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The western religious orders in medieval Greece

The western religious orders in medieval Greece
Nickiphoros I. Tsougarakis


Institute for Medieval Studies, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UNITED KINGDOM.


This thesis examines the history and activity of the Western religious orders in medieval Greece, from the time of their transplantation into Byzantine territories, following the Fourth Crusade, until the fifteenth century and the Ottoman conquest. Geographically it focuses on the areas conquered by the Latins during or after the Fourth Crusade, in other words, the lands of the Latin Empire of Constantinople. Due to the nature of the sources, particular attention is paid to the insular Venetian dominions and especially the island of Crete.

The religious orders examined are the Benedictines, the Cistercians, the Franciscans, the Dominicans, the Crociferi, and the Augustinians as well as other orders, with a smaller involvement in medieval Greece, like the Servites, the Carmelites and the Canons Regular.

Each of the thesis's chapters focuses on one particular Order (or group of Orders). By examining a variety of published and unpublished sources, I have attempted to investigate the history of the individual convents and eventually to form a comprehensive picture of the installation of these Orders in Greece. In particular, I have focused on the missionary and Unionist goals of the Orders in Greece, their structure and organisation, their interaction with the newly established Catholic Church and Latin laity of Greece, their relations with the indigenous population and their diplomatic and cultural achievements. Where the sources allow it, I have also tried to establish the financial standing of some of these religious houses and to investigate their sources of income and their land tenure.

The conclusion of the thesis draws together the findings of my research and makes comparisons between the structure, activity and success of .each of the Orders in Greece. Having shed some light on the monastic landscape of medieval Greece, I argue that, although Latin monasticism in Greece has been regarded as a relatively insignificant by-product of the Franko-Venetian occupation of Byzantine lands, the religious orders played significant social, cultural and political roles both within the Latin communities of Greece and in wider international relations between Byzantium and the West. They largely failed, however, to appeal to the Greek population and thu Latinise the indigenous Greek society, like they had done in other frontiers of Latin Christendom.