The landscape of the Southeast Peloponnese (Laconia, Greece), a very important region of the Empire in the context of the late Byzantine period, was comprised of important bishopric centers, such as Mistra and Monemvasia, as well as numerous villages, powerful monastic foundations, and smaller hermitages frequently built in caves and isolated settings. Grounded both on systematic fieldwork and detailed surveys of the monuments, this book is the first comprehensive study of the eremitical and monastic landscapes of the region. It investigates the interactions of isolated hermits and established communities, the relationships of large monasteries to smaller foundations, and the interweaving of monastic and rural economies. It aims at identifying the monks themselves, their preoccupations and aspirations, which are reflected not only by the choice of the patron saints of the holy places they founded or the content of the painted decoration but also by the choice of location or a deep relationship with natural elements of the landscape.
Ludovic Bender (PhD, Fribourg University, Switzerland) is a medievalist and Byzantinist specialising in the culture of monks and hermits. He is the author of various articles and books on the architecture and the landscapes of religious communities in both the East and the West. He has participated in numerous projects in Turkey and the Balkans. In Greece, his work has focused mainly on the Peloponnese, where he studied and surveyed extensively the cave-chapels of the region. As an operation manager and researcher at InSitu Archéologie (Sion, Switzerland), he is currently in charge of several excavation sites, monument restoration and study projects. His current research focuses on the so-called Valère Castle, a fortified church and settlement founded by the canons of the cathedral chapter of Sion, and on the Abbey of St-Maurice d’Agaune.
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