The Mount Menoikeion Seminar at the Monastery of Hagios Ioannis Prodromos
Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies - Princeton University
2014 SEMINAR: "Constructing Identities: Byzantium to the Balkans" June 25 - July 3
Description of the Seminar
by Nikolas Bakirtzis (The Cyprus Institute)
The ‘Mt. Menoikeion Seminar’ studies the cultural heritage of the homonymous mountainous region close to Serres in Northern Greece. The broader area of Mt. Menoikeion preserves a rich tradition shaped around the monastery of Hagios Ioannis Prodromos (St. John the Baptist) founded in the Middle Byzantine period, and re-established by monk Ioannikios between 1270 and 1275. Continuously inhabited since then, the monastery evolved to become one of the major monastic centers of the Balkans. Today, the well-preserved monastic complex, surrounded by a relatively untouched rural environment, is considered a primary example of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine monastic art and architecture. Prodromos’ female community under Abbess Fevronia sustains its long tradition but also the intricate socioeconomic relations with neighboring villages and the city of Serres.
The Seminar is organized by the Program in Hellenic Studies at Princeton University and hosted by the community of Hagios Ioannis Prodromos nunnery. The Seminar’s primary aim is to provide an inspiring learning experience to its participants and to stimulate their direct involvement in field research working closely with faculty members and specialists. The Seminar is organized in two parts: The first part is dedicated to fieldwork study organized according to participants’ research interests. The second and final part features a workshop which is designed to complement the results of research work and to foster the exchange of facts and ideas in the context of the broader region’s archaeology, history and social anthropology.
The broader region of Serres and the Strymon Valley is an important resource for the history and the archaeology of the Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek periods. One of the Seminar’s goals is to use this resource as a learning canvas for students. Through this experience they develop the necessary skills for study in close-knit rural communities, and in particular, monasteries. This is an experience that builds on knowledge gained in the classroom and offers a rare opportunity to experience a living monument in Greece and the Mediterranean. It is important to note the friendship that has developed between the Prodromos nuns and the Princeton students. The two communities have shared the monastic complex, challenging preconceived notions of the monastic and the academic world respectively.