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05/11/2008
Late Byzantine Period (13th century- 14th century A.D.)

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Its first part is the period of the Frankish Rule, which was short-lived in Thessaly, less than 20 years. When the byzantine state was destroyed in 1204 and Constantinople with the larger part of the byzantine realm came under the Latin knights of the IV Crusade, Thessaly was given to the king of Thessaloniki, Boniface Del Monferrato, who conquered it without resistance and established Latin authority in the cities.

The Lombardian nobleman Guglielm was appointed in Larissa and he added to his title the annomination «di Larsa».
The unrest of that period originated mainly from the internal conflict of the Latin knights, such as the uprising of the Lombardians of Larissa in 1209 and its stamping out by the emperor of Constantinople, Erikos. The intervention of the pope also started serious strife, when he placed catholic priests above the bishops, a fact that provoked great reactions, as well as financial claims to exploit the fertile lands of the ecclesiastical and monastic estates.

This unrest was exploited by the rulers of the independent byzantine state of Epirus and they started the gradual annexation of Thessaly, which was completed in 1224, with the destruction of the small Frankish state of Thessaloniki. Since then, the destiny of Thessaly became intertwined with Epirus, from which it broke away later on, to become an independent state with Ipati as its centre under the rule of Ioannis I (1268/70-1289/90), the illegitimate son of Michail II of Epirus.

In the 14th c. other foreign peoples will invade Thessaly, never facing any organised resistance, such as the Catalans, who raided it for a long period from 1304 onwards. The Serbs appear later, gradually conquering the lands in the region from 1342, to finally establish a separate small state in 1348, with Trikala as its centre.

In all that time, Thessaly came under the rule of the official Byzantine Empire for small periods only that were not enough to restore its authority that had been seriously compromised in the 12th c. with the increase of the power of the big landowners.
The lack of central authority in Thessaly, the fighting among the higher classes, the oppression of the population and the desolation of the countryside are considered to be the main reasons that facilitated the Turkish settlement in Thessaly that started in 1393 and lasted approximately 500 years.

In spite of all the tumult and the political decay of the period, there was life in the cities and cultural creativity, which manifested itself mainly with the foundation and restoration of many churches and monastic institutes, a phenomenon that generally characterises the palaeologian period. From the surviving sources we cull information about the sponsorships of powerful men of the period and also about intellectual personages, such as the archbishops of Larissa Saint Kiprianos (1318-1332/3) and Antonios, successor and biographer of the former and writer of important theologian works.

From an artistic point of view, the most important monument of the period at the present day prefecture of Larissa and the only one that survived intact is the Monastery of Olymbiotissa in Elassona, which was founded at the end of the 13th c. According to recent research, the catholicon was built by the venerables Konstantinos and Theodoros (1289-1302). The architecture and illustration of the Olymbiotissa are classified among the best creations of palaeologian art and are associated with the monuments of Makedonia. Unfortunately, there are no surviving monuments in the cities, as they were destroyed by the intense building activity of the Turks during the following period.
As for the monuments of the countryside, mainly the monasteries, most of the ones that are mentioned in the sources - such as the famous monastery of Marmariani at Kissavos, that is referred to in the 14th c. as the largest in Thessaly - haven't yet been identified although it has recently been suggested that it could be identified with the Monastery of Panagia or Agios Dimitrios at Stomio. Others were integrated into monuments of later periods (Panagia at Megalovrisso, Agios Georgios of Agia).

References in Greek language:
Σδρόλια Στ., Δρ Βυζαντινής Αρχαιολογίας - Αρχαιολόγος 7ης ΕΒΑ.

ΤΕΔΚ Νομού Λάρισας, Οδηγός Νομού Λάρισας, Λάρισα 1998