Barony of Veligosti

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Barony of Veligosti
Barony of the Principality of Achaea
1209–c. 1300/1380s
Location of Veligosti
Map of the Peloponnese with its principal locations during the late Middle Ages
Capital Veligosti, then Damala
Government Feudal lordship
Historical era Middle Ages
 -  Established 1209
 -  Disestablished c. 1300/1380s

The Barony of Veligosti or Veligosti–Damala was a medieval Frankish fiefdom of the Principality of Achaea, originally centred on Veligosti (Greek: Βελίγοστι or Βελιγόστη; French: Véligourt; Spanish: Viligorda; Italian: Villegorde) in southern Arcadia, but also came to include the area of Damala (Greek: Δαμαλᾶ, French: Damalet) in the Argolid when it came under a cadet branch of the de la Roche family. After Veligosti was lost to the Byzantines towards 1300, the name was retained even though the barony was reduced to Damala.[1]


Veligosti, near ancient Megalopolis, appears to have fallen to the Frankish Crusaders without resistance ca. 1206.[2] The name's origin is obscure. The 19th-century historian Karl Hopf thought that the Greek name derived from the French form Véligourt, in turn might be a corruption of Valaincourt/Walincourt, which Hopf proposed as the place of origin of the original baronial line of Mons. The Valaincourt family was indeed represented in the Fourth Crusade, but as Antoine Bon points out, there is nothing other than the similarity of the names to link them to the Frankish Morea. Bon himself considers the form "Veligosti" to be the original one—of ultimately Slavic origin—and the French name to have been derived from it.[3]

The barony, established ca. 1209, was one of the twelve original secular baronies of the Principality of Achaea and comprised four knight's fiefs.[4][5] According to the list of signatories of the Treaty of Sapienza in 1209, the first baron was Hugh of Mons, succeeded (some time before 1230) by Matthew of Mons, who is the first baron to be mentioned in the Chronicle of the Morea. Matthew held the barony until his marriage to a Byzantine princess, a daughter of Theodore II Laskaris, during a mission to the Byzantine court sometime in the 1250s.[6] Karl Hopf, who was unaware of the Treaty of Sapienza, conjectured the existence of two barons of the same name, Matthew I and II, to fill the period from 1209, and that it was the latter who married the princess.[7]

Matthew of Mons disappears from the sources after his marriage, and the fief and the associated title apparently passed on to a junior branch of the de la Roche family, whose senior branch ruled the Duchy of Athens. Already in a document dated to 1256, William de la Roche is mentioned as "lord of Veligosti" (dominus Villegordus). The process of the transfer is obscure; Hopf hypothesized that a sister of Matthew of Mons may have married William de la Roche.[8] William de la Roche, younger brother of the Duke of Athens Guy I de la Roche, also held the region of Damala in the Argolid as a fief, and the two domains became united under the same title.[9][10]

Damala (ancient and modern Troezen) was captured easily in the first days of the Frankish conquest of the Morea, unlike the neighbouring citadels of Argos and Nauplia, which continued to resist until 1212.[11] Although the latter were given as a separate fief to the de la Roche dukes of Athens, Damala itself is not mentioned in the lists of barons in the French and Greek versions of the Chronicle of the Morea, which date to ca. 1228/30. Only the Aragonese version mentions a knight—apparently William de la Roche—who received six fiefs in the area and raised a castle, as well as the possession of three fiefs there by the Foucherolles family.[12] These reports date to the second half of the century, and the area appears to have been entirely devoid of Frankish presence before that.[13] James de la Roche, evidently William's son, is then mentioned as "lord of Veligosti" in the Aragonese version, while in the early 14th century, Renaud "de Véligourt", son of James and Maria Aleman, daughter of the Baron of Patras William Aleman, is mentioned as "lord of Damala" (sires de Damalet).[14]

From the 1260s, Veligosti became an important base for the Principality of Achaea in its war against the Byzantine province of Mystras in the southeastern Morea. Along with Nikli it guarded the passes leading from Byzantine territory into the plateau of central Arcadia, the heart of the peninsula.[15] After ca. 1272 the Frankish presence at Veligosti began to come under increasing threat, as the Byzantines gradually encroached into the area. By ca. 1300, both Nikli and Veligosti had been lost to the Franks, and indeed seem to have been razed and/or abandoned entirely, as they are no longer mentioned in the sources.[16] Although now confined to the fief of Damala, the family continued to use the title of Veligosti, or rather its French version, Véligourt, thereafter.[10][17]

Renaud was probably killed at the Battle of the Cephissus in 1311, and his heiress, Jacqueline de la Roche, married Martino Zaccaria, who was also Lord of Chios and Baron of Chalandritsa, some time before 1325.[10][18] Martino was succeeded by his two sons, first Bartholomew, and after his death in 1336, Centurione I. After Centurione's death in 1382, Damala seems to have been lost to the Zaccaria.[18]


  1. ^ Bon 1969, pp. 487ff., 518ff..
  2. ^ Bon 1969, p. 68.
  3. ^ Bon 1969, pp. 111, 518.
  4. ^ Bon 1969, p. 518.
  5. ^ Miller 1921, pp. 71–72.
  6. ^ Bon 1969, pp. 110–111, 518–519.
  7. ^ Bon 1969, pp. 110, 518.
  8. ^ Bon 1969, pp. 111, 519.
  9. ^ Bon 1969, pp. 110, 519.
  10. ^ a b c Topping 1975, p. 120.
  11. ^ Bon 1969, pp. 487, 490.
  12. ^ Bon 1969, pp. 110, 487.
  13. ^ Bon 1969, pp. 487–488.
  14. ^ Bon 1969, pp. 106, 110, 488.
  15. ^ Bon 1969, pp. 130, 132, 142, 144.
  16. ^ Bon 1969, pp. 146, 181–182, 519.
  17. ^ Bon 1969, p. 146.
  18. ^ a b Bon 1969, p. 488.