THE CRETAN MONASTERY OF BALSAMONERO. CULTURAL EXCHANGES BETWEEN BYZANTIUM AND THE WEST IN THE LATE MIDDLE AGES. A PRELIMINARY REPORT
As an important centre of studies with verifiable building activities and murals of outstanding quality dating from the 14th and 15th centuries, the Cretan Hagios Phanourios-Monastery of Balsamonero is a key historical monument for recognizing mutual critical reflection and active exchange between Byzantine and neighbouring cultures.
The essay at hand addresses the appropriate methods of research for the murals, which have survived in all four spaces of the complex. The pictorial programme in the three aisles and in the narthex of the monastery, as well as the relationship of the visual themes to each other, are critically analysed and interpreted. Additionally, the ideological and spiritual background of the patrons and monks in the period of denominational differences as well as in the later era of intercultural relationships between Cretans and Venetians is revealed, and the question of the ideational influences to which the artists working in the monastery were subject is followed.
Research on the pictorial material and an iconological discussion of it promise manifold and sustainable results; they form part of a comprehensive interdisciplinary research project which is in the initial phase. Its realization will contribute to a better understanding of cultural intercourse and conflict in the Mediterranean area.