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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.

  • Modern Era – Today

Modern Era – Today

Archaeological Research

The ruins of the sacral architecture on the site of Crkvina in Biskupija were first made public by the Franciscans Gašpar Vinjalić (in 1746) and Stjepan Zlatović (in 1880).

The first archeological excavations started in 1886 and were led by amateur archeologist, the Franciscan Lujo Marun. Fig. 22 The excavations lasted until the First World War with minor interruptions. These researches were not accompanied with adequate documentation, and their results are known only from Marun’s diary notes. From the available data it can be concluded that the late medieval Church of St Luke was deconstructed at the end of the 19th century and in the early 20th century and a large number of fragmented church furniture from the period of the 9th to the 11th century was uncovered in its walls. About 1,000 graves were researched spanning the 8th to 15th centuries. There is no documentation about them, and the finds are now stored in the Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments. 25

Fig. 22: The first researcher in Crkvina Lujo Marun and head of revision researches Stjepan Gunjača together in Knin in 1938, a few months before the death of Marun. Credit: MHAS archive

Fig. 22: The first researcher in Crkvina Lujo Marun and head of revision researches Stjepan Gunjača together in Knin in 1938, a few months before the death of Marun. Credit: MHAS archive

The ground plan of the Church of St Mary was unknown until 1951. In that year the first systematic archaeological excavations were carried out under the supervision of academic Stjepan Gunjača and the basilica’s foundations were conserved. Fig. 23 Fig. 24 From a total of 1,300 pieces of stone church furniture only fifty have been published.26 Fig. 25

Fig. 23: Revision researches in Crkvina in 1950. Credit: MHAS archive

Fig. 23: Revision researches in Crkvina in 1950. Credit: MHAS archive

Fig. 24: Revision researches in Crkvina in 1950. Credit: MHAS archive

Fig. 24: Revision researches in Crkvina in 1950. Credit: MHAS archive

Fig. 25: Revision researches in Crkvina in 1950. Credit: MHAS archive

Fig. 25: Revision researches in Crkvina in 1950. Credit: MHAS archive

From 2005 the Roman Catholic population of Biskupija began to endanger the remains of the medieval basilica with the raising of new marble tombs next to its foundation. This practice continued despite the ban given by the Monument’s Conservation Department. In 2011 the problem was finally solved by determining the zone of burials in the excavated part of the site where there are no architectural remains.

Until recent times (2014) there has been no archaeological activity on the site; one part of it was covered with waste for decades and it was overgrown with dense vegetation. Fig. 26 Clearing the site of vegetation and debris began in 2008 and lasted until 2010; 60 truck trailers of various rubbish were taken away. Fig. 27 In 2011 the asphalt road, which passed through the site was removed and in 2012 the review of the excavation of the northern extension of the basilica began along with the preventive protection of the remains of the walls. 27 Fig. 28

Fig. 26: Cleaning the vegetation in 2009. Credit: MHAS documentation

Fig. 26: Cleaning the vegetation in 2009. Credit: MHAS documentation

Fig. 27: Removal of the waste from the site in 2010. Credit: MHAS documentation

Fig. 27: Removal of the waste from the site in 2010. Credit: MHAS documentation

Fig. 28: Archaeological researches in 2012. Credit: MHAS documentation

Fig. 28: Archaeological researches in 2012. Credit: MHAS documentation

Site Today

Biskupija is now just a village in the municipality of the same name with the few predominantly elderly inhabitants (the population of the municipality of Biskupija was about 3,000 before the war and today it is somewhere between 600-700 of whom most are over the age of 65).

At the site there are still visible remnants of the Basilica of St Mary’s and part of the extension of the architectural complex north of the removed asphalt road. Still to do is the excavation of the part of the complex under the said road and its connection with the remains of the basilica; to do so parts of the stone fences and hedges around the parish church and the Roman Catholic cemetery have to be removed. Recent archaeological excavations have shown that the revision from 1951 did not fully define the northern extension for it extends further to the north and west to adjacent privately owned arable plots. For further research an agreement with the owners of these parcels of land is required. A complete presentation of the site with all the inherited layers is not possible before the completion of these studies.

References

25 Marun, Lujo, ‘Bilježke kroz starinarske izkopine u kninskoj okolici od god. 1885 – 1890′, Glasnik starinarskoga družtva u Kninu,Vjesnik hrvatskog arkeologičkog društva, I/12, 1890
Marun, Lujo, ‘Bilježke kroz starinarske izkopine u kninskoj okolici od god. 1885 – 1890′, Glasnik starinarskoga družtva u Kninu, Vjesnik hrvatskog arkeologičkog društva, I,13, 1891, br. 2, pp. 62 – 64
Marun, Lujo, ‘Bilježke kroz starinarske izkopine u kninskoj okolici od god. 1885 – 1890′, Glasnik starinarskoga družtva u Kninu, Vjesnik hrvatskog arkeologičkog društva, I, 13, 1891, br. 3. 3, p. 96

26 Gunjača, Stjepan, ‘Revizija iskopina u Biskupiji kod Knina godine 1950′, Ljetopis JAZU, 57 (1949 – 1950), 1953, pp. 9 – 49
Gunjača, Stjepan, ‘Radovi na Crkvini u Biskupiji g. 1957′, Ljetopis JAZU, 64 (1957), 1960, pp. 201 – 203

27 Petrinec, Maja, ‘Groblje na Crkvini u Biskupiji – rezultati revizijskih istraživanja Stjepana Gunjače’, Starohrvatska prosvjeta, III, 36, 2009, pp. 163-197

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