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Early medieval sculpture in Boka kotorska bay


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Zornija, Meri. (2014). Early medieval sculpture in Boka kotorska bay. PhD Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of Art History. [mentor Jakšić, Nikola].

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Kotor, as the southernmost town of Byzantine Dalmatia, took over the role of the most important urban centre in the Bay of Kotor from the ancient Risan (gr. Rhizon, lat. Rhizinium). On its stage at the end of the 8th and at the outset of the 9th century the events take place and personalities emerge which figure today as landmarks for the beginnings of the Pre-Romanesque stone carving production on the territory of the Bay of Kotor. Primarily, it is the personality of the bishop Iohannes who participated, together with three of his colleagues from Split, Rab and Osor, in the last ecumenical Council held in 787 in Nicaea where the worship of the holy paintings was re-established and this fact made him the first confirmed bishop of Kotor. On the territory of his diocese he initiated the restoration of a number of the older Early Christian churches – in the town itself it was primarily the old Cathedral, respectively (?) the St. Mary's Church and on the territory of the bay surely the already existant churches of St. Peter in Bijela and St. George in front of Perast, known in the historical sources as the ancient seats of the Benedictines in the Bay of Kotor, along with the assumed St. Gabriel's Church on the island of Gabrio (Stradioti or St. Mark) in front of Tivat. He did not undertake architectural restoration, but refurbished their interiors with the new liturgical installations produced by a quality workshop that carved its works on the highest level of the stone carving production. It is characterized by deep and quality carving in hard marble, an emphasized oblique treatment of the motive edges and gradual introduction of horror vacui, while in terms of iconography a dominance of the more freely treated symbolic and plant designs and the persistance of the Early Christian decorative solutions with only marginal appearance of the geometric mesh on the narrow strips of the ciboria and the cornices of the plutei. The edge which is regularly carved along the middle of the introdoss on the arches of the ciboria and altar screens stands out as a unique detail and it may almost be considered as the signature of the aforementioned workshop. Its achievements demonstrate the closest analogies to the sculpture of the rest of the Eastern Adriatic cathedrals, which made them fit well into the earliest layer of the Pre-Romanesque sculpture in Dalmatia which still does not demonstrate all the characteristics of the mature Pre-Romanesque sculpture. In contrast, there are no appropriate parallels to these reliefs in Dubrovnik, which makes the works of this workshop, identified as the Stone Carving Workshop from the Time of Bishop Iohannes, the earliest Pre-Romanesque stone carvings in the wider region of southern Dalmatia. The exclusive usage of quality marble may be explained by a probable existance of a plentiful source of that material in the nearby antique ruins which was probably available under the patronage of the bishop himself. In Iohannes' time, another key event for the history of the Church of Kotor took place, in which the bishop possibly played a certain role, and that is the obtaining of the relics of St. Tryphon which occured, if not precisely in 809, then certainly during the first decade of the 9th century. The aforementioned stone carvers took over the decoration of the newly built memoria of St. Tryphon as a part of the expanded episcopal complex (?) which was certainly supposed to be hurriedly completed after the arrival of the relics. On that building site, which was obviously in need of an increased number of skillful hands, the next generation of artists was formed, defined as Stone Carving Workshop of Kotor, by means of educating of local masters. This workshop is a continuation of the previous one in terms of the chronology and usage of some identical compositional schemes and motives, but in the more creative development of those motives it also demonstrates the already reached maturity of the Pre-Romanesque style. It draws its stone carving models from various sources, with more freedom and creativity in their usage on various surfaces of the liturgical installations. Along with the still dominant decorative repertoire inherited from the Early Christian heritage with plethora of the vegetative and symbolic Christian motives, also the geometrical braiding component appears, although still marginally placed. A distinctive group of marble ciboria with the images of the rearing lions which also appear on the pluteus, baptismal font and architrave edges is characterised by the entirely new relation to the Antique and Oriental heritage. In almost all cases their depictions are accompanied by the short legends unique in the Pre-Romanesque art of Dalmatia before the time of the Early-Romanesque style. They enhance the meaning and the symbollism of the depictions in Latin or Slavic form, while the choice of the language depended, as it seems, on the client himself, and it is observed that the Benedictines regularly chose the Slavic version of an inscription. This certainly favors the conclusion that the main purpose of their coming to the eastern Adraitic coast was the missionary activity among yet unchristian Slavic population. In its technical performance this workshop stands out with the unique fashion of connecting the arcades of the two quadrilateral ciboria from Kotor at an angle of 45 degrees, but also with the earliest examples of the small ciboria in southern Dalmatia with their supports leaning on the altar mensa. As far as the altar screens are concerned, on all of the known examples the carvers of the Kotor Workshop prefer the arch placed over the passage, just like in the Stone Carving Workshop from the Time of Bishop Iohannes, while in the summits of the arches there were free-standing crosses with inscriptions. The plutei have rather uniformly shaped string courses with the friezes of threefold arcades with palmettes and the pilasters with a vegetable tendril and cross on top, often carved on the same pluteus slab. Their central fields bear much more varied decoration and the plutei which particularly stand out in their originality and imagination are those with the large circular motives, which surpass all the other similar motives and represent one of the highlights of the Pre-Romanesque sculptural expression on the eastern Adraitic coast. Along with these standard parts of the liturgical installations the masters of the Stone Carving Workshop of Kotor, unlike their predecessors, decorate also the architectural elements – transennae, small columns of the biphorae, door and window frames and the imposts of the square pylons which supported the dome in the memoria of St. Tryphon, which indicates that they were at the same time engaged in the building of the churches they equipped. The number of the sites and the territory on which that workshop is active is much bigger than that on which the production of the Stone Carving Workshop from the Time of Bishop Iohannes was observed. We encounter the works of this workshop on even 13 sites in the Bay of Kotor: among the urban centers those are, apart from Kotor where it equipped three sacral buildings (the episcopal complex with the memoria of St. Tryphon and the churches of St. Mary and St. Michael), also Budva with its early medieval remodeling of the Early Christian basilica, and even four Benedictine sites on which the reliefs confirm their early coming to the Bay of Kotor, during the first half of the 9th century at the latest (except St. Michael's Church in the town, those are the churches on Prevlaka, on the island of St. George in front of Perast and probably St. Mary's Church in Rose). The rest of the localities are smaller, newly built votive or parish churches by the coast or deeper on land (St. Luke's Church in Škaljari, St. Paul's Church in Muo, St. Stephen's Church in Vranovići), which confirm an intensified building activity and a stronger wave of christianization of the local population. In the case of Vranovići, the surviving inscription allowed the definition of the Slavic origin of the benefactor or an early appearance of the mingling of the Slavic population with that of a foreign, probably Germanic origin, by means of marital bonds. The stone carvers of the Kotor Workshop significantly expand the territory of their activity. A comparative analysis indicated significant iconographical and visualmorphological similarities with the equippment of the few town churches in Dubrovnik(the oldest Dubrovnik Cathedral, St. Stephen's Church on Pustijerna, locality "on Andrija" and St. Mary's Church on Kaštel), but also on a number of sites on the territory of Astarea(Rijeka Dubrovačka, the Elaphites, Lokrum), even further in the peripheral areas of Zahumlje and Travunija (Ošlje, Brsečine, St. Andrew's Church in Kuti). Heading southwards, its production is observed in all the towns the Theme of Dyrrhachium, although on a significantly smaller number of localities. The richness of the comparative material on the territory of Dubrovnik suggests a particularly distinct receptiveness of this ambience towards the works of the Stone Carving Workshop of Kotor, which will finally result in the development of the local stone carving activity and the making of the Dubrovnik subsidiary which educated local masters of a younger generation, who eventually contributed to the continuity of the sculptoral activity evident on the territory of Dubrovnik until the end of the Pre-Romanesque period. After the undertaken research, which indicated a large number of new localities and their wide diffusion, thus significantly increasing the number of reliefs attributed to this workshop, it is proposed that the time of its activity should be extended to the mid-ninth century. This proposal was prompted also by the fact that the production of this workshop in Kotor is encoutered on the buildings where the earlier Stone Carving Workshop from the Time of Bishop Iohannes worked, with certain additions and renovations of the liturgical installations which can perhaps be dated after the year 841, when the invasion of Kotor by the Saracens was documented in historical sources. After this sweep of the artistic and building activity in the Bay of Kotor, politically difficult and unstable circumstances for the Adriatic towns ensued in the middle of the 9th century. Frequent incursions of the Arab fleet in the Adriatic caused insecurity and resulted in the deficiency of the new orders, thus in the stagnation of the stone carving production in Kotor. From the end of the 9th century, however, the situation changes - the artistic leadership is taken over by the territory of Pelješac and Dubrovnik, where the new sclavinia Zahumlje, with the seat in Ston, develops and rises in the 10th century and where the research defined two layers of Pre-Romanesque sculpture. Only a few echoes of this production are present in Kotor on a number of reliefs which may be brought into connection with the first layer of furnishing of the St. Michael's Church in Ston (the fragments with the inscription PRIORI from the St. Mary's Church), and also the second layer of the Pelješac sculpture which is spreading southwards to the whole of the Dubrovnik area in the 11th century encompassing also the Bay of Kotor. One of the most beautiful realization of this peculiar visual language certainly is the fitting of the unknown church on Sušćepan above Igalo. A number of reliefs decorated solely with geometrical braiding net in a more complex composition and with peculiarly shaped details can be connected to the furnishing of the St. Peter the Great's Church in Dubrovnik, made approximately in the 2nd half of the of the 10th century or a while earlier, while the gable from the St. Mary's Church demonstrated a formal and performative similarity with the reliefs from Zavala in the hinterland of Zahumlje. The 11th century sculpture is not particularly numerous, but its visual-morphological qualities and workshop origin are rather heterogeneous. Although it was not possible to attribute all of the examples to the exact workshops, these reliefs are still evaluated and somewhat more precisely dated. Thus a layer of the reliefs from the Kotor Cathedral is observed which could indicate a new wake of the local stone carving activity in town, now subjected to various influences. Namely, it is the altar screen attributed to the second phase of the fittings of the memoria of St. Tryphon, pluteus with the peacocks on the cornice and the lost fragment of the frieze with the images of the apostles. All of them share the qualities present also in the sculpture of the northern and central Dalmatia in the period of transition towards the early Romanesque style, those being the enhanced voluminosity in the carved shapes, introduction and richness of the new ornamental and vegetative motives, animal figures and finally the appearance of the anthropomorphic depiction which culminated on the extraordinary plutei from Kuti and that is the point where the Pre-Romanesque stone carving merges with the new Romanesque stylistic currents, which we will encounter for the first time in their mature shape only at the building site of the new Cathedral of Kotor in the mid-12th century. Outside of the town, on Tivat territory there are two interesting inscriptions with the names of the benefactor Albolinus, son of Bergolini on the one from the St. Sergius' Church on Đurđevo brdo, and master Regolus on that from Bogdašići. Both names indicate their Italic origin: that of Albolinus demonstates direct analogies with the mortuary inscription of the first Dubrovnik archbishop Vitalis from Lokrum, while Regolus, who built the cloister of the newly built St. Peter's Monastery in the late 11th century, probably was a Benedictine monk of a southern Italian descent. This is how, at least for now, only the inscriptions are the material confirmations of the awakened connections with the Italian side of the Adriatic coast, which is quite in tune with historical evidence about the subordination of the Kotor diocese to the archbishopric of Italian Bari in the first quarter of the 11th century. The research carried out on the Pre-Romanesque reliefs of the Bay of Kotor, through which I strove to improve the knowledge about the workshop production on the territory of the bay in the period from the late 8th until the beginning of the 12th century, not only significantly improved this hitherto somewhat neglected and isolated part of the corpus of the Pre-Romanesque sculpture of the eastern Adriatic, but also enabled a clearer perception of the development of the early medieval sculpture in the wider scope of the southern Dalmatia in its entirety. This is how an inextricable connection between the Pre- Romanesque sculpture of Dubrovnik and Kotor was established during the whole period of the Early Middle Ages. The initial impulse in this development seems to belongs to Kotor, where, in accordance with the northerly Adriatic centres, the top masters of the Stone Carving Workshop from the Time of Bishop Iohannes are active in the end of the 8th century already, suceeded by the Kotor Stone Carving Workshop. The people of Dubrovnik owe to the latter workshop the furnishing of their oldest town churches with the Pre-Romanesque liturgical installations during the 1st half of the 9th century, but also much more than that – the education of the local masters which will initiate the development of the local stone carving activity, and finally its complete independence and further continued growth which will ensue in the later period in Dubrovnik. In this manner the stone carving craft spread and the production was more and more ramified, meeting the growing needs of the clients for the fittings of the sacral buildings wich sprouted, for the most part, during the 9th century, whereas on the territory of the Slavic state formations Zahumlje and Travunija more often from the 10th century onwards, as demonstated by the later material from Pelješac and Dubrovnik. The move of the focus of the stone carving production from the south to the north is, therefore, noticeable, the situation in the later period being inverse, and thus the Bay of Kotor becomes mostly receptive ambience for the sculpture of Dubrovnik and Pelješac. Finally, taking into consideration the Pre-Romanesque sculpture of whole Dalmatia, the same conclusion other authors came to arises: in the earlier period there is a significant similarity and homogeneity between the reliefs on the whole of the eastern Adriatic coast, which indicates the same source of that sculpture, just as it is shown by the analysis of the Stone Carving Workshop from the Time of Bishop Iohannes. Later, however, as the workshop production was spreading, helped by the education of the local masters in the workshops of those who come from the more developed artistic backgrounds by mediation of the clients who were mostly the members of the ecclesiastical elite, the regional differences between the growing number of the workshop centres which receive influences from varios sources become increasingly apparent. This is how the heterogeneity of the 11th-century sculpture in the Bay of Kotor can be explained, but also the development of the stone carving activity on the wider territory of the southern Dalmatia.

Item Type: PhD Thesis
Uncontrolled Keywords: Boka kotorska, Kotor, južna Dalmacija, predromanika, skulptura, Klesarska radionica iz doba biskupa Ivana, Kotorska klesarska radionica
Subjects: History of art
Departments: Department of Art History
Supervisor: Jakšić, Nikola
Date Deposited: 13 May 2015 11:26
Last Modified: 13 May 2015 11:26

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