The Despotate of the Morea

OVERVIEW

Byzantine religious culture flourished in the Peloponnese despite the fact that this region was poor and fairly remote from the great urban and cultural centers of the Byzantine Empire. This tour will explore the great churches, monasteries, and castles of the Late Byzantine Period (1204-1453) in the Peloponnese, where we will discover the prominent cultural and military role of the Despotate of Morea. This province of the Byzantine Empire was ruled by a son of the current Byzantine emperor and thrived in the last century before the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans. Its capital, the fortified city of Mistras, was adorned with magnificent palaces and churches, and became a military base from where the Byzantines gradually pushed the Franks out of the Peloponnese. A series of on-site seminars cover the fields of archaeology, architecture, and interior decoration through the perspective of cross-cultural influences between the Byzantines and the Franks and the economic interrelations which molded new social norms.

OVERVIEW

Byzantine religious culture flourished in the Peloponnese despite the fact that this region was poor and fairly remote from the great urban and cultural centers of the Byzantine Empire. This tour will explore the great churches, monasteries, and castles of the Late Byzantine Period (1204-1453) in the Peloponnese, where we will discover the prominent cultural and military role of the Despotate of Morea. This province of the Byzantine Empire was ruled by a son of the current Byzantine emperor and thrived in the last century before the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans. Its capital, the fortified city of Mistras, was adorned with magnificent palaces and churches, and became a military base from where the Byzantines gradually pushed the Franks out of the Peloponnese. A series of on-site seminars cover the fields of archaeology, architecture, and interior decoration through the perspective of cross-cultural influences between the Byzantines and the Franks and the economic interrelations which molded new social norms.

THE SYLLABUS

East Meets West

The Peloponnese is a mountainous peninsula in southern Greece. For many centuries it remained in the sidelines of Byzantine history since it lacked the resources or the population to play a crucial role in imperial politics and the economy. After the fall of Constantinople, though, it became a focal point of resistance against the new Latin rulers and its de facto capital, Mystras, developed into a wealthy and formidable imperial seat, military post, and center of an impressive movement of Greek intellectual renaissance. This module explores church architecture in the region of the Peloponnese in the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade. Special attention is given to the new architectural types formed by the co-habitation of Orthodox and Latin citizens along with examples of defensive constructions.

A New Iconography

Mystras is a fortified settlement west of Sparta. The site’s military potential was first recognized by the Latin rulers in the aftermath of the Fall of Constantinople, but it was the Byzantines who really transformed Mystras into a major urban center where scholars, architects, and artists participated in a momentous cultural renaissance. Since most Byzantine secular buildings did not survive the Ottoman conquest and the passage of time, the best way to explore this cultural and artistic phenomenon is the study of the numerous Late Byzantine churches that still stand all over the Peloponnese. This module offers an introduction to Late Byzantine iconography by examining subjects of depictions, style, media, and conservation practices.

The Principality of Achaea

This module focuses on the contacts between East and West in the Peloponnese, offering a deeper understanding of Late Byzantine culture. The Peloponnese was conquered by Geoffrey I of Villehardouin, who became master of the area with a force of 100 knights and 500 foot soldiers. He established the Principality of Achaea and reorganized the former Byzantine province politically and socially through a new division of the land and the creation of twelve baronies. The great mass of the population became vassals to the Prince. For the next two centuries, as the Byzantines embarked on the conquest of the principality, the Peloponnese became a cauldron of social, ideological, and economic transformation as Roman Catholics and Greek Orthodox coexisted, intermarried, fought, and traded.

PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS

• Discover the tale of the two castles of the Despotate of Morea, Mistras and Monemvasia

• Wander on the cobblestone streets, among the monasteries and fortresses of Mistras, a unique UNESCO World Heritage Monument

• Discover the beauty of provincial, religious art and architecture in the region of Lakonia-Mani

• Explore the castles of Methoni and Koroni, where you can feel the Western spirit joining the Byzantine legacy

• Indulge in the Late Byzantine religious heritage through seminars, guided tours, and workshops by specialized lecturers

LEARNING OUTCOME

✓ Identify and discuss the architectural specificities of the monuments and recognize their stylistic attributes within the context of the period they were created

✓ Exhibit a critical understanding of cultural influences and ideas that shaped art in this area

✓ Exhibit a critical understanding of the socio-economic status quo which influenced the formation of the society and led to the production of specific types of art

PERKS & OPTIONS

What is included in our programs?

  • 3 US credits provided by the Hellenic American University
  • Accommodation in hand-picked and well-located superior class hotels
  • Breakfast and lunch
  • Professionals e.g. licensed guides, lecturers, and tour managers
  • Entrance fees to museums and archaeological sites
  • All land and sea transportation included in the itinerary of the specific program
  • Information material
  • Local taxes
  • Travel insurance
  • Transport to and from the airport in Greece

Optional

  • Airfares to and from Greece
  • Any custom request

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A tale of two realms - Mentor - Study abroad in Greece
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A tale of two realms – Mentor – Study abroad in Greece

The Despotate of the Morea is a Study Abroad program that allows participants to delve into the process whereby two different cultures and societies mingle and create something new.


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