Continuing with my series on the fictional characters in the Last Crusader Kingdom, I want to turn to the two Greek clerics, who play a significant role in this novel:
Brother Zotikos and Father Andronikos.
Brother Zotikos is the very first character the reader encounters. He is a peaceful monk in an impoverished mountain monastery worried about a pregnant cow when the brutality of foreign occupation breaks in upon his peaceful world. The “Franks” are burning the village at the foot of the mountain and refugees flood into the monastery. It is a life-changing moment for Brother Zotikos; he cannot come to terms with the unjustified violence and he turns to rebellion.
I created this rebellious monk because we know that the greatest (not to say only) opposition to Frankish rule on Cyprus came from the Orthodox church. The Byzantine nobility, like the Frankish nobility in the centuries to come, had estates on the mainland. Many had already abandoned Cyprus during the reign of the despot Isaac Comnenus because of his rapacious policies. Others cut their losses when confronted with the Templar’s equally oppressive rule. The church was not so quick to abandon the island or its flock.
Of the nobles that did remain on the island, we are told that many did homage to Richard the Lionheart, and that others were rewarded with fiefs by the Lusignans for their loyalty. There is no recorded instance of a Greek knight or noble taking up arms against Frankish rule.
But there was resistance, armed resistance, resistance strong enough to drive the Templars from the island. The only specific rebel the chronicles tell us about is a monk, a relative of the despot Isaac Comnenus. It therefore seemed most appropriate to make the representative of Cypriot opposition to Frankish rule a monk.
Having made that decision, Zotikos took over. He was young, vigorous and he has been turned into a fanatic by an encounter with violent injustice. I thought it believable that he would be like any young fanatic fighting for a cause he believes is completely sacred ―whether it is Communism, liberation theology, or ISIS. This means that while at first he is justified, his own fanaticism eventually becomes his enemy and drags him down a course that no longer serves his own goals.
Father Andronikos is, if you like, the natural antidote to Brother Zotikos. He represents the church at its most positive: a source of inner strength and an advocate of peace. Father Andronikos as a mature man with a family cares more about resolution than revenge.
Father Andronikos also serves the important role of spokesman for the native population of Cyprus. Since all my principal characters are new-comers to the island, even Maria Comnena, it was important to have someone who could speak for the Cypriots. It would have been difficult to work in more about the history of Cyprus, what had happened before the arrival of Aimery and John, without a character of this nature.
Because Orthodox priests can and do marry and have families, Father Andronikos was also a means of introducing John to a decent Greek girl. As a young Frankish noble it would otherwise have been very difficult to develop a circumstance in which he might meet and interact with a Greek maiden.
Last but not least, he is a tribute to the Greek Orthodox priests I have encountered in my life.