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Dalmatian Triconchal Churches

Pavuša Vežić ; Odjel za povijest umjetnosti Sveučilišta u Zadru


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str. 27-66

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The phenomenon of early Christian triconchal churches on the Adriatic has already been noted in the scholarly literature. A separate study ‘Le basiliche cruciformi nell’area adriatica’ was published by S. Piussi in 1978, followed by N. Cambi with the 1984 publication ‘Triconchal churches on the Eastern Adriatic’. However,
both scholars include triconchal churches in the typological group of ‘cruciform basilicas’ or treat them together with the churches which have three apses with spaces between them placed along the nave. However, because of their specific morphology consisting of the closely placed conchs and a large number of such examples in the Adriatic area, it seems justified to treat them as a separate typological group. These churches had originally been funerary chapels, but many of them subsequently grew into congregational spaces with complex liturgical functions. In addition, among the triconchal churches it is possible to discuss separately the type of a small triconchal cella without a nave, but sometimes provided with a narthex, as form which is different from similar chapels with a long entrance arm
in front of the sanctuary.
Based on this difference, it is possible to establish a different terminology which classifies cella trichora as the simple trefoil type, and triconchal churches as the more complex type. The latter is relatively numerous in the territory of late antique Dalmatia. The title of this paper stems from those buildings. However, they originate in cellae trichorae. Thus, in the introductory section I am discussing
examples of these cellae in the Adriatic and the connection between their appearance and funerary traditions in the Mediterranean in general. The beginnings of Christian funerary architecture in Dalmatia are found in the grouping of round cellae in the cemeteries of ancient Salona, as known
from N. Duval’s works, and in the presence of conchs next
to the memorial chapel at Muline which was studied by M.
Suić. I deem that the early Christian triconchal churches
were created through the crystallisation of the forms
present in the groups of funerary cellae in such complexes;
cella trichora being the simplest form and triconchal
church a more complex one. However, both are generically
tied to the Roman tradition in pagan and early Christian
funerary architecture. On the other hand, early Christian
trefoil structures in the majority of examples stand next to
the rustic villa which in itself speaks in favour of a private funerary function. Thus, it is important to assume that cellae trichorae and triconchal churches in the beginning represent early Christian memorial chapels, independent of the subsequent development of the complexes which enveloped them.
Thus, the memorial chapel at Muline on the island of Ugljan is part of a larger funerary complex. It is still the most thoroughly researched group of early Christian buildings erected next to a Roman rustic villa in Dalmatia. Apart from a similar example at Brijuni, the Muline complex is crucial for the consideration and interpretation of the
origins and development of Christianity in late antique rural areas on the Croatian coast of the Adriatic. It reflects the developed Christianity in the urban setting of Zadar. The owner of the villa was obviously a rich citizen who had a memorial chapel erected on his estate for a deceased person about whom we know nothing. The chapel nave is square. Two deep semicircular apses are found at the back; in the southern one was a sarcophagus. The second
sarcophagus was buried under the pavement in the nave. Next to the façade was a protyron, a vestibule with a porch resting on two columns. A courtyard was subsequently added in front of the façade and provided with additional cellae around it. According to Suić’s analysis, it seems that the first layer of the memorial chapel was built in the fourth century. At that time it lacked a crystallized form of somewhat later triconchal churches on the Adriatic. Two original conchs at the back stand slightly apart. The third cella next to the back was subsequently added to the north wall. It has a rectangular ground plan similar to those around the courtyard. All this speaks in favour of a gradual multiplication of cellae around the original memorial, a
process similar to that at the cemeteries in Salona.
In this paper, I am discussing the phenomenon of early Christian and early medieval triconchal churches on the Adriatic. In doing so, I am only considering those which have three conchs along the sanctuary wall. Based on their form, function and date, I classify them into five groups.
The first group one consists of relatively early, small cellae trichorae. They had originally been funerary chapels on private estates. The remains of these memorial chapels have been preserved in various locations along the Adriatic coast: from those at Concordia Sagittaria near Aquileia, Betika near Pula, to those at Gata near Salona and Doljani near Duklja. Older examples have been dated to the late fourth or to the
first half of the fifth century, which seems to be the date of the formation of this type of Christian memorial.
In the second group are somewhat more complex triconchal churches which, unlike the cellae, have a long nave in front of the sanctuary. They are found in the territory of the Roman Dalmatia and therefore referred to by the author as Dalmatian. Unlike the cellae trichorae, which in their original form do not have a long entrance arm preceding the sanctuary conchs like a nave, triconchal churches are characterised by this very element in the front part of the chapel. In this respect they are spatially more developed than the basic, cella trichora type, and thus probably represent a somewhat later variants of trefoil memorial chapels. It seems that the triconchal churches at Dalmatia were mostly built by the late fifth century or in the early sixth century.
The third group consists of those churches from the second group which were transformed from the initial funerary chapels into complex triconchal basilicas. Similar to other types of original memorial chapels which were subsequently transformed into congregational churches
in Dalmatia, these too were remodelled in mid-sixth century. Thus, by being enveloped by a ring of subsequently added rooms, some triconchal churches were transformed from the original memorial chapels into public congregational churches furnished with liturgical annexes, among
which were baptisteries.
Baptisteries in particular witness about the nature of the remodelled triconchal churches and newly created complexes, with a trefoil structure at the core. They indicate an increase in conversion of the population which probably caused the building of such structures. Of course, a similar development was shared by other
types of originally private chapels in the time when churches were being built after the model of complex basilicas. However, in Dalmatia, there are no examples of such buildings before the age of Justinian i.e. before the second third of the sixth century. It is likely that the mentioned conversion occurred in this period. With it, many older churches, including triconchal churches, became cores of new complexes. Based on the examples of such a development, it is possible to speak convincingly of pre-Justinianic origins of the initial form of Dalmatian triconchal churches.
The fourth group is formed by pre-Romanesque triconchal churches. Their morphology differs from early Christian triconchal churches, and they are represented by two subgroups of interesting early medieval churches in Dalmatia. In the first one are numerous centrally-
planned buildings while in the second are two longitudinal structures. Both subgroups are characterised by a sanctuary with three semicircular apses. In the centrally-planned buildings they are placed radially and their axes originate at the centre of the rotunda. Thus, they were not arranged in a cruciform way towards the sanctuary as it had regularly been the case in early Christian cellae trichorae or triconchal churches, where the axes of the lateral apses are perpendicular to the axis of the central apse. However, the three conchs grouped at the sanctuary are a crucial spatial feature in the buildings of
the first subgroup so, in principle, they can be referred to as triconchal structures. In this group are the church of Holy Trinity at Zadar and a number of Dalmatian hexaconchal churches, as well as the rotunda at Ošlje. In the second subgroup are the longitudinal churches of Holy Saviour at Vrh Rika near Cetina and the church at Lopuška glavica, both near Knin. These two churches have a long nave in front of the sanctuary, and three conchs along the sanctuary wall, as was the case with early Christian triconchal churches. However, the axes of the lateral conchs are not perpendicular to the axis of the main apse but are placed radially. The nave in the church is significantly wider than the diameter of the main apse. The original layout of the church of St Donatus at Zadar, as a free-standing rotunda, was probably created in the in the eighth century. All other pre-Romanesque triconchal churches in Dalmatia have been convincingly dated to the period between the mid-ninth century to the early
decades of the tenth century.
Finally, the fifth group consist of the Romanesque trefoil churches. These are small, cruciform cellae which have a short entrance arm at the front and three conchs grouped around the core at the back. The front usually rectangular and the conchs are semicircular. They are
vaulted with semi-domed vaults. Above the core is a round drum with a dome. Two of those cellae are almost completely preserved and of particular interest due to the intersecting vault ribs below their domes. Stylistic characteristics of these buildings indicate the early
Romanesque architectural features of the twelfth century. All other medieval triconchal churches in this group probably also belong to the wider Romanesque period.Finally, regardless of all similar spatial forms in antique and late antique secular buildings, it should be pointed out that the cellae trichorae and triconchal churches originated as Christian memorial chapels, inspired by the gglomerations of the earliest funerary a chapel installed in early Christian cemeteries. The triconchal shape of these chapels originated in these agglomerations and remained related to the funerary and memorial character. It can be concluded that the
triconchal churches in Dalmatia were formed with relation to that character and that they persisted from the early Christian time to the mature middle ages. Perhaps it might be naive and mistaken to interpret the morphology of later buildings as being directly influenced
by the earlier. Pre-Romanesque rotundas display a variety of triconchal forms which were not known in early Christian architecture of Dalmatia (except the hexaconchal interior of Zadar Baptistery). Nonetheless, polyconchal spaces of early medieval memorial buildings were furnished with a triconchal sanctuary of the same shape as those in early Christian triconchal buildings, and witness about the funerary function in the pre-Romanesque period. The Romanesque trefoil churches, however, recreated the original type, not as direct replicas of early Christian triconchal forms, but through their function, while their shape grew out of the reformation spirit of the great church reform in the Romanesque period. Thus, Dalmatian triconchal churches illustrate a continuous need for private memorial chapels which does not necessarily have to be triconchal but this particular shape has been discussed here because of its
peculiarity. Already in the early Christian period, some trefoil structures outgrew their function of a family chapel to become churches for a larger community. That is why they were accompanied by additional liturgical functions and annexes necessary for monastic or parish
churches. By this, they were transformed into complex basilicas with additional spaces while the original triconchal structure, situated at the centre, became the church, quadratum populi, sometimes surrounded by a series of interconnected rooms which served as an ambulatory. This might point to the possibility that in some cases the old funerary function of the original memorial chapel could have continued together with the new liturgical rites in the newly formed complex basilica as a congregational church. These changes did not take
place in the medieval memorial structures although some hexaconchal churches and the octaconchal church at Ošlje were provided with new annexes soon after the initial building phase, and that added to the rotunda of St Donatus at Zadar included a gallery.

Ključne riječi

Dalmatia, triconchal churches, early christian period, pre-Romanesque, Romanesque

Hrčak ID:

93273

URI

https://hrcak.srce.hr/93273

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