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Contribution to the Knowledge of Late Antique Villas from the Province of Dalmatia - the Case of Villa at Strupnić near Livno

Tin Turković ; Odsjek za povijest umjetnosti Filozofski fakultet Sveučilišta u Zagrebu
Maja Zeman ; Odsjek za povijest umjetnosti Filozofski fakultet Sveučilišta u Zagrebu

Puni tekst: hrvatski pdf 695 Kb

str. 9-26

preuzimanja: 1.682



In the last two decades, the architecture of late antique country estates in Europe - most notably those in the northern provinces (Raetia, the two Germanias, Pannonia, Noricum, Moesia and Dacia), but also in the Iberian and Italian peninsula - has been systematically researched. Based on the typology of examined structures, numerous studies have yielded observations about
evident similarities between late antique complexes from various parts of the Western Empire, which had adopted a completely new paradigm in the spatial arrangement of representative and lavish administrative buildings on the estates affected by the economic reforms of the late third century. The abundance of the variants of the universal theme of aulic architecture in country estates from the late third and during the fourth century has enabled the identification of regional varieties and patterns in the spreading of individual architectural solutions, as well as the defining and careful research of other phases of the
architectural transformation of late antique estates.
The question which this paper attempts to answer is where Dalmatian late antique villas belong in such an ‘international’ architecture of the late antique country estate, and whether their forms follow the trends of the neighbouring provinces. In the lack of finds, the only way
towards a clarification of the outlined questions is a formal analysis which most Dalmatian late antique villas have not been subjected to, and which opens the door for the interpretation of the building considered essential from the art-historical perspective. Formal qualities of the villas suggest the provenance of their architectural elements, reveal the function of a structure and its parts
and clarify the position of a villa in the developmental line of the architecture of country estates and indicate the likely time frame of its production.
In this context, this paper focuses on the late antique complex discovered in the early twentieth century on the site of Prikače in the village of Strupnić (near Livno). The villa is, unfortunately, only known from the initial reports but its dimensions and layout make it stand out from other late antique complexes in Dalmatian hinterland.
However, the modestly recorded ground plan and a recent reconstruction of this structure do leave considerable space for formal analysis and more precise conclusions about its date. The noted symmetrical division of the front part of the building with two apsed lateral spaces and axial arrangement of the central reception hall, which was most likely accessed from the courtyard, point to the comparisons with late third- and early fourth-century complexes in the Danube area, such as those at Kövágászölös or Keszthely-Fenékpuszta, which served as administrative centres of large estates along the Danube, and which may have drawn upon a luxurious complex near Parndorf.
Symmetrically placed apses on the façade, an almost unique phenomenon in the Danube area, is doubtlessly rooted in the desire to make façades more monumental as can be seen in a number of buildings which span the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth century,
when a certain revolution took place in the architecture of country estates, reflecting the socio-economic changes which transformed the European landscape through the enlargement of estates. It is a clear sign of the estate owner’s status and a clear indication of the
building’s function. The villa at Strupnić, together with the examples at Ljusine and Livade, and the remains of the architectural complex at Majdan, points to a strong connection between Dalmatia and the trends which sprung up in the Danube area in the late third and during
the fourth century, and clearly illustrates the direction through which late antique solutions in the architecture of country estates reached the interior of Dalmatia. Thus, we deem that it is not inopportune to place the time frame of the construction of Dalmatian late antique
country estates in the same formal and chronological context of the estates in its northern neighbourhood which was, at that time, going through what Mocsy called the last age or prosperity in the Danube area. The formal connection with the mentioned estates implies
that the function of Dalmatian and Danube structures
complemented each other.
Although the structure at Strupnić is relatively small (32,6 x 27,5 m), and is classified in the category of small country estates suchas those at Deutschkreuz, Sümeg, Csúcshegy, Majdan or Mali Mošunj, we deem that it is completely unfounded to interpret it as a journey station, i.e. an inn (mutatio), as Bojanovski suggested on a number of occasions. Considering the layout of the complex, a more luxurious nature of its form and its location, it seems more likely that it had been part of a richer estate which was administered from a central administrative-residential-economic complex, and in connection with this, it is advisable to return to Bojanovski’s earlier interpretations which identified it as one of the examples of praetorium fundi. During the third and fourth centuries, in the time of economic reforms and enlargement of estates, medium-sized estates of the social elite may have been situated in the area of Livanjsko polje, due to its good road networks and fortified transformations of architectural complexes in individual sites. The Strupnić late antique estate still represents a riddle of sorts the solving of which depends on future archaeological excavations that this structure undoubtedly deserves. In this paper, it has been an example of the amount of information that can be obtained from scarce records about a building when it is subjected to a formal and contextual analysis. The traditional definitions of the architecture of estates and the generalising approach which does not take into account individual features of a building need to be questioned, and this is confirmed by the example of Strupnić.

Ključne riječi

late antique country estates, the province of Dalmatia, Livanjsko polje

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