Against Gravity

Angeliki Mexia

Full Paper
Building practices in a Helladic Province during the Comnenian Period: The Case of the Mani Peninsula/Southern Peloponnese
During the Comnenian period, the Mani peninsula, despite its geographical isolation, follows the architectural trends of the so-called “Helladic School”, as one of its local entities. The contacts with the building tradition of southern Greece, a process already in progress during the eleventh century, are strengthened, the typological solutions, the choices in matters of construction and morphology consistently adopt the imported models, even timidly contributing to the renewal of the architectural creation. The erection of quality edifices, such as the Taxiarches at Charouda, Hagia Varvara at Erimos, equivalent with the elaborate Helladic churches, reveals not only the presence of donors with economic capabilities and refined taste, but also of craftsmen who respond successfully to relatively complex building programmes.

The assimilation and dissemination of the Helladic features is more obviously attested in the improvement of the constructional level and the evolution in morphological issues observed in the barrel-vaulted single-nave churches of the peninsula. As the local building tradition retreats, workshops of narrow scope actualize limited scale projects, selectively incorporating morphological features of the more ambitious building programmes of the cross-in-square churches, which they yield in their own way. The intention of enhancing these churches characterizes the ecclesiastical architecture of the Comnenian period, testifying that the new architectural trends do not address only a small number of donors, but spread wider in the rural society of Mani.