Try Amazon Fresh

Try Amazon Audible Plus



Part 4


    The tendency to the militarisation of the frescoes of the Betrayal grows in the 13th c. The conquest of Byzantium by the Latins of the Fourth Crusade provoked a further impact also on the artistic representations, and the violence of the war was reflected in the Biblical episodes, where the Latin warriors were often proposed as the evil people arresting Christ.
    In the Church of Saint John the Theologos in Patmos (early 13th c.)52 the guards are divided into two groups: at the left of the spectator there is a υπηρετης [ueretes] with the priests and the Pharisees. At the right the armoured soldiers, formed by a contingent of warriors in chain mail and conical or rounded helmets of various colours (the Chiliarchos and the σπεῖρα [speira]). The commander is differentiated with a white helmet, white trousers and boots and a sword hanging from the waist (paramerion). Kollias, Chatzidakis and Orlandos dated the fresco to c. 1200-1204, considering them executed by artists coming from Constantinople.53 They used maybe Greek warriors at the service of the Franks, or Venetian soldiers as prototypes of the soldiers. They are perhaps also represented in the illuminated MS of the Four Gospels now kept in Tübingen, Germany, but originally executed in Kalavryta in the Peloponnese, where two contingents of troops in coats of mail and conical helmets holding pole-weapons, swords and spears, surround Jesus and Judas.54
    The temple of Saint John Chrisostomos in Arabissos (today Karsi Kilise, Suves), Kappadokia, was frescoed probably in 1212 AD by Theodore I Laskaris of Nikea to celebrate his victory over the Seljuks in the battle of Antiochia on Pisidia and contains valuable images of the warriors of the Nicaea Empire.55 One of its magnificent frescoes represents the Betrayal. The heads of several spiked maces, war axes and spears are again visible above the heads of the warriors arresting Jesus (Fig. 28). These warriors were probably copied from the militia of Theodore Laskaris I of Nikea, and I have recently proposed the identification of them with members of the Varangian Regiment serving under the Nicean Emperors, due to their red beards and their red uniforms, together with the long shafted axes represented as well in the fresco. Round and polygonal "star" maces are here represented alongside each other. Axes and poleweapons (Figs. 29-30) are well representative of 13th c. specimens and found their parallels with the Balkan weapons preserved in the Museum of Kazanlik, Bulgaria (Figs. 31-32). The main kind of defensive protections listed in the sources are well illustrated on the warriors: ring mail cuirass (λωρικιον, χιτων alusidotos);56 lamellar armours (klibania, χιτωνεs φολιδωτοι);57 and military clothes comprise cloaks (sagia),58 long robes (kabadia), tunics (χιτωνα),59 overtunics (επιλωρικια),60 military footwear, trousers and boots (toubia, anaxyrida, kampagia)61 (Fig. 33).

52 Ορλανδος 1970, Pls. 73-74; Κομινης 1988, fig. 35.
53 Stylianou, Stylianou 1992, p. 572.
54 Millet 1960, fig. 347.
55 D’Amato 2010, p. 12.
56 Kolias 1988, p. 39; Tzetzes, in Cramer 1963 ( Anecd. Oxon III, 383).
57 Nicetae, 62, 95; 197,17ff.; Kolias 1988, pp. 44-46 and n. 70.
58 Du Cange, Du Fresne 1688, col. 1752.
59 Du Cange, Du Fresne 1688, col. 1316.
60 Pseudo-Kodinos, De Off., VI, 18 records that still in the 14th century ‘The officers wear the σκαρανικα, the φακεωλια and the καββαδια, and the other over-tunics επιλωρικια each according to his rank.’
61 Du Cange, Du Fresne 1688, col. 565 (καμπαγιον), 1588 (τουβιον) ; Niketas Choniates, VII,242 (anaxyrida).

Fig. 31. Axe-head from the area of Kazanlik, probably the 14th c. AD, Kazanlik, Regional Museum, author’s photo, courtesy of the Museum

Fig. 32. Mace heads and spear point from the area of Kazanlik, probably the 13th c. AD, Kazanlik, Regional Museum, author’s photo, courtesy of the Museum

    Summarising, the fresco tells us that we are again probably in front of the representation of Varangians, mentioned in the sources as effective guardsmen of the Emperors of the Nicaean Empire.62 The fresco confirms the sources telling us that Varangians were axe-bearers and the represented weaponry corresponds with real specimens contemporary to the age of the fresco. The military details and the various kind of clothes and weapons effectively used at that time and mentioned in the sources are clearly represented in the painting.

62 D’Amato 2010, pp. 11-12.

    The following example is the fresco of the Betrayal in the Cathedral of Saint Nicola in Prilep, dated to about 1289 AD (Fig. 34). The painting illustrates again contemporary soldiers beside the stereotypes of Jesus Christ and Judas. This time, the soldiers are more Balkanic in their appearance, probably copied from the local militia of the Paleologian Age. Arms and weapons are again represented in detail, and conforming to the Gospel, the soldiers also wear [carry] lanterns (Figs. 35-36), that, again, are a precious source for the reconstruction of the material culture of the age and, specifically, of the area of origin of the fresco. The similarity with contemporary specimens is evident (Fig. 37). This can also be seen in other frescoes of the same century.63 In the Betrayal painted in the Church of Aghios Georgios Mefismeni, in Crete, the detail shows an alternative kind of torches used at that time and various kind[s] of helmets and neck protections (Fig. 38). In the Church of the Panaghia Chrisafitissa, in Chrisafa, Laconia, also dated to 1289 AD, the details of the military costume are magnificent (Fig. 39). One of the officers (Fig. 40, maybe the Chiliarchos) wears a bonnet in the Western style (Fig. 41), and this is probably one of the first representation[s] of the new elite regiments of the fleet of Michael VIII, the Gasmouloi, who were conducting military operations in Laconia some decades before the completion of the frescoes.64

63 Babuin 2009, fig. 234 (Aegina, Ομορφη Εχχλησια-Αγιοι Τεοδοροι).
64 D’Amato 2010b, pp. 220-221, 231

Fig. 34. The Betrayal, Church of Saint Nikolaos in Prilep (Macedonia), c. 1289 AD, courtesy photo Dr. M. Tutko

Fig. 35. The Betrayal, Church of Saint Nikolaos in Prilep (Macedonia), c. 1289 AD, detail, courtesy photo Dr. M. Tutko

Fig. 36. The Betrayal, Church of Saint Nikolaos in Prilep (Macedonia), c. 1289 AD, detail, courtesy photo Dr. M. Tutko

Fig. 37. Medieval sword from Rouse (Bulgaria), 13th c., Rouse Museum, courtesy of Prof. Valeri Yotov

Fig. 38. The Betrayal, Church of Aghios Georgios Mefismeni, in Crete, detail, 13th c., author’s photo

    Again shields covered with pearls are represented (Fig. 42), maybe symbols of the Imperial Guardsmen or elite troops.
    After 1204 and the temporary conquest of Constantinople by the Crusaders many frescoes of the Betrayal show the scene as a full scale military operation with the warriors clad in full armours and fighting gear.65 The analysis further conducted on the frescoes representing the Betrayal in the 13th century shows now fully armoured soldiers representing local troops or specific regiments. A strong influence of the Western armament and equipment on Roman arms and armours begins to be seen. The artists, though Saint Peter and Jesus Christ are represented as stereotypes, always differentiate the mob, the officers and the soldiers. The latter are copied from the reality of their age, and also weapons and equipment, as well as clothing, are copied in realistic details. Finally, last but not least, the evolution of the weapons employed at the time of the frescoes is well documented by the paintings.

65 Stylianou, Stylianou 1992, p. 571, who suggests that this is the result of the Crusades and the establishment of the Latin Kingdoms in ‘Romania’.


Source: Raffaele d'Amato The Betrayal: Military Iconography and Archaeology In The Byzantine Paintings Of The 11th-15th C. AD Representing The Arrest Of Our Lord

Part 5 The Betrayal: Military Iconography and Archaeology in the Byzantine Paintings of the 11th-15th c. AD Representing the Arrest of Our Lord Raffaele D’Amato

Free Web Hosting