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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.

Places to visit

St Mary’s Church

St Mary’s Church in Crkvina was a structure with a nave and two aisles separated by piers and tripartite sanctuary in the straight eastern wall built in the first half of the 9th century. A tripartite westwork was erected around the middle of the 9th century. The architecture shows the Carolingian influence. The interior of the Church was refurbished four times with few smaller interventions between the 9th and the 11th century. The main part of the church furniture was the altar screen which divided the sanctuary from the nave and aisles. There is more then 1300 pieces of the sculpture found on the site from which it can be seen the changes in taste and artistic styles in the given period. In the 11th century St Mary’s became the cathedral for the newly founded Bishopric of Knin.

St Cecilia’s Church

St Cecilia’s church was an aisled, triapsidal structure with cruciform pillars which supported a ribbed barrel vault. There were westwork and belfry tower on the western side of the church. It belongs to the group of churches with rounded buttresses which were built in the 9th century in Kosovo area and in it’s vicinity. The sculpture found on the site dates St Cecilia’s to the period of the Duke’s Branimir reign. According to the legend this was the place where the Croatian nobles killed King Zvonimir in 1089 at the assembly when the King wanted to lead an army to the first Crusade.

Architectural complex by St Mary’s

An architectural complex by St Mary’s was built after the church. It’s function and datation is still being discussed in expert and scientific literature. Some authors date it to the 9th century, and some to the 11th. It has been interpreted as a monastery, the bishop’s residence or a royal court. Recent archaeological excavations have shown that this extension was built on the foundations of a Roman economic structure.

Cemetery around St Mary’s

From the middle of the 9th century a cemetery developed around St Mary‘s. At first the members of the highest social class were buried near the church and in its narthex which can be concluded from the rich finds of jewelry and cavalry spurs discovered in the graves. Unlike the graves from the late 8th and the early 9th centuries, these show a completely Christianized population. With the spread of Christianity amongst the ordinary population, all other cemeteries in Kosovo were abandoned and the people began to be buried right next to the St Mary‘s. During the 11th century cemeteries within the church yards became mandatory so this one gained the purpose of the parish cemetery and remained in use during the Late Middle Ages. It is being in use still today as Roman Catholic cemetery.

Borna’s sarcophagus

The sarcophagus was found in the vestibule of St Mary’s in 1891. It was made of a Roman spolia, probably from a beam. The contents of the sarcophagus were discovered intact with a male skeleton in well-preserved clothes under a silk cloak, with leather footwear and a silk cap which, unfortunately, have not survived to the present day. The luxurious Carolingian spurs found in the grave can be dated to the first half of the 9th century. Due to that datation the grave was connected with the Duke Borna. He was the first Croatian duke known by name who was mentioned in the written sources. Borna personally visited the court of Louis the Pious in 820 due to the consultation on the military actions against Duke Ljudevit of Pannonia.

Nearby locations

Besides the site of Crkvina there are two other archeological sites in Biskupija with the remains of the Pre-Romanesque churches:

St Cecilia-Stupovi circa 100 meters from the basilica of St Mary’s.

The church at the site of Lopuška Glavica circa 1 km from the basilica of St Mary’s.

There are road signs on the main village road indicating all the archeological sites in Biskupija.

Museum of Croatian Archeological Monuments in Split
Most of the archaeological findings from Biskupija are placed and conserved in this museum.

Address: Stjepana Gunjače, 21000 Split
E-mail: muzej@mhas-split.hr
Open: Winter 9am-4pm / Summer 9am-1pm and 6pm-9pm; closed on Sundays

Places to visit Nearby locations

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