Monuments of a Syncretic Society: Wall Painting in the Latin Lordship of Athens, Greece (1204-1311)
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This dissertation focuses on wall painting in the thirteenth-century lordship of Athens, an area roughly corresponding to modern-day Attica, Boeotia and the Argolid in southern Greece. The lordship was established as part of the Latin Principality of Morea in 1205 when, in the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade, Frankish forces moved outward from the fallen city of Constantinople to conquer former Byzantine lands. More than twenty monuments painted in the region during the thirteenth- and the first decade of the fourteenth century still preserve all or part of their original decoration. Notwithstanding the informative potential of such an extensive body of evidence, there has been no systematic investigation of the decorative programs in light of the particular socio-cultural conditions of Latin Greece. The present study is intended to fill this gap and begins by outlining the scope of artistic production in the lordship in the years between 1204 and 1311. Addressing Greek- and Latin-sponsored religious and secular programs, the murals are examined in the context of their multicultural setting. Particular attention is given to social, religious and political ideas as well as to artistic practices that found their way into the art of the period as a result of the socio-cultural environment created by the historical circumstances. Highlighting issues such as Church union, liturgical practice and cultural identity as they are reflected in the paintings, the study attempts to add clarity to the modes of cultural interaction in Frankish Greece. Thus evaluated, the murals disclose a striking range of opinions and responses. They bring to light religious boundaries and reveal attempts at cultural and political re-definition, but they also display points of convergence and mutual recognition. Combined, the painted programs in the Latin lordship of Athens are physical testimonies of a syncretic society whose multicultural factions lived, if not in a state of completely peaceful agreement, at least in a state of pragmatic tolerance.