30 May 2012

On Vacation: Cheetahs

Two Cheetahs (1400-1410)
by a follower of Govannino de Grassi.
British Museum.

24 May 2012

Eustacio and the Franciscans of Nauplion

North side of Panagia, in Nauplion, originally a 15th-century
church, possibly the Franciscan church of S. Maria Val Verde.
Possibly not.

 Eustacio showed up the other night.  In my world it was 1491, and I hadn't seen him since 1483.  He was Bartolomeo Minio's cancellier,* which means that he maintained financial records and files, and wrote necessary documents for Minio's administration. He provided deeds, various legal papers, and letters in Italian and Greek for local clients.  They paid him for each individual service, and these examples from 1515 show what they paid.**
- for a letter, 3 aspri; for a letter within the territory, 2 aspri.
- for a document authenticating manumission of a slave, 1 ducat.
- for a document authenticating ownership of a slave, 3 hyperpera.
- for writing out the payroll for a ship, 2 marcelli; for a grippi, 2 aspri; for a barcha, 4 soldi.
- for an inventory of the deceased's possessions: moveable property 1/2 tornese per hyperper; for real estate, 1 aspro per hundred; for a fair copy on good paper, 2 aspri.

His documents moved into history: he wrote the Greek versions of the two boundary agreement that were accepted by Mehmed and Beyazid. So Eustacio should have been comfortable.  He was a survivor of the siege of Negroponte, but his wife and children were taken as slaves.  He had been able to redeem three daughters who needed dowries, but two daughters were still -- more than ten years later -- in Turkish possession.  

In addition to being Minio's cancellier, in 1475, the provveditor of the Venetian fleet and the Captain General had jointly appointed him as paymaster for the Greek and Albanian stratioti, and the Italian fanti

When the provveditor of the Venetian fleet arrived in Nauplion in late January of 1480/81, besides firing stratioti, and beating and humiliating some of the kapetanioi, he fired Eustacio -- two months before his appointment was to end -- and assigned his own cancellier as paymaster. This was a serious matter, because the paymaster took a cut from every salary paid, and Eustachio lost in some instances a good four years' worth of benefits. 

What these paycuts meant in actuality was that Minio thought a stratiote should have received 28 soldi for one pay, six times a year.  If Venice was overdue -- and it always was -- there may have been back pay, too.  From that 28 soldi, the Paymaster General back in Italy got 4 soldi and Eustacio was to get 2. When the provveditor put in his own paymaster, the new paymaster took Eustacio's 2 and then another 2 for himself.  So a stratiote could pay nearly a quarter of his salary for the privilege of having a salary at all.  

Minio says that this system was put into place by Valerio Chiericati during the war of 1463-78, when he was sent out to standardize the pay system across the Venetian territories.  I have never been so close to a storming-the-Bastille-and-Winter-Palace mood as I the day was when I was in Vicenza and saw the Chiericati palazzo, the eventual celebration of grinding down Nauplion -- and many other -- stratioti and fanti and soldati.

Minio began writing to Venice about this outrage to his cancellier, and although it took more than two years, Minio managed to get Eustacio's money repaid and, in fact, the payment was put into the hands of Minio's brother-in-law, galley captain Piero Trevisan, to bring to Nauplion.***

In 1491, two Franciscan friars were sent to Nauplion.  There had been no Latin clergy in Nauplion since 1487, and nothing tells us what was going on -- if anything -- in the little Latin churches.  In an effort to remedy this problem, the Senato Mar formally gave possession of the church, friary, land, and houses of S. Maria Val Verde in Nauplion to the Franciscan Minister of the Province of Greece.****  The Senato also provided the first year's expenses for the friars.

When the friars arrived, they found the house where they were to live a calamitatem, there was no place else suitable, and they had no way of building a new house.  They complained to the Nauplion governor, provveditor, probably Giovanni Nani.

A petition was sent to the Senato -- the petitioners are not identified in the Senato document -- which said that since a staff chaplain, capellan, for the provveditor cost 48 ducats a year, that money could be used to build a house for the friars, and then provide for their necessities.  Also, the provveditor would like two more friars to be sent.  He wanted to be able to have Mass said for him and his staff in his own house in the fortifications on Akro-Nauplion, or in church.  The provveditor and the Nauplion council were in agreement with the petitioners.  The Senate approved the petition on 15 December 1491, which is the document I have.

We have almost no information about Latin churches in Nauplion.  There was a Franciscan convent at Myloi in 1450. (Here, #6.)  There was a S. Anastasio on the plateia and a S. Veneranda outside the walls in 1500, and a S. Niccolo (which could have been a Ag. Nikolaos) on the waterfront in 1480. (The dates are the dates of my documents, and don't suggest anything about when the churches appeared.  The Camoccio map shows a number of churches, all certainly small, but they cannot all be Latin rite.

Nauplion's Panagia has been shown to be a 15th-century church, and it is my own prejudice after living beside it for two years that the street organization in its vicinity derives from its origin as a conventual church, and so Franciscan. {Domenicans were never in Nauplion despite what guidebooks  have claimed.]  

[I would be grateful for information from anyone who has knowledge of the archaeological findings that made it 15th-C -- what I know comes from a tiny sign on the rear of the church.]

 South side, remains of earlier arch.

As the photographs indicate, Panagia has been built and rebuilt to such an extent that the original appearance is speculative, though it surely looked like these little churches from Camoccio, or a very small version of Ag. Pareskevi in Chalkida:

 It has been through periods as a mosque, and about 1700 the Venetians reconfigured the roof to give it the flat ceiling customary at the period.  But we don't know if Panagia was S. Maria Val Verde.

The connection between the friars and Eustacio is that he is identified in the Senato document as writing the Nauplion petition.  The petition is so clearly worked out in detail,with all the possible bases for objection covered, that you can see the careful work of the man Minio wrote about during the early 1480s.  It was Eustacio who allowed me to identify Minio's handwriting: the manuscript of the Minio letters is written in four different hands, closely related. There are occasional glosses in the margin written in one of the hands, and you can see how that works in the printed version of the Minio letters, say on page 101 here. Eustacio's name never appears in the letters, but in the margin of Letter XXVII, the gloss says about my Eustacio, cancellier and collateral. That my Eustacio -- mio Eustacio -- identified Minio's handwriting is not an earth-shaking discovery in many worlds, but it was exciting for me after so many years of living with the letters. After finding this document, he is mio Eustacio, too.

* Bartolomeo Minio's letters about Nauplion between 1479 and 1483 are here.
** These can be found in volume 4 of Sathas, 216-217, here
*** Possibly as a result of the Eustacio affair, the Senato declared in 1485 that no cancellier could hold his position under the same governor for more than two years. Obviously, Eustacio had been rehired.
**** S. Marie Vallis Viridis in the document. The mother house was  in Venice, in Cannaregio.  The Franciscan Minister of the Province of Greece who had to handle the matter of sending Franciscans to Nauplion in 1491 was Gratiano of Brescia.

Brigitte Eckert took the photographs.

18 May 2012

Red Ink

Image of signatures of Demetrios Palaiologos, 1451.*

I was recently reading Warren Woodfin's fascinating book, The Embodied Icon,** which discusses ecclesiastical dress. At one point (173) he relates the color of the ink used in signatures to the rank and costume of the signer: patriarchs tend to wear blue and sign in blue ink; the emperor wears red shoes and signs in vermilion; despots wear shoes of mixed purple and white, and sign with purple. (There is also an article on this topic here.)

I like that idea a great deal, but it makes me think that no one told the later Palaiologues.  The treaty Theodoros I signed with Venice in 1394 described itself as "subscriptione in fine instrumenti rubei literarum manu propria domini dispoti . . .."  Theodoros II signed a letter to the Pope and a grant of land in red -- vermilion -- ink.  The same with the signature of Demetrios, above.  The image in last week's entry showed the little Despot Theodoros wearing red: we couldn't see his shoes.

A signature of Andronikos in 1414, confirming a grant from Manuel in Thessaloniki on his way south to build the Hexamilion -- is in black.***  He was a minor then, just 14, and the signature is in the genitive -- Andronikou -- "by me, Andronikos." You will notice that Demetrios' signatures above and below are in the nominative.

Manuel and Andronikos, 1414.

A  second signature at Thessaloniki, this from 1419, is in red and the ending is in the nominative -- δεσπότης.***  Eighteen was a significant age for Byzantines, and I believe the change in case ending is an indication that Andronikos had become of age to rule for himself, without a regent.

A signature from Demetrios,*** when he was Despot of Lemnos under Mehmed II,  is also in red.

Demetrios Palaiologos, Despot, 1462.

                * Image from: "Σφραγιδες των τελευταιων Παλαιολογων και των περι αυτους," Νεος Ελλςηνομνημων 1: 416-432.
** Warren Woodfin, The Embodied Icon.  Oxford University Press, 2012. 
*** Treasures of Mount Athos, Thessaloniki 1997. Ch. 13.  The quality of the color printing in this heavy, expensive volume produced by Athos and the Ministry of Culture is shameful.

12 May 2012

The Little Despots

 Detail, Musée du Louvre, Paris. Ms. Ivories A53, f.1  1408.
Theodoros, πορφυρογέννετος and δεσπότης.
Andronikos, αὐθεντόπουλος  

This miniature family portrait is on the first page of a manuscript of Pseudo-Dionysios that Manuel II sent as a gift to the Abbey of St. Denis in Paris.  It is usually dated to 1403-1405* but there are reasons that doesn't seem right to me.

Theodoros is identified as Despot, and he is wearing -- agreed, there is a lot of wear on the painting -- the four-arced crown that Pseudo-Kodinos says the emperor puts on the head of the despot as part of the despot-making ceremony.  
the emperor puts on his head, with his own hand, a crown ornamented with precious stones and pearls which has four small arcs, in front, behind, and on each side,
His brother Andronikos is identified as Prince, and he is wearing a diadem with no arcs.

Theodoros was created Despot of the Morea in the summer of 1407 -- a chronicle says his uncle Theodoros I died on 24 June, a date a little suspect since that is the date much more reliably given for the death of Theodoros II as well.  However, an action by the Venetian Senate of 27 August refers to the "despotum novum creatum," so he must have died around that time.  Sphrantzes  Somebody tells us, not Sphrantzes -- that Manuel went to the Morea, and I think it is safe to assume he created Theodoros Despot then.**  That gives two months for Manuel to learn of his brother's death, make the trip to the Morea, and then for news of the ceremony to get to Venice. 

 "dominum despotum de novo creatum"
ASVE Senato Secreti r.3, f. 74r, 27 August 1407 
Theodoros was about 9 years old at the time, and he had been in the Morea for several months already, watching his uncle die from gout. Manuel described his excruciating pain, his inability to use his limbs.  The painting of Theodoros I at Mistra shows him grossly swollen from progressive renal failure.  He must have died from kidney failure.  The child Theodoros saw his uncle's pain, saw his friends tending him as if he were a baby, smelled the growing sores from the gout, the odors from the kidney failure.  It was a harsh beginning for a bright and sensitive child, and it explains the end of his life.

Andronikos was created Despot of Thessaloniki after 22 September 1408, the date his older cousin John VII of Thessaloniki died.  He was not quite 8 years old. John should have been succeeded by his own son Andronikos, but Andronikos died earlier in the year. Sphrantzes tells us that Manuel took Andronikos to Thessaloniki and created him Despot there.**  It is a nice, literary, effect: Manuel replacing a Theodoros by a Theodoros, an Andronikos by an Andronikos, but it seems a hard thing to impose on small boys.  

So I believe the family painting was painted after the summer of 1407 and before the fall of 1408, which fits with the 1408 date of the gift of the manuscript to Paris.

Another thought: Manuel -- and John who is not shown in the detail -- is wearing black.  I believe Manuel is depicted wearing mourning for his brother. I have seen only two mentions of what he was wearing at particular times: both times white.  Pseudo-Kodinos says the emperor wears white or yellow for mourning, but many details of the imperial court can be seen to have changed between P-K and Sphrantzes.  Black was the usual Byzantine color for mourning, and it was the usual color for mourning in the West, where this manuscript was going.

I cannot think I am the first person to note these details: I would be grateful for any references anyone has that confirms them.

* Byzantium: Faith and Power.  Metropolitan Museum of Art (2004) p. 20, fig. 2.5  
** A description of the ceremony to create a despot is here..

06 May 2012

The Chimneys of Mistra

 Orlandos, in Palaces and Houses of Mistra, 1937.

This is a view of the throne-room wing of the palace of Mistra, as seen from the back.  There are eight chimneys, elegantly disposed, fed by eight fireplaces in eight individual rooms on the level under the throne room, which has the largest windows.  Anastasios Orlandos, in 1937, explained at some length how these chimneys and fireplaces provided heat for the throne room, a space 36.50 meters by 10.43 meters. Architectural historians Charalampos Bouras and Gianluigi Ciotta repeat this information quite flatly, as do the guidebooks and travel books and tourist articles.

So I was thinking about that, half-dozing in an afternoon nap, how it would work: how many people would be needed carrying how many armfuls of logs up the stairs to the second floor to keep the fireplaces fed, how much labor and refuse removal would be constantly visible from the formal front of the palace, the constant procession of people carrying armfuls of wood through those twisty difficult Mistra streets.  And then I started thinking about our own fireplace, how there is never a sign in the room above when the fireplace is working below, how I do not feel any heat from the chimney even just above the fireplace -- that sort of thing.

I compared building materials, thickness of walls and floors, even looked up burning temperatures of different kinds of firewood, and calculations for dimensions of fireplaces.

As you can imagine, none of this was helpful, and I remembered reading in Kostis Kourelis' dissertation that archaeologists have found "no evidence of hearths of fireplaces joining or inserted within the wall construction" of medieval houses in Greece.  I decided that the famous archaeologists were wrong, but I needed to find support for my unspecialized opinion.  I finally wrote a builder of chimneys in England, sent him photographs and architectural drawings and dimensions.  He wrote back:
From what I can see, the chimneys were not designed to heat the throne room, as the chimneys are on the outside of the external walls. Had they been on the internal walls, they would have given some heat to the room. I would have thought if they wanted to heat the throne room they would have built the fireplaces in the room

Then I found an article by architect Stefan Sinos in which he stated that these chimneys served individual living quarters on the floor below the throne room.  Well, of course, and there are fine surviving examples -- in Venice -- of very similar fifteenth-century rooms and chimneys, again on the second level: 

 E. Trincanato: Venise: Guide de l'Architecture Mineure (1997).

This was the model followed for the rooms on the second level. Heat in the throne room, if any, would have come from portable braziers.  And layers and layers of wool.

 Photograph of chimneys, 1995, after new roof and some reconstruction.