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Kastania: Visualizing a Byzantine Village in the Peloponnese

Michail Kappas, Greek Ministry of Culture, Fellow 2016–2017

My year at Dumbarton Oaks was dedicated to writing a monograph on Kastania, a wealthy village on the Taygetos mountain range in the southern Peloponnese that boasted ten churches built between the twelfth and the fifteenth century. I drafted four chapters of my book. I started with an examination of the economic basis of the village’s prosperity and location in important communication, trade, and artistic networks. I then analyzed the early core of the settlement, still marked by its oldest building (St. Peter, twelfth century). In the third chapter, I examined how Kastania expanded during the thirteenth century, following the return of the Mani to Byzantine control. One major theme I interpreted in the fourth chapter (concerned with relations of centers and peripheries) is Kastania’s interactions with the two major administrative centers of the region, initially Monemvasia and subsequently Mystras. The plan of the village and its buildings reveals critical information about patrons, both elite and common villagers. The close study of Kastania—its setting, its churches, and its secular architecture—allowed me to write a history of a site and to create a model of investigation for other Byzantine settlements.