28 July 2012

The Frescos of Longanikos

Main street, Longanikos.

Longanikos is a wonderfully severe town, with massive stone buildings and ruins on the steep hillside above and below the narrow main road. It was noted in a list of fortresses controlled by the Venetians in 1463, at the beginning of the long war with the Ottomans.  It next appears two years later in the letters of Jacopo  Barbarigo, provveditor of the Morea, in his reports to Venice. Barbarigo reported Longanikos under siege in mid-September 1465, then he had a letter from Epiphani Kladas, podestà at Vordounia, saying that the Turks had left and gone to Leondari.  The next day a sad and exhausted group of men arrived at Barbarigo's headquarters at Mantinea, on the coast of Mani just south of Kardamyloi.

Michaeli Rallis and his brother, Nikolaos Bochalis and his, Manoli Kladas, and Zuanne Gavala, podestà of Longanikos, and a group of twenty representing the town, came to say that they had defended Longanikos as long as they could.  They had given over 10 of their sons as hostages, so the siege would be lifted.  Their houses had been burned, their possessions destroyed, and Longanikos was going to starve.  Barbarigo did what he could for them out of his limited resources -- a little cash, some cloth and grain, and enrolled them in the army at one ducat a month. He also gave them a letter of appreciation on behalf of the Signoria, written in Greek.

All I knew of Longanikos was the facades of the houses on the main street, and this story.  So I was delighted to come across a book, Les Peintures Murales Byzantines des Églises de Longanikos (Athens 2002) by Olympia Chassoura who presents the exceptionally lovely frescos in Longanikos in three unprepossessing little churches.  Two churches' frescos date from 1375, towards the end of the despotate of Manuel Kantakuzenos and Zampia/Isabella of Lusignan, while the frescos shown in the third date from about 1430 in the despotate of Theodoros II Palaiologos and Cleofe Malatesta.  These names are for the convenience of placing the frescos in a historical time-frame: there is no evidence to associate the frescos with the rulers.

Ag. Giorgios, Longanikos.

Church of the Dormition, Longanikos.

North facade, Ag. Apostoli, Longanikos

Ag. Giorgios, Deisis

Ag. Apostoli, Deisis

The majority of the frescos are from Ag. Georgios.  Unfortunately, most of the pictures in the book are printed in low-grade black-&-white, and details are difficult to make out. I regret not being able to see the Dormition's Virgin in color.  But what can be seen in the color photographs indicates the selection of a remarkably subdued color palette -- here one might wonder about the economics of color choice, unfamiliar iconography (the torture of Ag. Georgios, below), and exceptionally tender presentations of the human form.  In fact, the Prophet Ezekiel (below) is the only huggable prophet I have ever encountered.

The frescos at Longanikos can be demonstrated to be by the same painters who worked onAi Yannis and the Aphendiko at Mistra, and Ag. Nikolaos at Zarnata.  The Ag. Georgios frescos are dated 1374/75 (6884) in an inscription, those of Ag. Apostoli a year or so later, while those of the Dormition are from the 1420s.

Archangel Gabriel (det.), Ag. Giorgios 1374/5

 Torture of Ag. Giorgios, Ag. Giorgios,1374/5.

Dragon narrative, Ag. Giorgios, 1374/5 

 Princess and dragon, Ag. Giorgos, 1374/5

The Prophet Ezekiel, Ag. Giorgios, 1374.5. 

Ai. Blasios & Prochoros, Ag. Giorgios 1374/5


  Ai Theodori, Ag. Giorgios, 1374/5

 The Apostle Paul, Ai. Apostoli, 1375

The Baptism, Ai Apostoli, 1375  

Nativity, Ai Apostoli, 1375  

Metamorphosis, Church of the Dormition , ca. 1430

Dormition of the Virgin, Church of the Dormition, ca. 1430

Virgin and Child, Church of the Dormition,ca. 1430

22 July 2012

Sappho's Broom

  Goldfinches in winter.

Surprised by Time began four years ago today.  This is the 250th post -- at least 398,000 words -- and I am more surprised. I've loved this work these four years.  Surprised is linked to by nearly 150 other blogs, websites, and university research sites, and has had, as of writing this sentence, 140,135 readers page loads.  The past week has averaged 140 page loads a day. (Other than the total number of readers page loads. I only know the statistics for the most recent 500.)  I don't really know what 140 a day means in the blog world, but it seems generous when you consider that Wikipedia reports 156,000,000 blogs in existence a year ago. 

A strong number of readers look in regularly, and have for most of the four years.  Usually the largest percentage of readers is from Greece.  But readers baffle me.  Someone from Paris loads the same page 38 times, then comes back and looks at the same page a dozen times more.  Someone from Athens loads up 78 pages about Cleofe. (Everything I do here can be Copied and Pasted into your own document.) Someone from Bulgaria or Greece or North Carolina or Algeria finds the blog, makes 40 -120 page loads in a single day -- do these people have no diapers to change? no kitchens to clean? no gardens to weed? -- and disappears.  I have been awed to find readers from St. Helena and Reunion Islands.

Many readers arrive, clearly looking for something else -- "second-hand hats," "sophie's corner painting" -- and apparently a great many restaurants in US cities have names I thought were stratioti names. It was a mistake to have titled one post "Dating."  Many people have ended up there looking for women, and I hope they have been crushingly disappointed.  I remind readers again that my software tracks readers of the site, where they have come from, what they do on my site, and in most cases identifies their specific organization or university.

Most of the entries in this blog are work-in-progress, background notes for my book. I write as part of trying to solve problems I encounter.  Opinions have shifted.  More sources have been found. Corrections are needed.  Fine-tuning.  Readers should be wary of what they collect.  I do try to go back and correct facts as I identify them, but interpretations are more difficult.  Do not assume that I still hold a conclusion from a year or three years ago -- but I might.  Should you want to make use of material here, my work is available under a Creative Commons Copyright which you should read.

 Stellar's Jay

The garden is fine, thanks to all the time Alexandra spent getting it into something we can just about maintain. The five species of red poppies suppressed the pink, white, yellow, and orange poppies, and a good feed of horse manure pushed the Greek poppies 4 feet tall.  We added a new rose. a second Just Joey, a Christmas present from Rosalind bought from a local garden shop, but otherwise the roses were very slow, held back by exceptionally cool weather.  Rose buds prevented from blooming when they should will open out deformed -- this is important to remember whether you raise children or roses. 

Previously questionable, and cheap, no-name roses have done well, while half the catalog roses have done abysmally. Three name David Austin roses -- a  Winchester (stunning the first year, and never again), an Abraham Darby, and a Just Joey - - died off, and their root stock produced shoots with quite different roses.  Two of them are beautiful, but not what I had paid for.  David Austin's Pat Austin (no petals ever had a lovelier curve, but its stems were too weak for the blooms) died.  Or so we thought, but two shoots appeared overnight last week, so we are waiting. Altissimo has been spectacular. A friend's gift of  Rosa Mullaganii (from the UW Horticulture Center) has become huge, striking out in different directions and pushing a white tunnel through the pink cascades beside it.  It must have had several hundred blooms scenting the whole front yard on the one day of sun when the lavender beneath began to bloom.  (The lavender harvest will be this afternoon.)

Our aged broom with the sculptural twisting wood died, but the new broom plants I abducted from Sappho last November have flourished. (We had our Thanksgiving Day picnic there last year.) Sappho is a  three-way intersection in the north-west corner of the state, with a filling station, a bus stop, and a road sign that says "Entering Sappho".  You never know at which point you have left Sappho in three directions.

There is a place near Sappho called Pysht.  It is generally believed that Pysht is an attempt at Psyche, but for me that explanation does not carry the ring of conviction.

The pictures here are my attempts to record our birds.  We have six bird feeders now, plus the squirrel feeder, plus the upstairs balcony for the crows, plus salvia, penstemon, and Hot Lips sage for the hummingbirds and butterflies.  All June we had baby birds around the feeders, fluffy untidy things with blurry markings -- from the chickadee nest in the bathroom window frame, from the nuthatch nest in the lilacs, from the wren nest in the hawthorn, and chestnut-sided chickadees from the far side of the yard. A baby would land -- on the suet or sunflower seed feeder -- and then look around, not knowing what to do until a parent arrived and demonstrated.  The little nuthatches took turns handing each other the seeds they pecked out of the suet, clearly aware that a beak should have food put into it. The baby house finches arrived in early May and caused great anguish by their tendency to take food to the ground to eat.  The cat was severely reproached.

One squirrel has learned to come around the house to the power line in the hawthorn tree 20 feet from the window where I work.  He looks at me with an air of quiet desperation until I bring him a walnut. The crows get up before I do, and fly over the skylight over the bed cawing if they see no food. There is always one on watch for me to come onto the balcony who announces when I appear with food.  Another flies back and forth in front of the study window cawing when more food is required. There is always a crow watching us . . .

Crows have strong food choices.  Walnuts and meat are preferred.  Beef cat treats are good, but chicken cat treats are rejected.  Pizza crusts, but not toast crusts.  Occasional suet, but not daily. My hairdresser said her neighbor fed his crows corn meal.  My crows spilt out the corn meal and shrieked criticism until they had adolescents to feed, and then it was acceptable.  They have learned to eat dry cat food, as have the jays.  From the kitchen, we hear the steady thumps of crows landing above, the rattle of beaks in the metal food pan.

Female Anna's Hummingbird.

The crows used to cluster above  the yard and caw at the black cat.  After four years of that, they seemed to have accepted that he was part of the yard, and left off.  Yesterday I heard a mob of crows shrieking danger, swirling up and down the street in their carmagnole. It turned out that they had spotted Pierre a block away, wearing his big floppy black sun hat, and had been diving into his head.  Did they think him a stranger wearing a dead crow on his head?

One crow has started dropping pine cones in the yard. Gifts in exchange for food? 

Early in the spring, I started another blog -- Firesteel.  I did not know the word until I was looking for an explanation of the Palaiologos flag with a B in each quarter and read that the emblem was derived from firesteels.  I became obsessed with the word, have identified a blacksmith who can make me one, and finally reserved a blog address for the name -- firesteel was taken for all the servers I tried, but not pyrekbolo, the Greek version.  The word linked in my mind with the translucent grey sphere that covers The Garden of Earthly Delights when the side panels of the triptych are closed, a grey world humming with the first evidence of the creation of light.  Today's poem is "The Creation" by James Weldon Johnson, and I have never lost the thrill of hearing it on a 78 rpm recording when I was nine years old.

Firesteel is a blog for poetry and the occasional prose that thrills, that make chills run along my neck, or sparks shimmer inside my head -- a blog for words that strike fire.  It appears on Sundays, and has a modest core of faithful readers. 

Thank you.

Townsend's Warbler

17 July 2012

The Church at Manolada

 The Church of Manolada, 1987

The Blue Guide says the church of Manolada is 12 C. This is how it looked in June 1987 when I was following the 1205 route of the Franks around the Morea, plus visiting Villehardouin sites.  Because I can find no pictures of the church on the interwebs, and no substantive information either, I thought it might be moderately useful to post the photographs I took on a return visit in 1995 with my daughter, Rosalind.  The photographs were made with a disposable camera at high noon in August: the heat was bewildering, the glare is evident in the pictures, and I didn't really know much about what I was seeing. (I will be grateful for more information, especially of the two saints.) I believe the dedication is to the Virgin.  I have gimped the frescos: they were very pale and with the sunlight photographed even paler.

The thing I loved, though, was that one of the workmen -- it was being restored -- said, "The archaeologist is not here today so we can let you come inside."




 Miracle of St. Nicholas

 Miracle of St. Nicholas

 Burial of St. Nicholas



 Ag. Giorgios

Ag. Demetrios

 Carving, I think, of a centaur.

On my first visit, I went down to the beach where in 1316, Ferdinand of Majorca could see the ships from which he expected aid standing off-shore. The husbands (Ferdinand and Louis of Burgundy) of William Villehardouin's granddaughters (Isabelle and Maude) were to fight that day over control of the Morea. The Angevins against the Catalans. Ferdinand prayed at this little church before the battle, before he was defeated and beheaded on the battlefield.  His head was exhibited over the gate of Clarentza.  Louis died two months later.

 The beach at Manolada, June 1987, 
the wind blowing out from shore as it did that day in 1316.

11 July 2012

Ag. Andreas of Nauplion

Possibly a representation of Ag. Nicholaos and its bell tower on the highest point on Acro-Nauplion.
From the Camoccio map, the oldest surviving image of Nauplion, 1571,
based on images from 1531-40.  

I have recently noticed entries in a chronicle * which seem to give fragments of information I have not noticed mentioned elsewhere.  Here are the  two chronicle entries:

32: 10.     1262 Sept. --1263 Aug. /6771 (ind. 6)
τὸ δὲ ἱερὸν Εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ ἁγίου Ἀνδρέως ὃ ἔχει νῦν, ἐποσηνέχθη εἰς (τὴν) πόλιν Ναυπλίου τῷ ,ςψοα’ ἔτει παρὰ Δημητρίου ἀναγνώστη τοῦ Χαβούρη.
The holy gospel of Ag. Andreas, which it has now, was presented to the city of Nauplion in the year 677 by Demetrios Chavouris, the reader.

32: 35.     1420/6929 (Ind. 14) Dec. 17, Tuesday
ἔτους ,ςϠκγ’, ἡμέρᾳ δ’, δεκεβρίῳ ιζ´, ἐγένετο χειμὼν φοβερός, πλῆθος βροχῆς καὶ συνοχὴ βροντῶν καὶ ἀστραπῶν ἐν τῳ Ναύπλιν. καὶ ἐχάλασεν ὁ νάρθηξ τοῦ Ἁγίου Ἀνδρέως καὶ μνημεῖα ἠνεῴχθησαν καὶ ἡ καμπάνα ἔπεσεν καὶ σημεῖα ἐγίνοντο εἰ τοὺς τοίχους καὶ εἰς τὰς πόρτας ὡς ἀπὸ ξίφους.
In 6929, the fourth day, December 17, there was a fearful winter storm in Nauplion, much rain and continuous thunder and lightning, and the narthex of Ag. Andreas was destroyed, tombs were shattered, and the bells fell, and marks appeared on the walls and doors as if by swords. 

It seems there was a Gospel of Andrew, and an Acts of Andrew -- or possibly they were two names for the same thing -- firmly rejected before 500 AD by Pope Gelasius in a Decretum Galasium.  It is a third-century text, loaded with violence, even nasty in places:
A woman, Calliopa, married to a murderer, had an illegitimate child and suffered in travail. She told her sister to call on Diana for help; when she did so the devil appeared to her at night and said: 'Why do you trouble me with vain prayers? Go to Andrew in Achaia.' . . . Andrew said to Calliopa: 'You deserve to suffer for your evil life: but believe in Christ, and you will be relieved, but the child will be born dead.' And so it was.
 A manuscript copy of one of the Andrews appears to have been presented in 1262 -- the chronicle says -- to the city of Nauplion rather than to a church.  1262 is a date firmly in the Frankish occupation of Nauplion, and a year after the retaking of Constantinople by the Greeks. Nauplion had probably never heard of  Pope Gelasius. 

Did the Nauplion Franks and Greeks then build a church in honor of Ag. Andreas? The The 1420 chronicle entry describes a terrific winter storm in which the bells of Ag. Andreas fell, which means a bell tower, which means it was a Latin church.  The Camoccio map (detail above, possibly) shows a small church with a large bell tower on the highest point of Acro-Nauplion.  Camoccio got this detail from a picture by someone else, and nearly all of the churches in his picture,  all the rest on the lower level, with the exception of a couple outside the walls, have bell towers, and are of Western design   I don't think we can put too much weight on his representations: they are stock map churches, and we don't even know if the bell tower was rebuilt. 

I would expect the bell tower to have been at the western end of the church, beside the narthex, since those were the parts of the church most damaged.  But whenever Panagopoulos shows a church plan in her book on Frankish churches in Greece,** the bell tower is built into the structure beside the apse, as it is here in Ag. Nikolaos of Chania.

 Parenthetically, it is striking that the Franks followed two primary forms of church-construction in Greece -- those in the almost-Byzantine style with rounded apses  such as those at Merbaka, Agia Moni, and Chonika, and those with a squared-off apse like all but one in this collection from Panagopoulos, which seem to be the kind Camocio shows.

Frankish churches in Greece -- all conventual churches. Top: Andravida, Isova, Zaraka. 
Bottom: St. Mark Candia; Ag. Pareskevi Chalkis; St. Salvador Chania & St. Salvador Candia;
St. Peter Martyr Candia; 

St. Mary of the Crusaders & St. Francis Chania; St. Nicholas Chania & Belle Paix Cyprus.

These are, as I said, fragments of information, and I cannot now get any further, but they are worth paying attention to.  It is probably not relevant that Nauplion had a bishop, listed in the rolls of Latin bishops, named Andreas in the late 9th century. 

* Peter Schreiner, Kleinchroniken (Vienna 1975) Vol. 1.
** Beata Kitsiki Panagopoulos, Cistercian and Mendicant Monasteries in Medieval Greece (Chicago 1979).

05 July 2012

Not just someone's opinion

Camoccio map of Negroponte, published 1571-4,
based on sources from 1460-1470.

In 1459, in Venetian dating, 1460 in ours, Venice realized the inadequacy of its sources of information about its overseas and mainland territories. It sent out a decree as follows:

Consilio di Dieci, Misti, v. 15, 198r [197r]
1459(=1460), Feb. 27

In the matter of cities, forts and provinces which by the grace of God are subject to our dominion, when we deliberate about those places, since there is no specified person who can give detailed information concerning location [ . . . . ] length and width, boundaries, what the neighboring areas are and how far away they are, if information is sought from various people at various times [ . . . . ] because either they think it is that way or they would like it to be that way.

Whence, for every good reason, there must from now on be provided in the chancellery of the state or in the apartment of our council of Ten, giving their true image and form, representations of all of our cities, lands forts, provinces and places so that anyone wanting to deliberate and make decisions about them may have a true and detailed written account, and not just someone's opinion.

Vadit pars. By the authority of this council it is to be written to all rettori of cities, lands and forts belonging to us and ordered that, having formed a council made up of selected citizens of that region and of other practical and educated men, they shall put together information about the land, the location, and district, identifying both to east and west the forts, rivers, open spaces, and distances from place to place and the places neighboring us and the distances between them and draw them diligently in a orderly way to be examined by learned and practical men to see whether it is well and properly done. Once they have done this they are to send that picture [for the use of] our dominion.

The Latin text is here and the original document can be found here in the ASVe Deliberatione misti R. 15.

Pierre MacKay translated and has been working on this material, and the rest of the blog is his:

* * * * * *

In early 1460, having watched the Ottomans take over Athens and Mistra, the Venetians had to expect that their own outposts would soon be targeted. Their sense of urgency can be seen in the way that magistracies such as the Council of Ten found themselves deliberating over a wide range of subjects beyond their normal remit, including the defense of distant parts of the Venetian Empire. Exasperated with the responsibility of deciding policy for territories about which they knew very little, they produced this decree requiring the rettori of Venice's possessions to supply them with accurate maps and descriptions of each location. 
The language of this document is delightful for its directness (an advantage given to a secret organization). The impatience of the Council breaks through the tortuous and deeply parenthetical style. The Dieci complain that when random informants (aliquibus) are asked about Venice's distant possessions, their answers are valueless since they are based only on what the informants think to be the case or what they wish might be the case (aut ita putant aut ita vellent).

What the Dieci insist on is clear, detailed written evidence and not just someone's opinion (et non ad opinionem alicuius). It is the local residents (people, that is, who know what they are talking about) who are to be called on for their evidence and the observations of experienced men (e. g., traders and seafarers) are to be collected for the making of a detailed map (pictura). I have difficulty in interpreting the syntax of “designatione ordinato” (the letters are quite clear in the image) but it may conceal some idea like “drawn to scale.”

Finally, note that the maps are to be inspected by local experts (doctis et praticis) so that the Dieci have some assurance that they can be relied on.

We have an indication that this sort of mapping was done at once, at least for places on the front line against the Ottomans. Twenty months after this decree, the Dieci voted confidently (14, 0, 3) on a detailed program for improvements in the defences of Negroponte, and their recommendations are precise and reasonable. They seem to have had, for their deliberations, a very good representation of the city of Negroponte and its surroundings. Perhaps we are dealing here with one of the earlier maps produced in accordance with the decree of 1460. If so, it is quite likely to be the original on which Giovanni Camoccio based the map he drew in 1571—74. This raises the tantalizing hope that there may be an as yet unrecognized collection of such maps waiting to be discovered in some Venetian archive.

Thanks to Karen Barzman whe informed me of references to this decree and initiated the search on Serenissima that produced a citation from the History of Cartography, and thanks as always to those at the Archivio di Stato di Venezia who have created tools for a revolution in Venetian historical studies.

See also: Emanuele Casti, "State, Cartography, and Territory in the Venetian and Lombard Renaissance," in D. Woodward, G. M. Levis, (eds.) The History of Cartography, University of Chicago Press (Chicago 2007) Vol. 3: 874-908, esp. 878n11, but note that Casti restricts the application of this decree to the lands of the terra ferma, a restriction which is nowhere state dor implied in the decree.