The people behind the monuments

The interaction between people and monuments is a fact. Through the information we glean from the monuments, moveable or immoveable, and from surviving written sources, we can piece history together. Churches, castles, forts, small artefacts, industrial sites, workshops, storage spaces, public buildings, homes, jewellery, domestic or religious paraphernalia all comprise tangible evidence of the presence of those who lived in the near or distant past. Every monument is a reflection, amongst other things, of its creator, its founder, its owner, and reveals evidence of everyday life, the prevailing attitudes, the materials and means that people possessed. At the same time, it is also a reflection of the historical context in which it was created, the society of the time and its culture.

During the Byzantine and the post-Byzantine period, a time of great religious fervour, a number of acts and demonstrations of faith and veneration by the people of the time took the form of paying for churches to be built, decorated, renovated or have their walls covered with murals. Very often, buildings or small objects are directly connected with the protagonists of famous historical events and battles. For example, the lead seals that have survived provide possibly the most important information about the development of titles and offices and the organisation of the administrative mechanism.

Inscriptions in churches provide information on the date they were built or renovated; they record the benefactors, who are often depicted in murals or mosaics. The benefactors, sometimes high-level military officers, such as Leontas the Protospatharios at Panagia Skripos, or members of influential families, such as Theodoros Leovachos at the monastery of Hosios Loukas, built wonderful, magnificent churches. The common people, families and clerics usually contributed to the building or renovation of smaller local churches.