This is an evening view of the medieval, Byzantine church of the Virgin Hodegitia in the upper city of Monemvasia (modern Greece). It was constructed around 1150, during the reign of emperor Manuel Komnenos – that is during the last period, when Byzantine empire was still a dominant force in the Eastern Mediterranean. It was the apogee of Byzantine power under the Komnenos dynasty – under emperor’s rule, the Byzantine armies marched across the Levant from Antioch and Aleppo in Syria all the way to the Balkans in the West. The emperor’s wife at a time, was a Latin princess, Maria of Antioch and the Byzantine court was a major cultural center drawing inspirations from both Eastern and Western traditions – it is said for example, that the emperor himself participated in ‘knightly tournaments’ that were to develop as a major attraction in the western chivalric cultures.
In order to maintain that power, the empire had to retain firm control of its core region – the Aegean Sea which served as the heart of the Byzantine realm. This is why Monemvasia was important – it was a fortified city and port, perched on the edge of a cliff at the far end of the Peloponnese. It therefore served as a bastion, guarding the entrance to the Aegean, keeping its waters safe for example from the Norman navy of king Roger II of Sicily who unsuccessfully attacked Monemvasia in 1148. The position of the church of the Virgin Hodegitria, the patroness of the city, reflects this role well – it overlooks the Aegean sea, keeping watch over its waters now, just as it did almost 900 years ago.
I was not aware that there were 'jousts' in the Constantinople during the reign of Theophilos - very interesting! To be honest, I think that some kind of 'tournaments' or other form of fight spectacles were probably organised in almost every society from various chronological periods, whether Antique, Early medieval, or later. I am not sure if any of them can be seen as the rightful 'source' of the chivalric culture. I think these sort of things develop indipendently of each other (for example, I am pretty sure that adult men organised fights between themselves in Poland even before the 13th C.... Anyway, thank you very, very much for yet another, fascinating comment - it is always a pleasure to hear from you!