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View of Byzantine Gratinoupolis
(Photo: Ioli Viggopoulou)

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28/11/2007
Gratini

Aikaterinh Balla
Source: C.E.T.I.
© Region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace
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The ruins of a fortified settlement were found between the southern foot of the Rodopi mountain range and the eastern riverside of Patermos. The remains are identified with Byzantine Gratianoupolis or Gratianou (the so-called Gratini). In particular, after the destruction of Mosynopolis (the Thracian capital in that time) it apparently became a great civil and urban centre in central Rodopi and, in general, the mountainous area of Thrace during the 13th and 14th centuries.

The name of the city is associated with the Emperor Gratianus (367 383). According to historical evidence, the city appears to have been represented in the Synod of 431 by the bishop Philadelphious or Philadelpus. Yet, it is uncertain whether this specific bishopric city was the same Thracian city, already known from the late Byzantine times, or not. During the 14th century, the city is related to the family of Cantacuzeni and, in particular, with Mathaeus Cantacuzenus, son of Ioannis Cantacuzenus, who decided to reside permanently in the city. Once settled in the city, he successfully fought the Turkish incursions and finally managed to establish his sovereignty over the Thracian land he possessed. By 1357, the city is under the reign of Ioannis V, while the Franks seem to settle in this area at a later period.

The Byzantine settlement also extended outside the 14th century fortified enceinte.

The fortification ruins of the Byzantine city of Gratianoupolis were uncovered on the western side of a hillock, next to Patermos river and north of the modern village of Gratini. The fortress was probably built in the 14th century. The irregularly shaped plan has a length of 250 feet from north to south. The masonry, reaching a height of 4 metres high, consists of rubble stones, mortar, plinth fragments and irregular brick masonry. There is a circular tower on the east wall. Close to a more recent chapel there was found a hexagonal, rectangular cistern of large dimensions, having cylindrical vaults that is considered to be old. The fortification construction does not bear signs of use of previous architectural elements since we lack evidence concerning the antiquity.

A single-aisled funerary chapel was revealed at the village of Gratini. Metal Palestinian crosses with engraved and/or relief representations were found at the area along with marble slabs from the iconostasis screen dating from the 7th 9th centuries. Typical small lead phials (koutrouvia) with the representations of Saint Demetrius and Theotokos were found in the niche of the prothesis containing Holy Oil, or Myron from the grave of Saint Demetrius in Thessaloniki. The glazed pottery and other items of a pottery workshop from the period of Palaeologi (such as small wheel-driven tripods) found in the interior of the church as well as a treasure with coins dating to the first half of the 13th century denote that the small church was gradually abandoned or even destroyed when the Franks settled here.