishhof. Pagona’s talk (“Aspiration and Necessity in the Crusader Age: the Case of Lusignan Coinage”) focused on Lusignan propaganda, as expressed in the coinage of Crusader Cyprus. She explained the ways in which the rulers of the island used the types, inscriptions, and iconography of their coins in order to emphasize their ideological ties with either the Kingdom of Jerusalem or with the western powers of the time (e.g. the Angevins). Gil ("Centaurs and Saracens: the Enemy and Propaganda in Crusader Art") analysed the iconography of the eastern lintel of the south façade of the church of the Holy Sepulchre and argued that the representation of the Centaur was an allusion to Muslims, by citing the portrayal of Muslims in textual sources and in art as deformed savage beasts. Again, both speakers mentioned Jerusalem, as had Michalis and Heba one day earlier.

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