Topography of Caffa (Kefe) Religious Monuments of the XIII-XV centuries: Historical Reconstruction Based on Narrative and Archaeological Materials

Keywords: topography, community, religious monuments, ethno-confessional structure, Genoese, Armenians, Greeks, Tatars, Jews


In one of his works, French historian M. Balard proposed a thesis of the «demotopographic» organization of Caffa – the city was divided into blocks – the contrados, of those there were about sixty, and each block had its own ethnic dominant. Taking this thesis as a basis, the localization of Caffa religious monuments allows us to identify the urban areas where the majority of the population were the representatives of one or another confession or Caffa community and to characterize different parts of the city from the point of view of the ethnic composition of the population.

Medieval Caffa had three city-forming parts: city blocks within the citadel (castrum); city blocks within the outer defense moat – burgs (burgi) and the territory of housing estate outside the walls of the fortress – antiburgs (antiburgi). Blocks in the city citadel had a precise city planning and common architecting. The land of the commune here was divided into plots that were leased to the Greeks, Armenians and other non-Genoese communities. According to M. Balard and G. Veinstein, such urban planning rules supposed the settling of the Genoese mainly in the citadel, which was protected by the fortress walls, and the incomers from the east had to settle in burg (the fortified urban area).

Many researchers noted long ago the complex ethnic structure of Caffa population of the XIII-XV centuries, that is confirmed by both the narrative tradition and private-legal acts. In fact, Caffa ethnic composition is difficult to characterize by listing all ethnic groups living in the city during the XIII-XV centuries.

The privileged position in Caffa community was occupied by Genoese people. The most sizeable and structured communities that faced Genoese people, both outside the walls of the citadel, and within the city, were Armenian, Greek, Tartar and Jewish. Just in this sequence these peoples were mentioned in the official documents of the XIV-XV centuries. During the period of Genoese domination, Christian churches of the main confessions – Catholic, Orthodox and Armenian-Gregorian prevailed in the city. There were also two Jewish houses of worship and one mosque.

Thus, the localization of religious structures of the representatives of different confessions makes it possible to identify more or less accurately the areas with a high concentration of members of different ethnic groups. However, information from mass sources indicates a significant degree of interpenetration and mixing of different ethnic groups.

How to Cite
Gospodarenko, O. (2018). Topography of Caffa (Kefe) Religious Monuments of the XIII-XV centuries: Historical Reconstruction Based on Narrative and Archaeological Materials. Eminak: Scientific Quarterly Journal, 2(3 (23), 87-97. Retrieved from
World History and International Relations