08 October 2012

One more Palaiologos

Manuel,"son of Eudokia, the illustrious and thrice-happy,
whose father is a Caesar and whose mother is from a branch of flowering purple
Icon podea embroidered with gold, silver, pearls, and silk, 750 x 750 mm,
Museum, Ducal Palace, Urbino.
At the Monastery of Santa Croce di Fonte Avellana near Pesaro, 1425-1915.

Ivan Drpić sent me material about another Palaiologos, one known as Manuel The Bastard -- if he is known at all --that being "Nothos" in English. 

All that is known about Manuel is that he commanded whatever there was of a Byzantine fleet in February 1411 and defeated an Ottoman naval attack on Constantinople.  Our source is Chalcocondyles (picked up by Pseudo-Sphrantzes) who says:

Thereupon the Greeks manned their ships, as many as they had, as well as triremes, and placed Manuel in charge, the illegitimate son of the ruler John. They attacked and began a naval battle. The Greeks won. This Manuel, son of the ruler, was second to none in judgment and prudence, and seemed at that time to be quite capable of leading in war and was generally held in esteem. Because of this esteem, he was arrested by his brother the ruler and thrown into prison where he and his sons stayed for seventeen years.

His brother the ruler was Manuel II, and it is impossible to think of Manuel acting like this, no matter how irritated. It is completely in violation of what is known of his character. He, and his son John after him, were outstandingly mild-mannered in their treatment even of the treasonous, although both had flaming tempers.  I consider this sentence seriously erroneous.  Of course, ignoring that sentence means losing half of what Chalcocodyles has to say, but discrimination is listed as one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  

That is it for Manuel, brother of Manuel.
Then there is this marvelous portrait of a contemporary Manuel kneeling before his patron, the Archangel Michael, embroidered on silk. In Kosmos of Verse, Ivan Drpić points out that -- unusually for a donor/protector image -- the two are equal in size. The silk was probably intended for use as a podea, a textile attached to the lower edge of an icon:


Twenty-three lines of verse are embroidered around the figures on this textile in gold and silver -- you will see how the lines vary in length.  I have taken this from two transcriptions which differ in spellings and accents: 

Ὡς πρὶν´ Ιησοῦς τ(οῦ) Ναυὴ κἀμψας γόνυ
Τῶν σῶν ποδῶν ἔμπρ[οσ]θεν αὑτὸν ἐῤῥίφη,
Αἰτῶν παρὰ σ(οῦ) δῦναμιν [ε]ἰλ[η]φέναι  //
Ὡς ἀλλοφύλων ὑποτά[ξ]ῃ τὰ στίφη·
Οὕτως ἔγωγε Μανυὴλ σὸς οἰκέτην,
Εὐδοκίας παῖς εὐκλἑ(οῦ)ς τρϊσολβίου·  //
Φυτοσ//πόρον μὲν // Καίσαρι // κεκτη//μένης· //
Γεννήτρι//αν δὲ πορφυρά[ν]θητον κλά//δον
Τὰ // νῦν ἐμαυ//τὸν ἱκ[ε]//τικῶ τῶ // τρόπω·
Ῥίπτω  // ποσί σ(ου) // καὶ λι//τάζο// μαι δέ // σε, //
Ὡς [σ]αῖ//ς σκέ//ποις πτέρυ//ξι κεχρυ[σω] // μέν[αις] //
Καὶ προ//φθάν// ων ῥύῃς // με παν//τὸς κιν//δύν(ου)· //
Καὶ προ//στάτην ἔ//χω σὲ // καὶ φύλ//ακά μου· //
Ψυξῆς // τε καὶ σώ//ματος ὢν ἐν τῷ // βίῳ
Κἂν // τῇ τελευ/ ταίᾳ δὲ // καὶ φρι//κτῇ κρίσει
εὑρῶ // προσην//ῆ διὰ // σοῦ τὸν δεσπό // την·
Ἐκ κοιλίας γὰψ μ(ητ)ρι//[κ]ῆς ἐπεῤῥίφην
Ἐπι σέ, ταχίαρχε // τῶν ἀσωμάτων. *
Ὁ ἀρχ (άγγελος) Μιχ (αὴλ) ὁ φύλαξ
† (Οὖ)ς μ(ου) προ // σέσχε σῇ δεήσει καὶ σκέ//πω
Σὲ μὲν πτέρυξιν // ἰδίαις ὡς οἰκέτην· //
Ἐχθρ(οὺ)ς δὲ τ(οὺ)ς σ(οῦ)ς ἀνε//λῶ μ(ου) τῇ σπάθῃ. **

Loosely translated, this says:
- As once, Joshua, son of Nun, knelt and threw himself at your feet asking to receive from you the strength to conquer the foreign hordes, so I, your servant Manuel, son of Eudokia, the illustrious and thrice-happy, whose father is a Caesar and whose mother is from a branch of flowering purple, now throw myself at your feet as a suppliant, and I pray you to shelter me under your golden wings, and advancing, save me from all danger. Be, I pray you, guardian and protector of my soul and body during my life, and that I find at the last, terrible judgement, a favorable master thanks to you. Since my mother’s womb I have been entrusted to you, O Commander of the Asomatoi. ***
- My ears have been attentive to your requests, and I am sheltering you my servant under my wings, and with my sword I will cause your enemies to perish.

Various writers have identified this kneeling Manuel with Manuel "Nothos," and the coincidence of names and military accomplishments are tempting.  But there is no final definite proof to allow us to say that they are the same person.

Still - - the face of Manuel reminds me of the portrait of his nephew, Theodoros I Palaiologos at Mistra, as to the shape of the nose, and the eyebrow arch. Both features are quite different from those of the Archangel Michael (below). The quality of the portraiture in the silk embroidery of the faces of Manuel and Michael is stunning, and we can only wonder what other fine portraits have not survived. 

The whereabouts of this his wonderful textile has been known since 1425 -- it was in the Abbey of Santa Croce de Fonte Avellana near Pesaro from then until 1915 -- but nothing is known of its origin. (One can speculate -- I will just mention that two significant individuals from Pesaro, both of the Latin rite, were in the Morea at that time, and one of them was married to a Palaiologos -- Cleofe Malatesta and Pandolfo Malatesta, Archbishop of Patras.)

The silk is now in the museum of the Ducal Palace of Urbino, displayed at eye level for reasonably clear viewing.  I have not had the privilege of seeing it, but a recent visitor expressed dismay at the deterioration of the fabric and the apparent lack of concern for its maintenance and restoration.  I would like this entry to contribute to its protection.

* A star is embroidered here.  

** Four dots are embroidered here. 
*** Asomatoi = heavenly beings without bodies, i.e., archangels.

I am glad to send an extremely large PDF of the textile on request.


  1. Very nice and interesting post, as always! I would like to ask for the pdf. It would interest me and a friend. Thanks in advance.
    Gregory Manopoulos

  2. Thank you, but I don't know how to send it to you. My e-mail address is at the top of the blog.


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