the sanctuary of the church of the Virgin at Apeiranthos, Naxos. After naming the donors, Demetrios Maurikas and his wife Maria, the text reads: 'and if a priest celebrates the liturgy in this church, may he commemorate us, in the year of the Lord 6789 (=1280/81)'.3 Many churches in small villages were built by groups of donors, often related by kinship, who provided small sums of money or gifts of land to sustain the church and to support its priest. A number of churches, often situated on the periphery of the village, were surrounded by graveyards and would have accommodated funerary and commemorative rites for families or larger communities. Other shrines, sited at the extremities of villages, may have protected the boundaries of habitation and the cultivated fields through the invocation of saints concerned with the protection of life and livestock.
In addition to these public settings for religious practice private chapels accommodated a more intimate form of worship. The wealthy often included oratories within their homes, as was the case in the imperial palace. Such structures are listed in wills and inventories of the medieval period, which provide information about the furnishings and decoration of private chapels. A property near Miletos, which was given to Andronikos Doukas in 1073, included, for example, 'a church built of mortared masonry, with a dome supported by eight columns ...a narthex . . . and with a marble floor'.4 In his will of 1059, Eustathios Boilas bequeathed a set of books and other precious objects to the church on his estate.5 We might assume that these small chapels housed icons of special significance to individual families. A letter of John Tzetzes provides some insight into the conditions within these structures in Constantinopolitan homes of the twelfth century. Decrying the large number of fraudulent monks wandering the streets of the Byzantine capital, Tzetzes complains that 'leading ladies, and not a few men, of the highest birth consider it a great thing to fit out their private chapels, not with icons of saintly men by the hand of some first-rate artist, but with the leg irons and fetters and chains of these accursed villains'.6 Such metal implements were standard penitential devices of legitimate holy men, and were often displayed near the tombs of monastic saints and illustrated in holy portraits. Tzetzes condemns those members of the laity who were deceived by false monks. It would seem that the unregulated veneration of false relics rather than the icons of saintly men
3 S. Kalopissi-Verti, Dedicatory inscriptions and donor portraits in thirteenth-century churches of Greece (Vienna: Verlag O AW, 1992), 109.
4 M. Nystazopoulou-Pelekidou, Bu^aVTivá 'éyypa<pa Tfs lovfs üáTiou (Athens: Ethnikon Idryma Ereunon, 1980), 11, 102-3.
5 P. Lemerle, Cinq etudes sur le XIe siecle byzantin (Paris: CNRS, 1977), 20-9.
6 Ioannis Tzetzae Epistulae, ed. P. A. M. Leone (Leipzig: B. G. Teubner, 1972), no. 104.
Was this article helpful?