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The Area from the Alps and the Adriatic to the Rivers Danube and Neretva in the Light of Material Traces of the Carolingian Insular Art

Željko Tomičić ; Hrvatska akademija znanosti i umjetnosti, Zagreb, Hrvatska

Puni tekst: hrvatski pdf 9.533 Kb


str. 131-162

preuzimanja: 445



An episode with the findings of the insular Irish, Anglo-Saxon, or generally
Hiberno-Carolingian art represents a specific theme within the cultural
history of the European Early Middle Ages. It was associated with missionary
activity, and could not bypass the areas from the Alps and the Adriatic to
the rivers Neretva and Danube, especially not in the historical moments that
preceded the Treaty of Aachen, signed in 812 between Emperor Charlemagne
(768–814) and the Byzantine Emperor Michael I. Rhangabe (811–813).
After the successful end of the war with the Avars in the battles of the years
796 and 803, the Franks became outstandingly strong, but were at the same
time confronted with very demanding tasks of intensive missionary activity,
and the baptism of numerous people in the newly conquered areas from the
Alps to the Danube and the Eastern Adriatic coast with the associated archipelago
and its old urban centres. A growing political interest of the Frankish
Empire should be added thereto; therein, the official religion exerted a significant
state-forming influence through the mediation of the Church, which was
entirely dependent on Charlemagne. The process of feudalisation was also directly
encouraged by the Church.
When new, large areas of missionary activity opened up within the borders
of the same state, a landmark moment occurred; a significant contribution
thereto was made by Abbot Alcuin of York, adviser to Charlemagne, directing
a coordinated missionary activity among the affected population, together
with Archbishop Arn of Salzburg and Patriarch Pauline II of Aquileia. Ultimately,
it was the achievement of applying a non-violent strategy of the Irish
monks and the bishops of Salzburg.
After a meeting between the Italian King Pepin and Archbishop Arn under
the conciliar guidance of Patriarch Pauline II of Aquileia in the Frankish
military camp on the banks of Danube in 796, an agreed manner of missionary
activity followed. It was further agreed that the Drava River would become the
boundary between the Diocese of Salzburg and the Patriarchate of Aquileia,
which was confirmed by Emperor Charlemagne personally in 803 and 811.
The enclosed map (Fig. 4) shows the positions of the insular art finds, in
particular items of warrior equipment based on the model of the Tassilo chalice
style. These are the finds of belt tongues from Tonovcev grad near Kobarid,
Sipar in Istria, Medvedička in Podravina, Gornji Vrbljani on the Sana River,
and Mogorjelo near Čapljina on the Neretva River, where a combination of zoomorphic
and floral ornaments is clearly perceived. Two finds from this group
should be pointed out as distinguished examples of excellent workmanship.
The first one is a long belt tongue from the castrum in Gornji Vrbljani above the
source of the Sana River, while the second is a belt from the Mogorjelo Castel
near Čapljina along the right bank of the Neretva River. These are exceptional
high-quality art and craft artefacts, which were an integral part of the
equipment of high-ranking Carolingian warriors, illustrating at the same time
the spiritual commitment of the upper military class of the Frankish society. It
was noticed that the objects with the insular art decorations of the Tassilo chalice
style were found in strategically important places, in particular along mountain
passes (Tonovcov grad) and river courses (Sana and Neretva), i.e. along
convenient traffic routes, on which these dignitaries were stationed in various
strongholds. From these prominent positions, where we encounter pieces of
warrior equipment as relics from conflicts with the pagan population (Gornji
Vrbljani) or potentially in burial context (Mogorjelo), they accomplished
the tasks of expanding and preserving religion. The Medvedička belt tongue,
decorated in the style of the Tassilo chalice, along with the remainder of the
grave inventory in question, was also in the possession of a prominent warrior,
who may have been associated with the Frankish march in the direction of
Podravina, towards the right bank of the Danube in 795 and 796. The find of
the belt tongue with an animal ornament, discovered in the Sipar Castel on the
western coast of Istria, may with certainty be dated between 788 and the end
of the 8th century, and it may with confidence be attributed to the style of the
Tassilo chalice. Finally, a fragment of a column depicting a dragon and a triple
interlace decoration, originating from the site of Crkvina near the Church of
St. Mary in Biskupija near the town of Knin, may be attributed to the same
cultural circle of insular art.
In addition to the finds bearing witness to a more direct influence, especially
of the Irish missionary activity from the Alpine Circle, i.e. from the "insular
cultural province" in the time of Charlemagne, the area of study (between
the Danube and Neretva Rivers and along the immediate hinterland of the Eastern
Adriatic coast) also witnessed early Carolingian finds that reveal traditional,
classic Mediterranean artistic expressions. In this classic Mediterranean
style, floral ornaments predominate: wood-cut palm trees, rosettes, vines, or
sometimes the Tree of Life motif. Among these are belt tongues with ornaments
of tendrils and wood-cut palm trees from the site on the Alpine pass
Gradišče nad Sotesko, and a similar one from Mogorjelo near Čapljina, in the
vicinity of the crossing on the Neretva River. A belt tongue decorated with
vine tendrils found at the position of the castellum Cornacum (present-day Sotin)
should be connected with the Frankish military march of the Italian King
Pepin to the right bank of the Danube, aimed at bringing to destruction the
Avar Khaganate in 796. A special place undoubtedly belongs to a belt tongue
with the motif of the Tree of Life found in Ostrovica, i.e. at yet another strategically
unavoidable point at the entrance to the Eastern Adriatic coast.
Finally, when looking at a unique liturgical object, such as the censer from
Stara Vrlika-Runjavica near the village of Cetina, which certainly reflects possible
influences of the Northern Italian workshops that cultivated classical
Mediterranean traditions, in a way we round out the repertoire of the early
Carolingian presence in the area of our interest here.
There is every reason to believe that the summarily addressed specimens
of the so-called insular art, created as testimonials to the style of the Tassilo
chalice, as well as those shaped under strong classic Mediterranean traditions,
clearly reflect the organized appearance of the Franks before, during, and
particularly after the destruction of the Avar Khaganate. The removal of the
Avars from the European political scene created sound conditions for a wide
administrative and religious organization of the newly-acquired area from the
Alps to the Danube and the Neretva, or to the Eastern Adriatic. This provided
support to the vassal Slavic gentile principalities and the remaining Avar population
in the vast interspace from the Danube in the north to the Eastern
Adriatic coast in the south for integration into the Frankish Empire. This entire
process of missionary activity, baptising of the population, and church and
administrative organization, took place in the period from the destruction of
the Avar Khaganate in 796, and finally in 803, until the conclusion of the peace
in Aachen in 812. It should be remembered that the Byzantine Empire, the second
strongest European power of the time, with which the Treaty of Aachen
was signed in 812 during the reign of Michael I Rhangabe, managed – owing
to its thalassocracy and ambitions – to stipulate a string of urban agglomerations
along the Adriatic archipelago and its immediate hinterland. These towns
have been a continuous factor of the creation of unique cultural dynamics in
the territory covered by the title of this paper.

Ključne riječi

he T reaty o f A achen; C harlemagne; P epin; A vars; S alzburg; Aquileia; Pauline II; Irish missionary activity; finds of the island-art craftsmanship.

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