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Thomas Graham Jackson
Relevant Non-Istrians
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Notes on the Architecture of the Eastern Coast of the Adriatic

[Source: T.G. Jackson, "Notes on the Architecture of the Eastern Coast of the Adriatic," The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, Vol. 14, No. 72 (Mar., 1909), pp. 343-345.]

[343] It is not only since the problem of 'The Near East' has begun 'once more to fill the columns of the newspapers that the attention of Englishmen has been attracted Ito the south-eastern corner of Europe, the Balkan peninsula land lands contiguous to it. English travellers from the days of James I to our own have made us acquainted more or less well with the antiquities to be found on the Adriatic littoral, and to a less extent with the scenery and the people of the rarely visited interior. And, indeed, apart from the political questions of which the seeds are to be found there, and which threaten from time to time to disturb the peace of all Europe, there is a wonderful fascination about that region, peopled by so heterogeneous an assemblage of nationalities, differing so widely and so irreconcileably in race, language and religion. The Turk, who once ruled from the Danube to Greece, has now withdrawn to narrower limits, but he has left his creed and his social economy in Bosnia and Herzegovina; and at Mostar and Serajevo, if you shut your eyes to the comparatively few buildings that date from the Austrian occupation, you find yourself 'in pieno Oriente'. The bulk of the population is Slav Croat in the north, Serb in the south and bordering on the lands still Turkish there is the gallant little principality of Montenegro, which alone preserved its independence after the fatal day of Kossovo, and has never borne the Turkish yoke. Farther north is the Bulgarian, who is not a Slav, though he has adopted the Slavonic tongue. In Dalmatia and Istria, and the occupied provinces, is the Austrian, who now rules in place of the Venetian Republic and the Bosnian kings; and finally in the cities of the Adriatic coast and islands are the descendants of the old Latin stock, who have preserved the tradition of Roman descent, and who still speak Italian, and are still struggling pathetically, and it appears hopelessly, to keep alive the old Coltura Latino, in the midst of the rising tide of Slavonism, which seems destined to extinguish it.

It was only in these towns on the seaboard or islands of Dalmatia and Istria that the arts and literature found a congenial home. The Slavonic kingdoms and principalities of the interior Bosnia, Servia and Herzegovina if not exactly semi-barbarous, yet produced nothing of that kind even when they were in their prime; and the constant struggle in which they were involved with the advancing Turks during the later part of their history afforded no opportunity for the development of peaceful arts.

But the old cities of the coast, of Roman origin, with a few of later foundation that adopted their municipal constitution, under the protection alternately of Venice and Hungary, with ready access to the opposite coast of Italy, and free opportunities of trade and commerce with other countries, rapidly developed a school of art and produced works of literature which will compare favourably with those of their contemporaries elsewhere. Though governed by Venetian count, Hungarian viceroy, or Slavonic ban, they enjoyed their ancient municipal privileges, which had descended to them from the days of the Roman Empire, and we find them making treaties, and even engaging in warfare among themselves without much reference to their overlords. This division into small independent communities, in which each citizen might feel himself to be playing a sensible part, encouraged that feeling of patriotism which incited him to spare nothing for the honour and adornment of his city; which made the Florentines order their architect Arnolfo to build them a cathedral which should surpass every other, and of which one may see the fruits in the beautiful buildings that abound in every Dalmatian city. This spirit is not yet extinct, and in every town of the Dalmatian coast and islands will be found ardent lovers of the monuments and the history of their native place, and generally some accomplished student of its antiquities.

Mr. Hamilton Jackson is the latest writer on the art and people of Istria and Dalmatia.[1] In a former work he reviewed the architecture of the opposite coast of Italy. He has now crossed the sea, and done the same for the Austrian side. With the exception of some part of Istria he has followed closely in the steps of former travellers to places which have been described by them with tolerable fulness. But if there was little that is new to be said about them he has enriched his book with admirable illustrations which are very welcome to all who know the country. In the fresh places in Istria which he has visited there does not seem to be much of special interest; and that is disappointing. One hoped that more would have been found there. The Duomo of Parenzo is, of course, the most important building in the peninsula, and here it would seem that some discoveries of adjacent buildings have been made since the present writer was there. A few letters of reference on the plan would have made the description of these more intelligible. The foundations that have been exposed appear to be those of a primitive church which preceded that of Constantine, which was in its turn succeeded by [344] that of Bishop Euphrasius about the year 535. Mr. Hamilton Jackson is mistaken in saying the mosaic inscription states that Euphrasius founded the church in the eleventh year of his episcopate. The inscription to that effect is not in the mosaic but on a ciborium, which 20 years ago stood in the Atrium. The mosaic inscription of the apse is not without difficulties, but how does Mr. Hamilton Jackson get from it the statement that Euphrasius found the older church l likely to fall, with the roof only held up by chains; surely a strange way of upholding it! What the inscription really says is SED MERITIS TANTVM PENDEBANT PVTRIA TECTA; that is to say, the decayed roofs were only stayed from falling by virtue of the sacred relics (merita) which the church contained. [2] A smaller mistake is the description of Claudius in the same mosaic as Archbishop. He was only Archdeacon. 'Julia Parentium' (p. 122) is an impossible combination. Colonia Julia Parentina was the name given to the city after Augustus planted his soldiers in the place known till then as Parentium.

At Aquileja and Pola also fresh discoveries have been made. At the latter place twenty years ago the only visible relic of the once splendid Basilica of S. Maria in Canneto was a little modernized chapel that had flanked the great apse. Recent demolition and rebuilding have revealed enough to give the ground plan of the church with some of the mosaic floors. Mr. Hamilton Jackson has not been more successful than his predecessors in explaining the inscription of Bishop Handegis at the Duomo, but there was never such a title as 'Emperor of Italy': the inscription defines very neatly the position of the Emperor in Italy as 'King'.

But if discoveries have been made of late years it is sad to learn that disasters have also taken place. At Arbe the church of S. Giovanni, which was perfect when Eitelberger saw it in 1859, and of which the apse with its interesting ambulatory was still standing, though perilously, when the present writer saw and sketched it in 1885, is now reduced to a few fragments of wall. The interesting little church of Muggia Vecchia near Trieste, one is sorry to hear, is closed as being dangerous. It has an almost unique arrangement of choir and ambo, and on the north wall a painting of S. Christopher, placed where it would catch the eye of all who entered, and so confer the benefits promised by the inscription:

Christopheri sancti speciem quicunque tuetur
Illo nempe die nullo languore tenetur.

These lines with some variation occur under pictures of S. Christopher in many parts of the world, including our own country. Mrs. Jameson [345] gives instances, and Sir Thomas Browne in his ' History of Vulgar Errors' quotes a similar motto: 'Christophorum videas, postea tutus eris.' Among minor misfortunes one learns with regret that the miraculous cypress that grew on the Porta S. Giovanni at Trau is dead; but worst of all is the news that a great sanatorium has been built at Lesina behind Sanmichieli's fine loggia, which serves as a vestibule to it, and that two of the interesting towers that flanked the loggia have been destroyed to make way for this intrusion. Surely some fresh site might have been found and these historical buildings have been spared.

The Duomo of Cattaro seems to be undergoing severe restoration, and the great tower at Spalato, when Mr. Hamilton Jackson was there, was still enveloped in the scaffolding which enclosed it as long ago as 1882. How far the reconstruction has advanced he does not say, but its condition was perilous twenty years and more ago.

At Salona much has been discovered, and a longer and more definite description than Mr. Hamilton Jackson gives of the two basilican churches that have been excavated in addition to the one exposed before 1884 would have been welcome. The Basilica Urbana, or cathedral, which seems to have been found where the present writer suggested it should be looked for, has been well described and illustrated by Professor Bulić in the 'Bulletino di Archaeologia e Storia Dalmata,' 1904.

Mr. Hamilton Jackson has collected a great many particulars about the habits and customs of the people, but it is a pity they are not more critically arranged, for fact is piled on fact so breathlessly that it is difficult to get any general impression from them, especially as the author does not divide his matter into paragraphs. One cannot always see the wood for the trees. But it is useful to have such things recorded at the present day. Dalmatia is already being invaded by railways ; other means of access are becoming more available; visitors go there in greater numbers every year, and before long one may fear that the local character of the population will be modified, and that much which now interests us will disappear. Already it would seem that there is beginning to show itself a disposition to smarten up the towns and make things attractive to tourists, who, if they deserve to see Dalmatia at all, would prefer to see it unaltered. Such, however, is the inevitable tendency of modern civilization, which tends to make all men and all places alike.

Dalmatia cannot fail to be affected by the political changes at this moment being carried out in the interior. It has been the policy of Austria during the past half-century to encourage the Slav at the expense of the Latin. Zara alone has been able to preserve the use of Italian in her schools. Elsewhere instruction is given in Slavonic,Architecture of the Eastern Coast of the Adriatic even in places where Italian is the vernacular language. With the final absorption of Bosnia and Herzegovina as integral parts of the Austro-Hungarian Empire the connexion of those provinces with Dalmatia will consequently become closer, and the Slav element will become still more predominant. For Dalmatia is the seaboard and natural outlet of the great Slav provinces of the interior, and even of the kingdom of Servia beyond them, which is now striving its utmost to get access to the Adriatic. The construction of a Servian railway to the Narenta, or possibly to Gravosa, is one of the points likely to be insisted on in the present negotiations, and if it be constructed Ragusa may once more become a great seat of commerce as she was when the main current of trade betwen Turkey and western Europe flowed through her ports.

Mr. Hamilton Jackson is not always correct in his history. The Doge of Venice (p. 190) was never king of Dalmatia. A king in a republic would be a strange phenomenon. His title was 'Venetiae et Dalmatiae Dux.' Venice is said in one place (p. 170) to have bought Dalmatia from Ladislaus, and in another (p. 191) from Hungary. Neither statement is true. All that Ladislaus of Naples had to sell, when his abortive attempt on the crown of Hungary had failed, was Zara and a few islands. The rest of Dalmatia fell naturally to Venice as affording the only refuge against the Turk, when Hungary, after the fatal and perjured field of Varna, lay prostrate under the heel of the Ottoman conqueror, and was in no case to continue the secular contest for Dalmatia with Venice. The King of Hungary who attacked Zara in 1346 was not Ladislaus (p. 210) but Lewis.

We notice some slips in names of places. The ancient name of the Island of Cherso and Ossero was Apsirtis or Opsaros, not Apsirtide, which is not a classical form, but probably an Italian version of it (p. 185). More amusing is the transference of Meleager's boar hunt (p. 316) to the wilds of Scotland. S. Domenico (p. 218) should be S. Domenica.

We cannot close this review without a tribute to the excellence of the illustrations. The photographs are very clear and give detail very usefully, but the pen drawings are admirable, and afford another instance, had one been needed, of the superior interest of the artist's own handiwork as compared with the mere mechanical representation of objects by photography.


Notes:

  1. The Shores of the Adriatic the Austrian Side, F. Hamilton Jackson, R.B.A. Murray, 21s. net.
  2. Ducange quotes fredas (shrines) quarum alia habebat merita S. Baudelii martyris, altera vero Pauli"; also, 'Les merita d'une des onze mille vierges.'


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