06 February 2013

Misunderstanding Mistra, Part Three

Angel, Pantanassa, Mistra.
I have, for some time, been offended by the omission of Cleofe's name from an inscription in the Pantanassa copied by Michel Fourmont in 1730. The inscription mentions Lord Neilos as Metropolitan of Lakedaimon and the Patriarch Lord Dionysos, and then says:

ἐπὶ βασιλείας τῶν εὐσεβεστάτων / βασιλειῶν ἡμῶν κῦρ Θεοδώρου Παλαιολόγου τοῦ πορφυρογενήτου / κατα μηνα σεπτεμβριους του 6937 ‒ "in the reign of our most devout rulers, Lord Theodoros Palaiologos in September 1428." 

To mention "our rulers" and then give only one name suggested that Fourmont had copied carelessly. But this inscription has been the foundation of the conviction that the Pantanassa can be dated to 1428.

A recent article by the wonderful art historian, Tito Papamastorakis (citation below) addresses problems of this inscription, as well as a number of other Mistra issues, and I am lifting from him for this entry.    It was already known that Neilos and Dionysos did not co-exist in the same year, as an inscription from Gortynia has a Matthaios as Metropolitan in 1427-28.  Papamastorakis translates εὐσεβεστάτων βασιλειων as "pious emperors" and believes John VIII and Maria of Trebizond should be named, as well as Theodoros and Cleofe.  But various contemporary writings from Mistra refer to the Despot as βασιλειος and his wife as βασιλισσα, so I don't worry about John and Maria.

Papamastorakis went hunting in the Mistra museum storerooms and found a slab of marble with an early Christian cross on one side, and on the surviving border the part of the inscription that mentions Lord Neilos.
 τῆς ἀγιωτάτης μ(ητ)ροπόλεως Λακεδαιμονίας

Papamastorakis finds that the mixing of Σ with C for sigma, and also the Ω indicate a late date for the inscription, after the 16th century and before 1730.  This altar inscription is, then, a fake, and the date of 1428 is quite useless for dating either the founding of the Pantanassa or its paintings.

Still, I wonder -- were there so many travellers in the 17th century that it was thought worthwhile to forge an altar?  Might the monks have been trying to recreate an altar they thought they knew something about?  Or was the creation of the altar intended to support the Pantanassa's side in an argument between monasteries over authority?

Nevertheless, the Pantanassa angel above is a small miracle.

            Tito Papamastorakis, "Myzithras of the Byzantines / Mistra to Byzantinists," in T. Kiousopoulou> Οἱ Βυζαντίνες Πόλεις (8ος-15ος Αιωνας). Rethymon 2012: 277- 296.  I am glad to make a copy of this available if needed.

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