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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.

  • Personalities

Personalities

Duke Borna

Duke Borna was the first Croatian duke known by name who was mentioned in the written sources (Vita Hludowici Imperatoris 818, Annales regni Francorum 819 and Annales Sithienses 821). Being the vassal of the Frankish king, he took part in the suppression of the rebellion in Pannonia that was led by the Slavic Duke Ljudevit. Borna personally visited the court of Louis the Pious in 820 due to the consultation on the military actions against Duke Ljudevitudovic of Pannonia. Some scholars believe he was buried next to the Church of St Mary in Biskupija in a sarcophagus made of Roman spolia with an inscribed cross on the lid. The luxurious Carolingian spurs and a golden Byzantine coin were found in the sarcophagus. Fig. 29

Fig. 29: Lujo Marun with the so-called Sarcophagus of Duke Borna and it’s inventory. Credit: MHAS archive

Fig. 29: Lujo Marun with the so-called Sarcophagus of Duke Borna and it’s inventory. Credit: MHAS archive

Duke Branimir

Duke Branimir ruled Croatia from the late 870’s until the beginning of the 890’s. He became duke after he displaced Duke Zdeslav, Trpimir’s son. Duke Zdeslav was a Byzantine protégé, so Branimir asked the pope to confirm his position after he seized the Croatian throne. Pope John VIII responded in a mail addressing Branimir as “dear son” and sending his blessings to his rule and the state. At the time of tension between the pope and Constantinople’s patriarch Fotius, the ally in the hinterlands of the Byzantine towns in Dalmatia, was more than welcome in Rome. On the other hand, Branimir inherited quite an opulent income from his predecessor since the Byzantine emperor allowed the Dalmatian towns to pay his tribute to the Croatian duke. Branimir’s wealth left a mark in numerous finds in churches and in sculpture from his period (St Cecilia in Biskupija, St Saviour on the River Cetina, the church in Biograd, finds in Šopot, Muć, Koljani etc.). Fig. 30

Fig. 30: Monument to Duke Branimir in the town of Nin, the work of Josip Poljan. Credit: www.croatia.hr

Fig. 30: Monument to Duke Branimir in the town of Nin, the work of Josip Poljan. Credit: www.croatia.hr

The Master of the koljani chancel panel

The Master of the Koljani chancel panel is a sculptor from the period of Duke Branimir who made the sculpture for the Church of St Mary in Crkvina, and the nearby church in Koljani. His works are among the best quality sculpture of early medieval Croatia. The localities in which he carved were undoubtedly created for the needs of the ruling families whose members were buried in St Mary’s in Crkvina. He carved large surfaces with geometrical ornaments following drawn patterns very freely, and though the restless and inventive work of his chisel he brought life into the dry stereotype of the strict geometry imposed on him by the design. In this way he managed to give maximum expression to the horror vacui effect as one of the basic postulates of the style. Fig. 31

Fig. 31: Altar screen from Koljani; limestone; 455 × 320 cm. Credit: Z. Alajbeg

Fig. 31: Altar screen from Koljani; limestone; 455 × 320 cm. Credit: Z. Alajbeg

King Zvonimir

Before he became the king, Zvonimir (?-1089) was the Ban in Slavonia – the region between the Sava and Drava rivers which became the part of Croatian Kingdom during the 10th century. He took the Hungarian princess Jelena/Ilona (Helen) for his wife. During the time of the struggles between Pope Gregory VII and Emperor Henry IV, King Zvonimir swore allegiance to the pope. He was the last powerful ruler of the Croatian Kingdom. Legend says that he, as the pope’s ally, gathered the Croatian assembly in Kosovo to gather an army for the Crusade, but the nobility refused to go to the war abroad and killed the king. At death’s door, he cursed the Croatians to lose their state for the next thousand years. However, historians agree that Zvonimir died in 1089 of natural causes in old age leaving the throne without a legal heir. The circumstances were used by Hungarian King Ladislaus, Zvonimir’s brother-in-law, who claimed his right to the throne after the dowager queen (Ladislaus’s sister Jelena) asked him to take the crown. Fig. 32

Fig. 32: Representation of a sovereign on a throne; relief placed in the baptistery of the Split cathedral; marble; dimensions 87 × 57 × 12cm. Credit: MHAS archive

Fig. 32: Representation of a sovereign on a throne; relief placed in the baptistery of the Split cathedral; marble; dimensions 87 × 57 × 12cm. Credit: MHAS archive

Lujo Marun

Lujo Marun (1857-1939) was the first researcher of the site. He was a Franciscan and due to his great interest in medieval monuments he was appointed vicar of the Knin parish. In spite of his amateurism, his persistence in excavations drew attention in Croatia and abroad to the significance of the site in Biskupija (the finds of the Carolingian weapons and the riding gear were preserved in Mainz at the time). In order to provide finances for further research, he undertook a business venture in mining and trading, affairs that were forbidden to the Franciscans because of their vow to poverty. Consequently, he left the order. In spite of this, he never stopped wearing the Franciscan robe while visiting Biskupija on horse back. Fig. 33

Fig. 33: Lujo Marun. Credit: MHAS documentation

Fig. 33: Lujo Marun. Credit: MHAS documentation