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Architecture and sculpture from the site Crkvina in Biskupija near Knin


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Jurčević, Ante. (2016). Architecture and sculpture from the site Crkvina in Biskupija near Knin. PhD Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of Archaeology.
(Poslijediplomski doktorski studij arheologije) [mentor Jarak, Mirja].

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The site of Crkvina is located in the village of Biskupija near Knin. Biskupija, along with Nin, Solin and Knin, is one of the most important early medieval settlements in the Kingdom of Croatia. The beginnings of interest in the site at Crkvina in Biskupija are linked to the end of the 19th century and the activities of Franciscan Stjepan Zlatović, who was, along with his pastoral work, also involved in history and archaeology. Zlatović drew attention to the account of Franciscan Gašpar Vinjalić from 1746 in which he gave the first descriptions of the sites in the Biskupija area, and he supplemented these descriptions with his own observations.Upon his initiative, the young Franciscan Lujo Marun was appointed the parish priest of Knin. With Marun’s arrival in Knin began a period of major research projects that would lay the foundations of medieval archaeology in Croatia, as well as the Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments. In the period after the Second World War S. Gunjača began a series of revisory archaeological investigations in the area of Biskupija, as well as at Crkvina which was excavated in the period between 1951 and 1957. He published the results of the investigation and his thoughts about the site in an extensive report from 1953. With a detailed analysis of the architectural complex Gunjača assumed two distinct phases of construction. In the first, the oldest, a three-nave basilica was built with no western front (narthex and bell tower) and after that, a western front and complex with a cloister on the northern side of the church. From the ground plan it is also evident that the complex was intersected by the country road, which L. Marun unsuccessfully attempted to avoid at the end of the 19th century, whilst the southern part of the site - the basilica and part of the northern annex - remained within the village’s Roman Catholic cemetery, which in the period between Marun’s and Gunjača’s excavations was enclosed by a stone wall. Gunjača described the basilica as a three-nave building with a three-part sanctuary without a prominent external apse. Due to the rustic building texhnique he dated it to the 9th or 10th century and not the 11th, as Karaman had previously determined. He interpreted the rooms of the narthex as the royal mausoleum, and the annexed architectural complex along the northern side as a monastery. The question of the dating of the monastery Gunjača left unanswered, and also excluded the possibility that the remains at Crkvina belonged to the cathedral and the residence of the Croatian court bishop. After Gunjača’s revision, until 2008, there were no serious archaeological investigations at Crkvina. From the oldest layer at Crkvina in Biskupija two separate groups of graves can be considered – the graves south of the basilica and those underneath it, as well as graves 88 and 125 underneath the northern annex. Both groups belong to approximately the same time, in other words the Biskupija-Crkvina horizon. They can be placed within the range of the last decade of the 8th century to the 920s. All precede the formation of the architectural complex at Crkvina, and therefore the possibility that this concerns a mausoleum in the literal sense should be rejected. Nevertheless, it is quite clear that the location at which the basilica would be erected was chosen precisely because of the mentioned graves. The approximate date of the construction of the basilica was determined by a burial in a sarcophagus beneath the northern room of the narthex. This sarcophagus was made from ancient spolia, and in the literature the name of the sarcophagus with hippocampi became attached to it. It is linked to the work of the Workshop of the Master of the Koljani chancel panel which is also attributed to the first equipping of the basilica. Considering that this happened in the period between 820 and 830 the burial of the deceased in the sarcophagus must also have happened at the same time. The beginning of the 9th century is also the time of the Christianisation, and the affiliation to Christianity of the buried in sarcophagus is proved by the cross carved on its lid. Workshop of the Master of the Koljani chancel panel built and furnished the three-nave basilica at Crkvina in Biskupija in the period between 820 and 830. This workshop, which normally worked at royal sites, carved the altar screen (on which is also preserved the first record of the titular of the Church of St Mary and St Stephen), then the hexagonal ciborium and stone holy water font. The Workshop of the Master of the Koljani chancel panel also made the sarcophagus with hippocampi in which Duke Borna or one of his contemporaries was buried. The earliest the narthex could have been added to the church was after the burial in the sarcophagus with the hippocampi, sometime in the second third of the 9th century, and no later than the end of the 10th century. In this time span the interior of the church went through two changes. The first took place at the end of the 9th century when the Court workshop from the time of Duke Branimir, which operated in the period from 879 to 892, executed the altar screen. Belonging to this screen is a fragment of the gable with the remains of an inscription [...] DVX GLO[riosus... ]. Soon after, at the beginning of the 10th century, the Benedictine workshop which operated at the time of Duke Branimir (and Muncimir), fitted the basilica with a new altar screen. The same workshop also carried out the pulpit with rosettes. Therefore, it is safe to assume that it was during one of these reconstructions that the narthex with the bell tower was also. New major changes happened in the mid-11th century. In the time of King Petar Krešimir IV (1058-1074) there was some renovation at Crkvina which was not only limited to the intervention to the interior of the basilica but related to the architectural parts (transennae) too. The Knin-Zadar workshop carried out the restoration and it carved the altar screen, the quadrilateral altar ciborium and beam with the depiction of a fantastic animal. Soon after, in the last quarter of the 11th century, the Romanesque workshop from Knin was active at Crkvina so that the smaller quadrilateral ciborium and the architectural decoration of unknown purpose can be attributed to this workshop. Changes to the upper parts of the altar screen were also made, and new beams and the already noted gable with the depiction of the Mother of God were placed, whereby the titular of the church was once more confirmed. At present there is not much to say about the time of the emergence of the northern annex next to the basilica nor about its function. It is only certain that it happened after the end of the 8th century and the beginning of the 9th century to which point the correctly dated graves 88 and 125 underneath the architecture. The probability exists that the annex emerged either at the time of the erection of the basilica or when the narthex with the bell tower was finished. This question still remains unanswered.

Item Type: PhD Thesis
Uncontrolled Keywords: Croatian Principality/Kingdom, Biskupija-Crkvina, architecture, sculpture, stone carving workshops, preromanesque church furniture, early romanesque church furniture
Subjects: Archaeology
Departments: Department of Archaeology
Supervisor: Jarak, Mirja
Additional Information: Poslijediplomski doktorski studij arheologije
Date Deposited: 02 Feb 2018 09:38
Last Modified: 02 Feb 2018 09:38

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