Edward Augustus Freeman.

Sketches from the subject and neighbour lands of Venice online

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considerable size, that it had supplanted a smaller predecessor, and
that it had another smaller neighbour hard by. It is now easy - but it
is only very lately that it has become easy - to see nearly the whole
outline of a church measuring - speaking roughly - about 120 feet long.
It ranged therefore with the smaller rather than the larger basilicas
of Rome. It had two rows of large columns, which, from their nearness
to one another, look as if they had supported an entablature rather
than arches, with a transept, with the arch of triumph opening into
it, and the apse beyond, to the east. There are also, in front of the
arch of triumph, foundations which look most temptingly like those of
_cancelli_, like those of Saint Clement's at Rome, but which seem too
narrow for such a purpose. It is also plain, from the base of a
smaller column at a lower level, that this comparatively large church
was built on the remains of an earlier one. And this is borne out by
the discovery of pavements at more than one level, which supported
sarcophagi, which are still to be seen, and of which an inscription
shows that the lowest level was of the time of Theodosius the Second
and Valentinian the Third. This thrusts on the building of the upper
and greater church to a later time, surely not earlier than the reign
of Justinian. It must therefore have still been almost in its
freshness when the last blow fell on Salona. And at such a time we can
better take in the full force of the inscription which stood over the
west door: "Dominus noster propitius esto reipublicæ Romanæ." The
church, it should be noted, has been, at some time or other before it
was quite swept away, patched up or applied to some other use. A later
wall runs across the western face of the transept. An endless field
for guessing is hereby opened; but it is more prudent not to enter
upon it.

Another smaller ruined church stands close by, with its apse pointing
to the north. This and the eastern part of the larger church are
filled with sarcophagi of all kinds and sizes, reminding us of the
newly-opened basilica of Saint Petronilla by the Appian Way. Among
these is the tomb of an early _Chorepiscopus_. A crowd of
architectural fragments are scattered around, among which one splendid
Corinthian capital bears witness to the magnificence of the upper
church. But the real wealth of Salona, both sepulchral and
architectural, is not to be looked for in Salona itself, but in the
museum at Spalato. There are a crowd of superb tombs, pagan and
Christian, and the splendid capitals from the baptistery. There are
stores of inscriptions, Latin and Greek, which would make the place
where they are preserved a place of no small interest, even if that
place were not Spalato. But one sarcophagus of pagan date still stays
in its place, a little way beyond the city, because, being hewn in the
limestone rock, it could not be taken away. This is that which is
described by Sir Gardner Wilkinson, which has some of the exploits of
Hêraklês carved on its one face, and which has been so oddly changed
in modern times into the altar of the canonized Pope Saint Caius. For
he, like the Emperor under whom he suffered, passes for a native of
Salona. And a no less precious sarcophagus of Christian days is
preserved in the cloister of the Franciscan church at Spalato. This
represents the crossing of the Red Sea. The Pharaoh looks very much as
if he were in a Roman triumphal chariot, trampling a genius or two of
the waters under his wheels. His warriors follow, looking, according
to the eyes with which we look at them, like Romans in military dress
or like Albanians in the immemorial fustanella. The Aryan mind is
offended at seeing men of another continent clothed in such a very
European garb; it is for Egyptologers to say whether the sculpture is
correct. The sea is very narrow; it swallows up the Egyptian chariots
with great force, and the rescued Hebrews stand on the other side,
Miriam just about to begin her hymn of victory. The subject of the
sculpture is obvious; but it seems that nobody understood it till it
was expounded by an exalted lady at that royal visit of 1818 which at
Spalato is commemorated oftener than enough. The expounder was the
wife of the man who had once been the last successor of Diocletian and
Augustus; whether his queen had any claim to rank either as a
successor of Prisca and Livia or as the doubtful mother-in-law of a
conqueror from Ajaccio, we have not looked in any pedigree-book to
find out. One would really have thought that the loosing of the knot
was so easy that it might have been unravelled by the hand of a
subject; but a book which we have before us by a local antiquary goes
off into raptures at the surprising keenness of Imperial, Royal, and
Apostolic eyes.

The chapel of Saint Caius, with its heathenish altar, brings our
thoughts back to the long walls below it, the walls which yoked the
ancient Salona to the deeper sea. It must not be forgotten that, in
the days of its greatness, Salona was one of the chief ports of the
Hadriatic, the greatest on its own side of it. After shifting to and
fro from one port to another, that position has come back, if not to
Salona itself, yet to its modern representative. If we distinguish the
Hadriatic from the Gulf of Trieste, Spalato is undoubtedly its chief
port; but the smallness of Spalato, as compared with the greatness of
ancient Salona, is a speaking historical lesson. We see the difference
between the place in Europe which is held by the Illyrian lands now
and the place which they held in the days of the Roman peace. Then
Salona was one of the chief cities of the Roman world, placed on one
of the most central sites in the Roman world, the chief port of one of
the great divisions of the Empire, and one of the main highways
between its eastern and western halves. Such could be the position of
a Dalmatian city when Dalmatia had a civilized mainland to the back of
it. Salona therefore kept up its position as long as the Empire still
kept any strength on its Illyrian frontier. It played its part in both
the civil wars. Cæsar himself enlarges on the strength of the
city - "oppidum et loci natura et colle munitum." In after-times it was
a special object of the regard of its own great citizen, who took up
his abode so near to its neighbourhood. According to Constantino
Porphyrogenitus, Salona was pretty well rebuilt by Diocletian. Its
importance went on in the time of transition, as is witnessed by the
growth of its ecclesiastical buildings, and by the high position held
by its bishopric. Like the rest of the neighbouring lands, it passed
under the dominion, first of Odoacer and then of Theodoric, and it was
the first place which was won back to the Empire in the wars of
Justinian. Lost again and won back again, it appears throughout those
wars as the chief point of embarcation for the Imperial armies on
their voyages to Italy. This was the last century of its greatness; in
the next century the modern history of Illyria begins. The Slaves were
moving, and the Avars were moving with them. Salona fell into the
hands of these last barbarians; it was ruined and pillaged, and sank
to the state in which it has remained till our own time. Since the
seventh century Salona has ceased to rank among the cities of the
earth, but the house which had been raised by its greatest citizen
stood ready hard by to supply a shelter to some at least of its
homeless inhabitants. Things were wholly turned about on the bay of
Salona and on the neighbouring peninsula. Down to the days of
Heraclius, Salona had been a great city, with the vastest house that
one man ever reared standing useless in its neighbourhood. From his
day onwards the house grew into a city, and the city became a petty
village, where, of all the places along that historic coast, the
traveller finds least to disturb him in the pious contemplation of
ruins. The only danger is that his meditations may be broken in upon
by sellers of coins and scraps of all ages, dates, and values. Coins
at Salona hardly need the process once known at the Mercian Dorchester
as "going a-Cæsaring." Cæsars seem to be picked up from under and off
the ground with much less trouble than hunting for truffles. And even
he who is no professed numismatist or collector of gems will be
pleased to give a few _soldi_, perhaps even for a very clear image and
superscription of "Constantinus Junior Nob[ilissimus] C[æsar]," much
more for any image and superscription of Jovius himself. It may have
neither rarity nor value in the eyes of the numismatically learned;
but it is something to carry away from Salona itself the head of the
foremost local worthy in Salona's long annals.


1875 - 1877 - 1881.

The visitor to Spalato and Salona should, if possible, not fail to pay
a visit to Traü. To most readers the very name will doubtless be
strange. Yet Tragurium is an old city, a city old enough to be named
by Polybios, to say nothing of later Greek and Latin writers. As in
countless other cases, many readers may have passed by the name
without any notice at all; others may have turned to the map, and,
having once found Tragurium, may have presently forgotten that
Tragurium was anywhere recorded. The case may be different with those
who carry on their studies so far as to have dealings with the
Imperial topographer. In his pages the name of the city has got
lengthened into [Greek: Tetrangourion], and we are told that it was so
called [Greek: dia to einai auto mikron dikên angouriou]. We are not
ashamed to confess that the word [Greek: angouriou] gave us no meaning
whatever, and that we had to turn to our dictionary to find that
[Greek: angourion] means a water-melon. But where the point of
likeness is between the town of Traü and a water-melon, and why the
name should have been lengthened, so as to suggest, if anything, the
notion of four water-melons, we are as much in the dark as before.
Those therefore who have made acquaintance with the city in the shape
of [Greek: Tetrangourion] will have a chance of keeping it in their
minds. But with those who light only either on Tragurium or on Traü,
it will most likely happen as most commonly happens with places which
play no great part in general history. The name passes away as a mere
name, till something happens to clothe it with a special meaning.
Salona the parent and Spalato the child are names which never can
become meaningless to any one who has a decent knowledge of the
history of the world. But the name of Tragurium, Traü, will probably
always be purely meaningless, save to those whom anything may have led
to take a special interest in Dalmatian matters. Tragurium has a
history - no place is without one - but its history is purely local and
Dalmatian. As far as one can venture to judge, the great course of
human affairs would have been much the same if Tragurium had never
become a city. But there it stands, and, as it stands, its position,
its buildings, even its local history, combine to give it no small
interest. They make it no contemptible appendage even to the famous
spots in its immediate neighbourhood. Whatever was its origin,
Tragurium became a Roman town, and it was one of those places on the
Dalmatian coast which so long and steadily clave to their allegiance
to the Eastern Cæsars. As the Byzantine power declined, the town was
disputed between the Kings of Hungary and the commonwealth of Venice,
and once at least it is said to have felt the hand of Saracen
plunderers. By each of the Christian powers by which it was disputed
it was won and lost more than once, till it finally became Venetian in
1420. Perhaps the point of greatest interest in these dates is that
Traü was a Hungarian possession at the time of the building of its
cathedral church in the thirteenth century. It is said to have points
of likeness to other great Hungarian churches of the same date.

The approach to Traü is a speaking commentary on the state of things
in days when no one but the lord of a private fortress could be safe
anywhere except within a walled town. The road from Spalato to Traü
goes through Salona, through the heart of the ruined city, as does the
railway which the traveller may use for part of his journey. The
railway turns off; the road keeps on alongside of the bay, with the
water on one side and the mountains on the other. This road passes
through the district of the _castelli_, forts with surrounding
villages, which various lords, spiritual and temporal, held of the
Serene Republic by a feudal tenure. Things were under the oligarchy of
Venice as they were under the democracy of Athens. A private fortress
within either city was unheard of; neither Demos nor the Council of
Ten would for a moment have endured the existence of such towers as we
still see at Rome and at Bologna. But in the outlying possessions of
either commonwealth greater licence was allowed. Alkibiadês had his
private forts in the Thracian Chersonêsos, and a string of Venetian
nobles and subjects of the Republic were allowed to have their private
forts along the shores of the bay of Salona. The points which they
occupied still remain as small towns and villages, some of them with
their little havens on the lake-like sea, where the traveller whom the
railway has forsaken may haply light on a small steamer to take him
on. But none of those among the _castelli_ which we can ourselves
speak of from our own knowledge possess any architectural interest.
When at last we reach Traü, we see further how needful it was, even in
the case of a walled city, to plant it in the position best suited for
defence. Traü, now at least, belongs to the class of island cities. At
the point where the large island of Bua comes nearest to the mainland,
a small island lies between it and the shore, leaving only a narrow
channel on each side, spanned in each case by a bridge. But the
language of the Emperor who likens the city to a water-melon might
suggest the idea that the site was once, not insular, but peninsular.
Constantine places his [Greek: Tetrangourion] on a small island, but
the small island has a neck like a bridge which joins it to the
mainland ([Greek: mikron esti nêsion en tê thalassê, echon kai
trachêlon heôs tês gês stenôtaton dikên gephyriou, en hô dierchontai
hoi katoikountes es to auto kastron]). This somewhat contradictory way
of speaking sounds as if, as in the case of some other peninsular
cities, a narrow isthmus had been cut through. In the Peutinger Table
too, "Ragurio" is made distinctly peninsular. Now at least the
likeness of a bridge is exchanged for the reality; the island is an
island, and on this island is built the main part of the city of Traü.
A small part only spreads itself on to Bua, where it begins to climb
the hills, though it goes up only a very little way, by paths almost
as rugged as though they were in Montenegro. This outlying part, which
contains two churches, may pass as a suburb, a _Peraia_; for Bua may
reckon as a mainland when compared with the neighbouring islet, and
the real mainland of Dalmatia seems to have been carefully avoided by
the builders of Tragurium. The view in Wheler would give no one any
idea of the size of Bua, any more than the Peutinger Table would give
any idea of its position. But Wheler's view well brings out the
relative positions of mainland, islet, and island, and it shows how
strongly Traü was fortified in his day. Such a site as this was a
valuable one in days when security was the main object; but it hardly
tends to prosperity in modern times, and Tragurium must be reckoned
among the cities whose day is past. While Spalato is putting on the
likeness of a busy modern town, Traü has nothing to show but its
ancient memories.

Traü, as we now see it, is indeed an old-world place. Even the
new-made railway, which has appeared long since our first visit, and
which startles the quiet of Salona and some of the _castelli_, keeps
away from the city of the four water-melons. Strangers come but
seldom, and they are remembered when they do come; a visitor showing
himself again after some years is greeted in friendly guise as "one of
the three Englishmen with red beards." And the city looks like one of
the ends of the world. Owing to the peculiar position of Traü, the
fashion of narrow streets, common to all the Dalmatian towns, is here
carried to an extreme point. Indeed the crooked alleys through which
the visitor has to thread his way, and the dark arches and vaults
under which he has to pass, give the place a Turkish rather than a
Venetian look. The explorer of Traü might almost fancy himself at
Trebinje. One wonders how the Tragurians manage to live; it is only on
the quay and in the open place by the cathedral that there seems room
to breathe. Yet, uninviting as the streets of Traü are in their
general effect, they are far from being void of objects of interest.
As elsewhere in Dalmatia, we ever and anon light on ornamental
doorways and windows. In Traü some of these show better forms than
those of the familiar Venetian Gothic; one or two windows are in
style, whatever they may be in date, genuine Romanesque. Of the
Venetian defences some considerable portions remain; close by the
water, at the south-western point of the smaller island, is a castle
bearing the badge of Saint Mark, whose chief feature is a tower of
irregular octagonal shape, singularly and ingeniously vaulted within.
Of civic buildings the chief is the Venetian _loggia_, now dirty and
uncared for. But it still keeps at its east end what at first sight
seems like an altar, dedicated, not to the Evangelist but to his lion,
but which really marks the judgment-seat of the representative of the
Republic in Traü. The building was repaired over and over again, the
last renovation dating early in the seventeenth century; but it keeps
a colonnade, which, whenever it was put together, was put together out
of materials of far earlier date. Some of the capitals seem to be
late; but there is one of true Corinthian form, which seems closely
akin to those in Diocletian's peristyle; another capital is covered
with rich foliage of a type rather Byzantine than classical. And on
either side of the _loggia_, forming a strange contrast to one
another, one of them utterly hidden from view, the other proclaiming
itself as the main ornament of the town, stand the two most important
ecclesiastical buildings of Traü.

[Illustration: CATHEDRAL, TRAÜ.]

The chief architectural ornament of the city is undoubtedly the
formerly cathedral, now only collegiate, church. This is a work of the
thirteenth century, with a stately bell-tower of the fourteenth or
fifteenth. But the tower of Traü is no detached campanile, such as we
have seen at Zara and Spalato. It forms part of the building; it
occupies its north-western corner, and was designed to be one of a
pair, after the usage of more northern lands. The inscription on the
southern doorway gives 1215 as its date; one on the great western
doorway names 1240, and adds the name of Raduanus as its artist.
Looked at from the outside, the work is of the best and most finished
kind of Italian Romanesque; and we have here, what is by no means
uncommon in Dalmatia, an example of the late retention of the forms of
that admirable style. The tower palpably belongs to a later date, as
it shows the distinct forms of the Venetian Gothic, though, as usual
in Dalmatia, in a not unpleasing form. Eitelberger quotes an
inscription which gives the date as 1321, while in his text he speaks
of it as 1421, just after the Venetian capture of the town. And the
course of Dalmatian architecture is so capricious, forms are found at
dates when one would so little have looked for them, that we really
cannot undertake to decide between the two. The inside of the church
is striking, with its round arches resting on massive square piers of
German rather than Italian character, and with its clerestory and
vault, in which the round and pointed arch are struggling for the
mastery. By a freak almost more unaccountable than the red rags of
Zara, the piers have very lately been taught to discharge the perhaps
useful, but rather incongruous, function of a catalogue of the bishops
of Traü, bishops whose succession has come to an end. The pulpit, the
stalls, and other fittings, are also striking in many ways, and the
triapsidal east end shows us a rather simple Romanesque style in all
its purity. But the glory of Traü is at the other end. The stately
portico veils the still more stately western doorway, in which, if the
purity of the architectural style is somewhat forsaken, we forgive it
for the richness and variety of its sculpture. The scriptural scenes
in the tympanum, the animal forms, the statues of Adam and Eve, the
crouching turbaned figures, the strange blending together of sculpture
and architectural forms, make together a wonderful whole, none the
less wonderful because it is clear that everything is not exactly in
its right place, but that there has been a change or removal of some
kind at some time. The details of this splendid doorway, and of the
church in general, must be studied in the elaborate memoir of
Eitelberger, which, with its illustrations, goes further than most
memoirs of the kind to make the building really intelligible at a
distance. The turbaned figures are far older than the appearance of
the Ottoman in the neighbourhood of Traü, or indeed in any part of
Europe. Are they Saracens whose forms record the memories of some
returning Crusader? Or are we to believe that the Morlacchi used the
turban as their head-dress before the Ottoman came?

But the _duomo_ is not all that Traü has to show in the way of
churches. On the other side of the Venetian loggia stands, hidden
among other buildings, a church which is in its way of equal interest
with its greater neighbour, which certainly shows us a purer form of
Romanesque. This is the little desecrated church of Saint Martin, now
called Saint Barbara, one of those domical buildings on a small scale
of which we have seen other varieties at Zara and at Spalato. Its
height and the tall stilts on its columns would, if the building were
cleared out, make it one of the most striking instances of its style
and scale. Nearer to the water, south-east from the cathedral, is
another small Romanesque church, almost as striking without as Saint
Barbara is within. This is the small church of Saint John Baptist,
which, except that it has a square east end, might pass for an almost
typical Romanesque church on a small scale. Nearly opposite to Saint
Barbara is the most striking house in Traü, with an open galleried
court; and not very far off, hidden in the narrow streets, is the
Benedictine monastery of Saint Nicolas, the foundation of the local
saint John Orsini in 1064. The points to be noticed are not in the
church but in the adjoining buildings. There, besides some pretty
Venetian windows and doorways, is an arcade which looks as if it were
of genuine Romanesque date, though perhaps hardly so old as the saint
himself. A walk outside the walls in the direction of the Venetian
castle leads to other churches, one of which, attached to a house of
Dominican nuns, surprises the visitor, like the ruined chapel of the
Gaetani by the tomb of Cæcilia Metella, by its almost English look. A
few hours may well be spent in examining the antiquities of this
strange little island city, and in taking in the varied views of land
and sea which are to be had alike from the lofty bell-tower and from
the higher ground on Bua. The journey back again shows us objects
which have become familiar to us, but which are now seen in a reverse
order. We mark the ever shifting outlines of the hills, the islands
and the bay which they surround, the ruins of fallen Salona, Clissa
on its peak, the stream of Giadro, the aqueduct of Diocletian, till we
again mount and descend the little hill on the neck of the isthmus,
and find ourselves once more under the shadow of the palace-walls of
Spalato and of the bell-tower which soars so proudly over them.





[I have not thought it needful to strike out of this paper a
few allusions to the times when it was written, the early
days of the revolt in Herzegovina with which the war of
1875-1878 began.]

As Spalato must be looked on as the great object of a Dalmatian
voyage, it may also be looked on as its centre. After Spalato the

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Online LibraryEdward Augustus FreemanSketches from the subject and neighbour lands of Venice → online text (page 11 of 23)