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Biskupija Crkvina

Biskupija Crkvina was one of the most significant centres of the medieval Croatian state spanning the 9th and 11th centuries. Nowadays it is a village with still visible remains of the Basilica of the Virgin Mary, a part of the archaeological and architectural complex.

  • Before AD 850

Before AD 850

Landscape

Croatia is considered a classic example of European karst landscape. Karst formations in Croatia are best explored in the Dinarides mountains, and Croatian designations for karst formations have entered other world languages (e.g. German: Doline, Polje, Uvala; French: doline, poljé, ponor; Spanish: dolina, poljé). Biskupija is a village located 7 km south-east of Knin and is situated in the karst field of Kosovo. Fig. 1

Fig. 1: Location of Biskupija. Credit: Google Earth

Fig. 1: Location of Biskupija. Credit: Google Earth

The Kosovo Field is a karst field developed from the combined actions of tectonics and river erosion and deposited the loose soil on the bottom which has made it very fertile and suitable for habitation. The area of the Kosovo covers 33 square kilometers. It is located between the Field of Knin and Petar’s Field with which it is connected.

In the north, the connection between Kosovo Field and the Field of Knin is narrowed by the Konj (meaning ‘horse’ in Croatian) mountain and the Burum ridge; in the south Petar’s Field is separated from Kosovo Field by the low limestone pass at Tepljuh. There are five rivers and rivulets that run through the fields of Kosovo and Knin – the Krka and its tributaries Butižnica, Orašnica, Kosovčica and Krčić. Fig. 2

Fig. 2: Krčić waterfall. Credit: www.pticica.com

Fig. 2: Krčić waterfall. Credit: www.pticica.com

The Krka is the richest ichthyologic river of the Adriatic basin and besides the number of fish species, Krka is a first-class natural monument and is amongst the most valuable European ornithological reserves.1 In Kosovo Polje there are the lakes of Šareno and Burumsko, as well as Bračić Lake which is near the village of Biskupija.Fig. 3

Fig. 3: Bračić lake near Biskupija. Credit: Z. Alajbeg

Fig. 3: Bračić lake near Biskupija. Credit: Z. Alajbeg

The whole area is mostly rural with scattered villages and farms. The local people have always been involved in agriculture and livestock breeding.

Settlement

There are indications that the field was inhabited in the Neolithic period, but not one locality has been explored yet. The same situation is in Cetina Culture and Bronze Age too. In the Iron Age, the Knin area is located within Liburnian cultural groups. The basic form of the settlement in this and the previous period of the Bronze Age are the hill forts/settlements. 2

During the Roman period, Kosovo Field was part of the territory of Illyria. In AD 9 Illyria was arranged as a Roman provinces, Pannonia and Dalmatia and Kosovo Field have been in Dalmatia. 3 In the area of Kosovo Field three villae rusticae have been discovered.Fig. 4 St Mary’s church in Biskupija was built on the remains of a Roman villa. 4 Fig. 5

Fig. 4: The 4th century facility object found in the village of Orlić near Biskupija. Credit: A. Jurčević

Fig. 4: The 4th century facility object found in the village of Orlić near Biskupija. Credit: A. Jurčević

Fig. 5: Fundaments of the Roman villa under the medieval sacral complex of Crkvina in Biskupija. Credit: A. Jurčević

Fig. 5: Fundaments of the Roman villa under the medieval sacral complex of Crkvina in Biskupija. Credit: A. Jurčević

The area of Kosovo Field belonged to the Salona diocese during the 3rd century. The spread of Christianity is testified by the early Christian mosaic inscription in the Villa Rustica in the village of Orlić. 5

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Dalmatia first came under the rule of Odoacer (AD 480-490), and subsequently it became a part of the state founded by the Ostrogoths (AD 490-530). Fig. 6

Fig. 6: Ostrogothic fibula found in Biskupija; gold, almandine; 6 × 1,8 cm; Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments. Credit: A. Jurčević

Fig. 6: Ostrogothic fibula found in Biskupija; gold, almandine; 6 × 1,8 cm; Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments. Credit: A. Jurčević

After the church synode in AD 533 new diocese was established in Ludrum, which was located near Knin. From this period the remains of a small church from the 5th or 6th century were discovered in the immediate vicinity of Crkvina in Biskupija. 6
Shortly after the Avars invaded Dalmatia (AD 597), Slavs began to advance, and shortly afterwards the Croats. From Biskupija comes one of the most significant Avaric finds from the 7th century in Croatia. 7 Fig. 7

Fig. 7: Avaric matrices for pressing the jewelry, belt sets and horse harnesses from 7th century found in Biskupija; bronze; above row (from left to right): 7,2 × 5,3; 2,9 × 2,1; 1,5 × 2,2 cm, lower row (from left to right): 2,9 × 2,1; 2,9 × 2,1; 1,5 × 2,2 cm; Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments. Credit: Z. Alajbeg

Fig. 7: Avaric matrices for pressing the jewelry, belt sets and horse harnesses from 7th century found in Biskupija; bronze; above row (from left to right): 7,2 × 5,3; 2,9 × 2,1; 1,5 × 2,2 cm, lower row (from left to right): 2,9 × 2,1; 2,9 × 2,1; 1,5 × 2,2 cm; Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments. Credit: Z. Alajbeg

There are two Slavic cemeteries from the 8th century below mounds in Biskupija and Orlić where appear graves with luxurious weapons and riding gear of Carolingian provenance, which bears witness to beginning of the formation of the social elite under Western influence. 8 Fig. 8 The acceptance of Christianity by the highest social class is undoubtedly related to the construction of St Mary’s church at the site of Crkvina in Biskupija. Fig. 9 A sarcophagus made ​​of Roman spolia was found by the basilica where the first known Croatian Duke Borna was buried in AD 821. 9 Fig. 10

Fig. 8: Carolingian spurs from 8th century Slavic cemeteries in Biskupija; iron, silver; above pair: 16,7 × 8 cm, lower pair: 10,5 × 7 cm; Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments. Credit: Z. Alajbeg

Fig. 8: Carolingian spurs from 8th century Slavic cemeteries in Biskupija; iron, silver; above pair: 16,7 × 8 cm, lower pair: 10,5 × 7 cm; Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments. Credit: Z. Alajbeg

Fig. 9: Carolingian censer from the second half of 8th century found at the spring of the Cetina river near Biskupija; bronze, gilded silver; 6,2 × 6,2 cm, hight with the chainlet: 34 cm; Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments. Credit: Z. Alajbeg

Fig. 9: Carolingian censer from the second half of 8th century found at the spring of the Cetina river near Biskupija; bronze, gilded silver; 6,2 × 6,2 cm, hight with the chainlet: 34 cm; Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments. Credit: Z. Alajbeg

Fig. 10: ‘Borna’s sarcophagus’ made of Roman spolia found by the church of St Mary at Crkvina in Biskupija; limestone; 224 × 82 × 45 cm; Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments. Credit: Z Alajbeg

Fig. 10: ‘Borna’s sarcophagus’ made of Roman spolia found by the church of St Mary at Crkvina in Biskupija; limestone; 224 × 82 × 45 cm; Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments. Credit: Z Alajbeg

References

1 Veliki atlas Hrvatske, Zagreb, 2002.

2 Budimir, Milojko, ‘Arheološka topografija kninske općine’ [The archaeological topography of the Knin district], in Arheološka istraživanja u Kninu i Kninskoj krajini / Archeological research in Knin and the Region of Knin, Znanstveni skup / Conference – Knin 13-15, X. 1987, IzdHAD 15 (1987), 1992, pp. 23-32 [eng. 32]

3 Ibid.

4 Zaninović, Marin, ‘Ranokršćanski mozaični natpis iz Orlića kraj Knina’, Starohrvatska prosvjeta, III, 30, 2004, pp.25-32

5 Ibid.

6 Gunjača, Stjepan, Review of the excavations in Biskupija near Knin in 1950. Yearbook of the Yugoslav Academy of Arts and Sciences, 57, Zagreb, 1953, pp. 9-49

7 Korešec, Josip ‘Ostava brončanih matrica za otiskivanje u Biskupiji kod Knina’, Starohrvatska prosvjeta, III, 6, 1958, pp. 29-44

8 Jurčević, Ante, ‘Nalazi ranokarolinškog oružja i konjaničke opreme u doba formiranjaHrvatske Kneževine’, Starohrvatska prosvjeta III, 38, 2011, pp. 111-147

9 Ibid.

Continue to: AD 850 – 1050

Landscape Settlement

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