Friday, 8 April 2016

Greece Trip. Day 6


The first stop of the day was outside the castle of Karytaina in Arcadia, where we looked at the remains of a belfry of the 13th century (part of our ongoing discussion of this structural element probably introduced to Greece by the Latins).  Belfries have been on our agenda since our Istanbul trip when Bob Ousterhout had argued that the Latins had added a substantial bell tower to the Hagia Sophia when they took Constantinople. After a short break, we continued to the castle of Karytaina itself. We met two members of the archaeological team that worked on the site. Our first stop within the complex was a tower (our second of the trip after Androusa), which contained a cistern on its ground level. Its second floor had primarily a residential function, was covered by a barrel vault and contained a wooden floor. Another western feature included a chimney, and its construction was presumably completed by local masons who were possibly basing their work on French models. 

Belfries are one of the most discussed topics of our trip

Wondering at the Karytaina belfry

We continued to the monastery of Isova, presented to us by Michalis Olympios. The church was mentioned only once in the Greek version of the Chronicle of Morea, when its destruction in the aftermath of the Battle of Pelagonia of 1259 is the only documentary evidence that noted its existence; very little else is known. The church is related in terms of its plan to other Moreote Latin churches (namely Glarentza and Andravida). The single-aisle structure has a polygonal apse and a wooden roof. One of the principal questions regarding the site is the wall in its interior crossing the nave, which has ceramic pots embedded in it, perhaps for acoustic reasons, yet at the same time these would appear to be set very low. The placement of this wall is troublesome; one context in which it could work is in a female monastery. According to the reconstruction, the cloister was located on the south side of the building. On closer examination, our group puzzled over the height of the floor level since it would have to have been very low. The exterior of the northwest corner of the basilica contains the only remaining sculptural detail, a gargoyle. Next we made a brief stop at the adjacent Hagios Nicholas. Little is known of this three-aisled structure; it postdates the larger church and was built after its destruction.

Trying to solve the mystery of Isova

Michalis Olympios teaching Gothic architecture

A gargoyle in Morea

We then made our way to modern Elis, the heartland of the Frankish kingdom of Achaea in the plain of the Morea and to the site of its first capital of Andravida (Andreville). The unwalled city was a key site in what Athanasoulis has called a “triangle of power” of Frankish principality, along with Chlemoutsi and Glarentza (Clarence), which are located within 5 kilometers of each other, and which was its administrative, economic, and military center. At Andravida in addition to Hagia Sophia, there were also St. Stephen and St. James, the latter of which was the mausoleum of the Villehardouin. 

The only standing monument is the remains of the Dominican church of Hagia Sophia. The church was the court chapel of the Villehardouins, in addition to being the cathedral and seat of the bishop of the Olena. The site of the church was excavated in the 1980s by an archaeological team from the University of Minnesota. The Hagia Sophia was a three-aisled basilica with a vaulted sanctuary and a timber roof held up by slender granite columns. What remains of the cathedral of the capital of the Frankish principle of Achaia is its sanctuary and two chapels with rib vaults that is just over 1 meter of the present level of the nave. The structure had square apses (which we had seen earlier in the day at Isova). In the sanctuary, there are significant remains of plaster on the rib vaults.

At the capital of the Frankish Principality

A somewhat expressionist image of Saint Sophia


Pointing at pointed arches

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