Lidia Cotovanu

Lidia Cotovanu


Etudes balkaniques (Sofia) 2022 N 2

Lidia Cotovanu
«Nicolae Iorga» Institute of History
Romanian Academy

Abstract: I have tried to show on other occasions that the Orthodox monasteries, as compared to the Catholic Monts-de-Piété, functioned according to a banking logic: they served as places of deposit by donation of real estate, the surplus of annual revenues being mobilized to provide, on the one hand, for the liturgical commemoration of the donor and, on the other, for the assistance of the poor. For the donor, this meant investing in salvation and contributing to the common good of the Christian community. The “Romanian” monasteries dedicated as metochia to the Eastern Patriarchates fell within the same pattern, except for a few particularities which stemmed from the specific profile of the donors: most often they were
a) Christian subjects of the Ottoman Empire residing in the Romanian lands and their descendants; b) ruling princes appointed by the Porte and attached to Rumelian and Constantinopolitan power networks. Consequently, the investment in the sacred was oriented towards the great monasteries located in the places of origin of the donors, that is, under the jurisdiction of the “Greek” Patriarchates. The double goal displayed by the donors was to secure themselves prayers of commemoration in the place of origin, in prestigious and lasting places of worship, then to protect the “invested” heritage from the vicissitudes of time. They also followed tacit goals aimed at assisting their poor compatriots and maintaining the common good of their native community, which was the Church itself. I have proven this aspect by comparing the practice of the dedication of “Romanian” metochia to the Holy Places of Orthodoxy to the community evergetism practiced by the members of the Greek Community in Venice via the deposit of large amounts of money in Venetian banks. Based on this comparison, it appears that the economic activities of the “Greek” monasteries, which administered the metochia acquired north of the Danube, consisted in putting to work the real estate of the metochia – through farming, trade, rental, pawnbroking, etc. – as money was put to work in Venetian banks. All these peculiarities, which characterized the Wallachian and Moldavian places of worship dedicated to the Holy Places – being founded and subsidized by migrants, accommodating travellers, practicing trade, etc. – explain, in my opinion, the concentration of the metochia in, and near the urban spaces of Wallachia and Moldavia, more precisely very close to the markets and the concentration of the populations of migrants. The present study fully illustrates this ingenious system put in place by the Greek monks, consisting, on the one hand, of channelling the income from the lands scattered throughout Wallachia and Moldavia to the metochia situated in the cities, which devoted themselves to reinvesting the gains in urban real estate, commercial, and financial affairs and, on the other hand, to attract donations from wealthy migrants and from their descendants concentrated in urban spaces.

Keywords: Greek Patriarchates, Wallachia, Moldavia, metochia, ktitors, dedications, donations, shops, cities.

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