I was saddened to hear this morning that Pierre MacKay passed away over the weekend. I didn’t know Pierre well, but was fortunate enough to spend a year with him in 2001/2002 at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens.
During that time, I was putting the final touches on an article documenting a series of fortifications on Mt. Oneion in the Corinthia. The latest were Venetian. Pierre had been working on the fortification of the Venetian town of Negroponte (now Chalkis) on Euboea. He was only too happy to discuss Venetian fortification strategies with me as well as any other topic of post-ancient Greece.
The highlight of that year was a trip to the city of Chalkis by train and then touring the course of Venetian fortifications of that city. The catch is that the fortifications were destroyed in the 19th century, but Pierre managed to make the course of the fortifications as vivid as if the walls were still standing. We had a long discussion of the church of Ayia Paraskevi which was a Frankish period church built on Early Christian foundations. His willingness to discuss Frankish, Venetian, and earlier material with us during the trip to Chalkis, and throughout my year at the American School, was a model of scholarly generosity.
From my perspective (and many others) his knowledge of Venetian and Ottoman Greece was virtually limitless, and he combined it with a deep and sophisticated understanding of the Classical world. His sensitivity to the long history of Greece is something that I admired and, in my own way, aspire too (although without his staggering knowledge of languages from Medieval Venetian to Ottoman Turkish).