Maria Georgopoulou

title.none: McKee, ed., Wills from Late Medieval Venetian Crete 1312 - 1420 (Georgopoulou)

identifier.other: baj9928.9808.010 98.08.10

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Maria Georgopoulou, Yale University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1998

identifier.citation: McKee, Sally, ed. Wills from Late Medieval Venetian Crete 1312 - 1420. Washington, D. C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 1998. Pp. xx, 1200. $65.00. ISBN: ISBN 0-884-02245-5.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 98.08.10

McKee, Sally, ed. Wills from Late Medieval Venetian Crete 1312 - 1420. Washington, D. C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 1998. Pp. xx, 1200. $65.00. ISBN: ISBN 0-884-02245-5.

Reviewed by:

Maria Georgopoulou
Yale University

Sa lly McKee has produced a very fine piece of work in her edition of wills from Late Medieval Candia, the capital of Crete from 1211 to 1669. The sheer amount of wills, 790 in number (431 made by women and 359 by men), the obvious proficiency and ability of the author to make sense out of these--often difficult--documents, provide rich raw material for the researcher who is interested in Venice and its colonies in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The exploration of the prosopographical, social, economic, cultural, religious, statistical, and other data contained in these wills, opens new horizons for research that will undoubtedly enrich our knowledge of life in Venetian Crete. The wills allow us a glimpse into diverse groups of people whose social grounding is much wider than we have ever before been able to see in publications of Venetian archives pertaining to Crete.

By definition the significance of the wills as an indication of the realities in colonial Crete is enormous. Not only are the acts of the notaries of Candia among the earliest material surviving from the colony, but the private, personal character of the procedure offers a glimpse into the preoccupations of the people of the colony as opposed to those of the local Venetian government. A juxtaposition of the material of the wills with the extant governmental archives of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries (i.e. theCatastici in the State Archives of Venice, Archivio del Duca di Candia, buste 18,19, 20, and 21 which refer to the properties of the colonists, as well as the so-calledCatasticum ecclesiarum et monasteriorum comunis (1248-1548) published by Z.N. Tsirpanlis in 1985) will widen the spectrum of our understanding of the social and economic life of Candia and its hinterland considerably.

The preface of the edition gives a brief summary of the Venetian domination of Crete, citing few major works that are indispensable for dealing with this material. Venice acquired Crete in 1204 but faced problems in its colonization, which was completed in stages throughout the first half of the thirteenth century. An island whose population was made up of indigenous Greeks, a Jewish minority, and a large number of Latin settlers, Crete and its rich extant archival material offers a unique opportunity to study a multifaceted, polyglot society. Page xii addresses one of the major issues to be faced by those who study Venetian Crete, namely how to define the ethnic identity of its people and the interaction among the various ethnic groups. McKee is an expert on this as she has dealt with these issues in her dissertation and her published work extensively. She wisely offers the reader a succinct, sharp account of the state of the question, pointing to the difficulties that any attempt to differentiate between Latins and Greeks present us. The question of language as it has been treated by Angeliki Laiou, "Observations on the Results of the Fourth Crusade; Greeks and Latins in Port and Market," Medievalia et Humanistica 12 (1984): 47-60, and Charalambos Gasparis, "The Language of the Venetian Bureaucracy. The Juxtaposition of the Latin and Greek Language in Medieval Crete (13th-135th centuries) (In Greek)," Symmeikta 9, pt. 1 (1994) 141-156, could also be indicated as another important source of information in this respect. Why is it, for instance, that no notarial records written in Greek have survived in the fourteenth century when we have such material in later centuries? Is this an indication that in the earlier centuries of Venetian rule Greek was perceived as a threat? Does this imply that the authorities had not yet been exposed to the Greek language, or does it point to a lesser status of the Greek population at the beginning of Venetian rule?

In addition to the helpful discussion of the various formulae that are followed in most testaments (p. xiii) it would be useful to the researcher to be aware of the peculiarities of the physical location of these documents in the Venetian archives. For instance, although in most cases the wills are assembled in separate folders, there are cases where testaments are found within the protocol of the notary interspersed among other notarial acts. Every folder ( busta or registro) in the State Archives of Venice (Archivio di Stato, thereafter ASV) may contain the protocols and acts of more than one notary, as is evident from a survey of the contents of volume two which are all taken from busta 295. Often the folios are not numbered or are left unbound and it is quite hard to retrace one's way through the material. In this magisterial transcription of documents there is no clear indication of the manipulations that the editor has had to perform on the material in order to present it in the necessary seamless way required by the edition. For instance, which are the wills that are found in between other notarial acts? What percentage of the notarial material extant from Crete contains wills? Are there notarial registers that do not contain any wills? Finally, it has to be pointed out to the reader that the wills are usually written in a more careful hand than other notarial acts, often singled out in their own folio. Here a photograph or two would have made a big difference.

Following the logical path that any researcher in the Venetian archives would take, in the presentation of the material McKee has observed its archival classification divided in buste (folders) and fascicules. I include here a list of the names of the notaries along with the bustein which they are found in ASV, Notai di Candia, which is absent from the edition. Volume 1 (wills # 1-363) contains material from eleven buste: numbers 9 [Andreas Bellamore (1318-1341)], 10 [Angelo Bocontolo (1346-1350) and Niccolo Brixiano (1338)], 13 [Egidio Valoso (1369-1374)], 97 [Donato Fontanella (1321), Bartolomeo Francisci (1339)], 100 [Giovanni Gerardo (1332- 1351/1384)], 101 with recent additions from buste 295 and 122 [again Giovanni Gerardo (1336-1361)], 142 [Benedetto de Milano (1318-1329)], 143 with additions from busta 295 [Giorgio de Milano (1348-1371), Filippo Malpes (1350-1366)], 186 with additions from busta 295 [Marco da Piacenza (1338-1349)], 233 [Leonardus Quirino (1316-1329), Bartholomeus Quirino (1325), Stefano Bono (1312)], 244 [Giovanni Similiante (1325-1328), Giorgio Siligardo (1339-1341)]. Volume 2 (wills # 364-790) is devoted to busta 295 containing the wills of the following notaries: Nicolaus Manduga (1316-1323), B. Traversario (1350), Bonacursius de Fregona (1316-1348), Giovanni Belli (1375), Albertinus Maca (1320-1340), Antonius Rodulfo (1330-1348), Nicolaus Gradenigo (1337-1343), Alberto Palamonte (1342-1349), Avancius de Pesellis (1342-1348), Marco Doncorci (1366-1376), Leonardo Cavisino (1375 -1383), Giovanni de Torcello (1348-1350), Giovanni de Hugolinis (1374-1388), Giorgio de Firmo (1352-1363), Giovanni Dario (1359-1362), Pietro Longo (1348-1351), Michele de Ceca (1355-1362), Tito de Pena (1348-1351), Antonio Marci (1400-1419), Andrea de Vedoaciis (1398-1420), Hemanuel Focha (1373-1384), Michele Zusto (1364-1387), Petro Facio (1383-1387), and Giovanni Morgano (1373-1392).

Volume 3 contains an extensive 200-page index preceded by a list of the testators following the numbering of the wills in vols. 1 and 2. Details pertaining to their family or marital status with name of father or spouse, profession, town/region of origin if known, and date of the will are included. Special mention is made here of persons not residing in Candia and its burg. However, there is no special mention of the one hundred and twenty testators who lived in the burg of Candia outside the walled city (approximately 15% of the testators). The title of this section would have been more accurate astable of contents of the wills because the omission of the notary's name makes the sequence of names (which do not follow an alphabetical nor chronological order) almost counter intuitive. The index proper (pp. [1019-1200]), a most valuable part of the work, includes family names, first names, names of towns, villages and other localities, names of churches and monasteries, profession, ethnicity, and religion when known (usually in the case of the Jewish community).

Although the transcription of the text of the wills is the main objective of the work-and one assumes that the editor purposefully chose not to interfere with the material-one would have hoped some guidance through the vast material. A short summary of the contents of each will containing--in addition to the family and professional information that precedes every will--some indication of the kinds of property or monies that the testator left to private individuals and institutions would have been extremely helpful even if this meant that the publication would have many more pages. Such a summary would have helped in identifying more readily the religious affiliation of some of the testators who leave donations to Latin or Greek churches, often the only way to guess the ethnicity of the testators. A glossary of the various professions would have also been helpful.

Finally, the complete absence of chronology from the index hinders to some extent the statistical comprehension of the data in regard to time or periods. As we have no way of knowing the percentage of the surviving notarial protocols to argue for the statistical value of the material, a separate index according to chronological sequence may have offered the reader a different perspective on the material. There must have been some interaction between the people who went to different notaries in the same period of time within the city of Candia. Despite these last two points, however, this is an excellent effort to present new, archival material of primary importance for understanding life in Venetian Candia.