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There is a small village in Western Bulgaria, not very far from the capital Sofia called Кондофрей roughly transliterated as Kondofrey. It is an otherwise completely unremarkable village except that its name is clearly of a foreign origin.

A local legend says that it was founded by a mysterious 'Count de Fray' or 'Count de Frey' who travelled with Baldwin IV during the 4th crusade. Count de Fray was supposedly killed in Constantinople and his staff decided to settle in Bulgaria. However there are no obvious traces of this count in any contemporary Flemish records.

The Bulgarian Wikipedia article for the village and its name mentions an alternative explanation for the village being named after the Byzantine naval commander Kontofre - and confirms that the first historical record of the villages dates back to the 13th century.

Anyone can shed more light on this?

Count was a relatively important title, is it possible that there are no traces left of a count-level title?

The author of this research paper concludes that the most likely candidate is indeed Manuel Kontofré, a Byzantine naval commander from the same era.

He also mentions Guigues IV, Comte de Forez (pronounced [fɔʁɛ] in French, so an almost perfect match) as another possibility. The author completely discounts him, but from I was able to find, he died on his way back and he is definitely a very strong candidate too.

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    While internet sources like this confirm this legend you describe, Bg-WP tells a very different story: of a later Nicene naval commander; but unsourced… Have you checked both? Please include this in an edit to your question. Feb 6, 2022 at 19:50
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    I will say that of the options presented, it being a Byzantine figure is the one that best passes the smell test. Doesn't mean its right of course. Given the history of the area, particularly up to the 13th century (when the place first appeared), the name being of some kind of Greek origin seems quite likely
    – T.E.D.
    Feb 7, 2022 at 20:49
  • I am more and more convinced that Guigues IV, Compte de Forez is a very strong candidate. Here is what I have found so far: He left for the Baron's Crusade in 1239. His wikipedia page and his file in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France show he died in the south of Italy on 29 October 1241 on his way back. However "Histoire des ducs des Bourgogne" says that the exact date and place of his death remains unknown and the 29 October 1241 was the date of the testament which was written by his son, Guigues V and the fact that he died is mentionned as early as February 1241. Feb 7, 2022 at 23:23

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In fact, I am deeply convinced that the most probable candidate is Guigues IV, Count of Forez (Comte de Forez):

(there are two numbering schemes for the Forez Counts with the most exact name being Guigues V, 4th Count de Forez - he is referred both as Guigues IV or Guigues V)

For:

  • His name is a perfect match, pronounced [kɔ̃t-də-fɔʁɛ] is as close as you can get to 'Kondofrej'
  • He left for Jerusalem with the Baron's Crusade in 1239. Then at some point, a group of knights were called by Pope Gregory to defend the Latin Empire and headed for Constantinople. They were able to negotiate an agreement with Ivan-Asen II of Bulgaria to let them pass and reached Constantinople in 1240 without fighting
  • The group that headed to Constantinople was led by Baldwin II, also known as Baldwin of Courtenay, the last Latin Emperor
  • The official death record of Guigues IV is from October 29 1241, but "Histoire des Ducs de Bourgogne" says that this is but the date of his death certificate delivered once it became clear that he had died during the Crusade on his way back - his death is first mentioned as early as February 1241 - and his son did not receive his title until 1242 exactly because the circumstances surrounding his death were not clear
  • He died from illness, which is consistent with the local legend
  • His son, Guigues V, also took part in a later Crusade - and it seems that the death of his father did play a major role in this decision

Still unclear:

  • Was Guigues IV part of the group that crossed Bulgaria and met Ivan-Asen II?
  • Who and how brought Guigues's sarcophagus back to the church he had built in Montbrison

Against:

  • At least one source places Guigues IV at Ashkelon in 1240

(French) Histoire des Ducs de Bourbon et des Comtes de Forez, Jean-Marie de la Mure, 1809, printed version of a 1675 manuscript, chapters XXII and XXIII, Guigues IV is referred as Guy IV

(English) The Barons' Crusade: A Call to Arms and Its Consequences, Michael Lower, 2005

(French) Annuaire historique pour l'année 1856 A simple list of birthdates, dates of death, marriages and issue for a large number of French medieval lords - here he is referred as Guigues V and his son as Guigues VI - with the same date of death - October 29 1241

(English) Geneanet entry

(English) The Crusading Counts of Nevers, Elizabeth Siberry, 1990 mentions him in Ashkelon in 1240

(French) Chronique de Notre-Dame-d'Espérance de Monbrison - 1212 - 1847, Abbé Renon, 1847 contains a detailed chronicle of his life that goes to 1239 - when he left on the Crusade - there is nothing about the sarcophagus

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  • Some of your claims here might benefit from showing a more direct reference or even quote attached to them? For example Guigues V is said (on French WP) to have been count from '41 onwards. Or which source says "was in Ashkelon"? Most important: you show a lt of circumstantial 'evidence' or loose connections, which might 'fit', and perhaps indeed shows 'after whom', but I fail to see the argument about 'why is that village named so'? Feb 9, 2022 at 16:33
  • That is: in your Q you show a competing theory published in a paper on academia.edu. Could you eg summarise that paper and weigh your take against that paper, show pro/con between theories, yours, that paper, Bg-Wikipedia? Feb 9, 2022 at 16:36

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