Photographer's Note

The castle of Chlemoutsi, or Clermont, to give it its original name, occupies a strategic site on a rocky elevation, from which it dominates the entire valley of Elis and protects Andravida, the capital of the principality of Achaia. At the same time, it is only three kilometres from the coast and overlooks the Ionian sea from Zakynthos to Lefkada and the coast of Aitoloakarnania. It provided security for the well-known commercial harbour of Glarentza, since it secured control of an area that was the centre of the Frankish possessions in the Morea and experienced great prosperity and renown at the time of the Villehardouins. Despite the fact that the natural site it occupied had always been of great importance, the first castle was built at the time of the Frankish conquest of the Peloponnese.The Chronicle of the Morea1 refers to the construction of the castle and the prince who gave orders for it to be built, though it is not absolutely clear who this is. Bon considers that the prince mentioned in the chronicle is Geoffrey II Villehardouin, though another theory holds that it was Geoffrey I. The same text records the circumstances in which it was constructed. The date of its erection goes back to the years 1221-1223. Geoffrey had not secured the funds needed to bring the project to completion and requested a contribution from the Catholic clergy of the principality of Achaia. The clergy complained about this burden to Pope Honorius V. The Pope responded by excommunicating Geoffrey, but the latter continued the construction of the castle undeterred. Geoffrey managed to persuade the Pope to revoke the excommunication, arguing that Chlemoutsi would be a bastion defending the ‘true faith’ against the schismatic Orthodox.

The original name of the castle was Clermont, and its name was later changed to Castel Tornese, since it was believed that it was the home of the mint at which tornesia were struck with the permission of the French king Louis IX. These coins had the church of St Martin of Tours (from which they took the name tornesia) on the obverse and the inscription G. PRINCEPS ACHAEA DE CLARENTIA on the reverse. Archaeological finds confirm that tornesia were in circulation from 1250 to 1333. Glarentza was an important centre in the Frankish period and it was probably here that the mint of the principality was established. The inscription on the reverse of the coins, therefore, probably refers to Glarentza, not Chlemoutsi, as was asserted by earlier scholars.

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Additional Photos by GEORGE LABROPOULOS (labro33) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 414 W: 0 N: 383] (2807)
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