You are here:Home/Research/ Support for Research/ Fellowships/ Fellowship Reports/ 2015–2016/ Hermitages and Rock-Monasteries of Laconia (Eleventh–Fifteenth Century): The Landscape of Monasticism in a Byzantine Region

Hermitages and Rock-Monasteries of Laconia (Eleventh–Fifteenth Century): The Landscape of Monasticism in a Byzantine Region

Ludovic Bender, University of Fribourg, Junior Fellow 2015–2016

My dissertation focuses on the landscape of Byzantine Laconia (Pelo­ponnese), which was comprised of numerous religious foundations, among which are several rock monasteries and many smaller hermitages built in caves and isolated settings. The project considers the interactions of isolated hermits and established communities, the relationships of large monasteries to smaller foundations, the interweaving of monastic and agricultural economies, and the demarcation of sacred landscapes using a geographic information system (ArcGIS) to support the analysis. I documented these monuments and their natural settings between 2012 and 2015, using three-dimensional models with Structure from Motion photogrammetry (Agisoft Photoscan).I completed my dissertation at Dumbarton Oaks. I analyzed the monuments, their function, and their reuse. Paintings and inscriptions helped me to understand the identity of donors, painters, and ascetics who dwelled in such places. I studied their relation to one another, to local communities, and to the landscape, especially with regard to the selection of monastic sites and patron saints. My project contributes to the full knowledge of cave chapels, hermitages, and rock monasteries of Laconia, thus improving our knowledge of Byzantine monastic networks in rural landscapes. The new technologies used to support my work will be made available to a wider audience interested in this region.