Edward Augustus Freeman.

Sketches from the subject and neighbour lands of Venice online

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Treviso, was received by a solemn act as Lord of Trieste, and that
lordship passed on to the Dukes, Archdukes, Kings, and Emperors of his
house, and from them to their Lotharingian successors. Thus, unlike
Treviso and Udine, Trieste has been Austrian in one sense only. Never
forming a part of the Austria of Lombardy, it has had a far more
abiding connexion with the Austria of Germany. The lordship which
Trieste acknowledged was of course at first only an overlordship, and
the Council and Commons of the city still continued to act as a
separate commonwealth. But an union of this kind is one of those fatal
partnerships between the stronger and the weaker which can lead only
to bondage. Trieste has ever since remained Austrian in allegiance,
save during the chaos of the days of the elder Buonaparte. Those days
are commemorated by an inscription on the _duomo_, which tells of the
expulsion of the French from the castle by an allied force, whose name
of "Austro-Angli" might almost suggest some unrecorded tribe in our
own island.

* * * * *

It is certainly hard to conceive a building more uninviting without
than the cathedral church of Saint Justus. But Sokratês was not to be
judged by his outside, neither is the _duomo_ of Trieste. A broad and
almost shapeless west front is flanked by a low, heavy tower, not
standing detached as a campanile, as it should stand in Italy, not
worked into the church as it would be worked in England or Germany,
but standing forward in a kind of Scotch fashion, like Dunkeld. The
only architectural feature seems to be a large wheel window, which it
would be unfair to compare to that of Saint Zeno. But the next moment
will show, built in at the angle of the church and the tower, a noble
fluted column with its half-defaced Corinthian capital, which is
enough to show what has been. We are carried back to Rome, to Saint
Mary _in Cosmedin_ and Saint Nicolas _in Carcere_, as we trace out in
the lower stage of the tower the remains of the temple of Jupiter
which has given way to the church of Justus. Imbedded in its walls are
pilasters, columns, and their basement, showing that Jupiter of
Tergeste must have lifted his pillared portico above the sea as
proudly as Aphroditê of the Doric Ankón. Fragments of entablatures,
trophies, sepulchral monuments, are built up in the wall. The western
doorway of the church is made out of a huge tomb of the Barbii - a
_gens_ which we do not elsewhere remember - deliberately cut in two,
and set up the wrong way. The building or rebuilding of the tower in
1337 is commemorated by an inscription in letters of that
date - "Gothic" letters, as some call them - out of a mutilated part of
which the earlier Tergestine antiquaries spelled out that the tower
was rebuilt, in 556, after a destruction by the Goths. As the letters
..LVM.. were enough to create the new saint Philumena, the letters
..OT... could easily be filled up into "a Gothis eversa" - quite
evidence enough to lead a zealous Italian to lay the destroying deeds
of his own forefathers on the Gothic preservers of the works of the
elder day.

As soon as we pass the doorway with the heads of the Barbii on either
side, we forget the wrongs alike of Jupiter and of the Goths. The
wonderful interior of the double basilica opens upon us. The first
feeling is simply puzzledom. A nave of vast width seems to be flanked
by two ranges of columns on either side, columns varying even more
than is usual in their height and in the width of the arches which
they support. When we look within the two lateral ranges, we are not
surprised to find each ending in an apse with a noble mosaic; we are
surprised to find the southern range interrupted by a cupola. This
last phænomenon will help us to the explanation of the whole mystery.
The church is in fact two churches thrown into one. When they were
distinct, they must have stood even nearer than the old and new
minsters at Winchester; indeed a plan in a local work shows, with
every probability, their walls as actually touching in one point. The
northern church was a basilica of the ordinary type, made up of
columns - some of them of very fine marble - put together, as usual,
without much regard to uniformity. All bear Corinthian capitals of
different varieties, and all carry the Ravenna stilt in a rude form
without the cross. The wall rose high above the arcade, and was
pierced with a range of narrow clerestory windows, but with nothing
else to relieve its blankness. This church the Tergestine antiquaries
attribute, but, as far as we can see, without any direct evidence, to
the reign of Theodosius. The southern church is, in its original
parts, the same in style as the northern, but it is much smaller and,
in its plan at least, thoroughly Byzantine. It was a small cross
church, with a central cupola, and its north transept seems to have
touched the south aisle of its northern neighbour. It is perhaps on
the strength of the plan that the church is assigned to the reign of
Justinian. But there is nothing Byzantine in the details; where the
original capitals remain, they are of the same somewhat rude
Corinthian character as those in the northern church; they have the
same stilt, and under the cupola there is even a bit or two of
entablature built up again. But the building went through much greater
changes than the northern church did in the work of throwing the two
into one whole. The date of this change seems to be fixed by a
consecration recorded in the local annals in 1262. The south aisle of
the northern church, the north aisle and north transept of the
southern one, were pulled down, and the space which they had covered
was roofed in to form the nave of the united building, while the two
earlier basilicas sank into the position of its aisles. In the
northern church this involved no change beyond the disappearance of
the south aisle and the blocking of its clerestory; the smaller church
to the south had to suffer far more. It had to be raised and
lengthened; a quadrangular pier on the south side marks the original
length, and the increase of height of course destroys the proper
effect of the cupola. Then, as the cupola of course rested on columns
with wider arches, its northern arch was filled up with two smaller
arches and an inserted column, so as to make something like a
continuous range. Still, late in the thirteenth century, they again
used up the old marble columns; but they now used a flat capital, by
which the additions of this time may be distinguished from the genuine
basilican work.

Probably no church anywhere has undergone a more singular change than
this. It is puzzling indeed at first sight; but, when the key is once
caught, the signs of each alteration are so easily seen. The other
ancient relic at Trieste is the small triumphal arch. On one side it
keeps its Corinthian pilasters; on the other they are imbedded in a
house. The arch is in a certain sense double; but the two are close
together and touch in the keystone. The Roman date of this arch cannot
be doubted; but legends connect it both with Charles the Great and
with Richard of Poitou and of England, a prince about whom Tergestine
fancy has been very busy. The popular name of the arch is _Arco

Such, beside some fragments in the museum, are all the remains that
the antiquary will find in Trieste; not much in point of number, but,
in the case of the _duomo_ at least, of surpassing interest in their
own way. But the true merit of Trieste is not in anything that it has
in itself, its church, its arch, its noble site. Placed there at the
head of the gulf, on the borders of two great portions of the Empire,
it leads to the land which produced that line of famous Illyrian
Emperors who for a while checked the advance of our own race in the
world's history, and it leads specially to the chosen home of the
greatest among them. The chief glory of Trieste, after all, is that it
is the way to Spalato.




Given such weather as suits fair-weather sailors, there can hardly be
any enjoyment more thoroughly unmixed than a sail along the coast of
Dalmatia. First of all, there is a freshness about everything. Here is
a portion of land which is thoroughly unhackneyed; the coasts, the
islands, the channels, of Dalmatia are as yet uninvaded by the British
tourist. No Cook's ticket can be taken for Spalato; no hotel coupon
would be of the slightest use at Sebenico. The land is whatever its
long and strange history, old and new, has made it. It has gone
through many changes and it has put on many shapes, but it has escaped
the fate of being changed into a "playground of Europe."

The narrow strip of land on the eastern side of the Hadriatic on which
the name of Dalmatia has settled down has a history which is
strikingly analogous to its scenery. A coast for the most part barren
and rocky, but with its barrenness and rockiness diversified by a
series of noble havens, is fenced off by a range of mountains from a
boundless inland region. Each of these havens, with the cities which
from early days have sprung up on each, has always been an isolated
centre of civilization in a backward land. As a rule, broken only
during a few centuries of the universal sway of Rome, the coast and
the inland country have been the possession, by no means always of
different nations, but most commonly of different governments. On the
coast the rule of the Venetian has been succeeded by the rule of the
Austrian, while in the inland region the rule of native Slavonic
princes has been succeeded by the rule of the Turk. Yet the Slave,
though an earlier settler than the Turk or the Venetian, was himself
only a settler in comparatively recent times. Native Illyrians, Greek
colonists, Roman colonists, the rule of the Goth from Ravenna, the
rule of the Eastern Roman from Constantinople, had all to take their
turn before the land put on its present character of a more or less
Italianized fringe on a Slavonic body, of a narrow rim of Christendom
hemming in the north-eastern conquests of the once advancing and now
receding Mussulman.

So it is with Dalmatian history. As the cultivation and civilization
of the land lies in patches, as harbours and cities alternate with
barren hills, so Dalmatia has played a part in history only by fits
and starts. This fitful kind of history goes on from the days of Greek
colonies and Illyrian piracy to the last war between Italy and
Austria. But of continuous history, steadily influencing the course of
the world's progress, Dalmatia has none to show. Salona plays its part
in the wars both of Cæsar and of Belisarius; Zara reminds us of the
fourth crusade; the whole history of Ragusa claims a high place among
the histories of independent and isolated cities; Lissa recalls the
memory of two times of warfare within our own century. But if there
was any time when Dalmatia really influenced the history of the world,
it was when Dalmatia had no national being, when it was merely a
province of an universal dominion along with Britain and Egypt. Of the
great Emperors of the third century, who called the Roman power into
new life and checked the ever-advancing wave of Teutonic invasion,
many came from the Illyrian lands, several came from the actual
Dalmatian coast. And the most famous among them - Docles, Diocletian,
Jovius - not only came forth from Dalmatia to rule the world, but went
back to Dalmatia to seek rest when weary of the toil of ruling it.

But in our immediate point of view we must never forget that our
course now lies wholly, not only by subject lands of Venice, but by
lands where Venice appears in her highest character as the bulwark of
Christendom against the misbeliever. The shores and cities by which we
pass, were subject to the Serene Republic, but subjection to the
Serene Republic was their only chance of escaping subjection to the
Ottoman Sultan. Every town, every fortress, almost every point of
ground along this whole coast, has been fought for, most of them have
been won and lost, over and over again, in the long crusade which
Venice waged, if for herself, yet for Europe also. Her rule was an
alien rule, but it was still European and Christian; it shut out the
rule of the barbarian. It was a rule better and worse in different
times and places, but it had always the merit of shutting out a worse
rule than itself, which was ever ready to take its place. Whenever we
see the winged lion keeping guard, the thought should rise that he
kept guard over spots which he alone kept for Christendom, which he
alone saved from barbarian bondage.

* * * * *

The visitor to Dalmatia may be conceived as setting forth from the
harbour of Trieste - from Trieste with its houses climbing up to the
church and castle on the hill, with the background of mountains
growing in the far distance into snowy Alps. From the Dalmatian coast
itself no snowy Alps are seen; but the whole land is only a mountain
slope, and the cities are cities on a smaller scale than Trieste, and
which seldom run so high as Trieste does up the hill-side. But we must
not forget that, even at Trieste, Dalmatia is still a distant land.
There is the Istrian peninsula to be skirted, the peninsula whose
coast was so long counted among the subject lands of Venice, while the
inland region, under the rule of counts of Gorizia and dukes of
Austria, counted only among the neighbours of the Republic. The
Istrian coast, largely flat, is marked here and there by small towns
standing well on high points over the sea, or seen more faintly in the
more distant inland region. But we know that inland Istria is a hilly
land, and, even from the sea, the mountain wall may still be seen
skirting the horizon. Darkness has come on by the time we reach the
harbour of Pola, once Pietas Julia, now the chief station of the
infant navy of Austria. But the darkness is not so great but that the
dim outline of the vast amphitheatre can be seen, and the arrangements
of the Austrian Lloyd's steamers allow time enough to go on shore and
take in the general effect both of the amphitheatre and the other
buildings of Pola. We here get our first impression of the Venetian
towns beyond the Hadriatic, all of which seem to attempt in some sort
to reproduce their mistress, so far as Venice can be reproduced where
there are no canals and therefore no gondolas. But all have the same
narrow, paved streets, the same little squares, and, if the passage
of horses and wheels is not so utterly unknown as it is at Venice,
their presence is, to say the least, rare. The lion of Saint Mark is
to be seen everywhere else; by daylight therefore he is to be seen at
Pola also. But the Lloyd's arrangements condemn Pola, in the early
part of October at least, to be seen only by dim glimpses, while Zara
has an ample measure of daylight. Let no one however blame a
time-table which will bring him into Spalato with the setting sun, and
will allow him to take his first glance of Diocletian's palace by the
rising moon.

In the night we pass by several islands, but none are of any historic
importance. Veglia lies out of our path, or we might muse on the evil
deeds of the last independent Count, at least as they were reported by
his Venetian enemies, who were eager to get possession of his island.
The tale will be found in Sir Gardner Wilkinson's "Dalmatia and
Montenegro," a book which no traveller in these lands should be
without. The next morning's light shows us genuine Dalmatia, its coast
at this stage marked by the barren hills coming down to the sea and
the range of higher mountains further inland. We skirt among endless
islands, most of which seem barren and uninhabited; we pass along the
channel of Zara, and come to anchor off the city itself, standing on
its peninsula crowned with its walls - Venetian and later - and with
the towers of its churches rising above them. Here a stay of several
hours allows a pretty full examination of our first Dalmatian city - a
city however more Italian and far less thoroughly Dalmatian than other
cities to which our further course will lead us. There is time to
visit the _duomo_ and the smaller churches - to mark the two surviving
Roman columns - to thread the narrow streets, with their occasional
scraps of Venetian architecture - to stroll by the harbour, under the
gateways marked by the lion of Saint Mark, one of which so oddly
proves to be really a Roman gate with a Venetian casing. We may even,
if we so think good, climb the mound which, though crowned by a not
attractive Chinese pagoda, nevertheless supplies the best view of Zara
and her two seas. The _Albergo al Cappello_ - the sign of the
Hat - supplies food certainly not worse than an Italian town of the
same class would set before a passing traveller. The meal done, to sit
out of doors in a _café_ is nothing new to any one who has crossed the
straits, not of Zara but of Calais; but it is a new feeling to do so
in the narrow streets of a Dalmatian town, and to add the further
luxury of maraschino drunk in its native land.

Night is now passed on board, and Zara is left by sunrise. Islands and
hills again succeed on either side, till we enter a narrow strait and
find ourselves in a noble harbour with a town in front, lying, like
most Dalmatian towns except Zara, at the foot of the mountains. We are
in the haven of Sebenico, but the haven of Sebenico is by no means the
whole of the inlet, which runs much further inland in the shape of a
narrow creek. We land, and give such time as is allowed us to a sight
of the little hill-side city. Shall we give Sebenico the last place
among the cities which we stay and examine in detail, or the first
place among the lesser cities to which we give such time as we can in
passing by? We are driven to this last course, not forgetting, if we
are minded to turn away from history and art to look for a while on a
striking natural object, that it is from Sebenico that we may best
make our way to the great waterfall of Kerka. And, as far as those who
have made no special study of Alpine matters may speak, the falls of
Kerka, rushing down in a company of torrents side by side, look as if
they had a right to take a high place among the falls at least of the
old world. But Sebenico is not simply the way to Kerka; there is
something to see in Sebenico itself. It is a hill city, but it is
emphatically not a hill-top city, but a hill-side city. We climb up
through the inhabited town to the castle, and when we reach the
castle, we are far from having reached the hill top. And to those who
make Sebenico their second halting-place on the strictly Dalmatian
coast it will have a special interest. Much smaller than Zara, it is
far more thoroughly Dalmatian; costume is more marked, and its
position gives it that peculiar air of quaintness which is shared by
all places where narrow streets run up a steep hill. And those streets
moreover are rich with architectural features, graceful windows and
the like, which witness to the influence of the ruling city. And there
is something not a little taking in the small _piazza_ of
Sebenico - the arcaded _loggia_ on the one side, the cathedral on the
other, with its mixed but stately architecture, its waggon-roof of
stone standing out boldly without either buttress or external roof.
Mr. Neale, whom, as he does not rule Sebenico to be a "church city,"
we may now quote seriously, holds that the cathedral of Sebenico is
"in an exclusively architectural view the most interesting church in
Dalmatia." He adds that "in truth it is one of the noblest, most
striking, most simple, most Christian of churches." This is high
praise, especially when bestowed by Mr. Neale on a church which was
consecrated so lately as 1555. But there is no denying that, strangely
confused as is its style, the church of Sebenico is, both inside and
out, not only a most remarkable, but a thoroughly effective building.
The internal proportions are noble; the height is great; the columns,
though their arches are pointed, might have stood in any basilica at
Rome or Ravenna; the barrel vaulting carries us away to Saint Sernin
at Toulouse and to the Conqueror's Tower. The details are a strange
mixture of late Gothic and _Renaissance_, very rich and somehow very
effective. It is not exactly like that class of French churches of
which Saint Eustache at Paris is the grandest example, where a
thoroughly mediæval outline is carried out with _Renaissance_ detail.
At Sebenico we see side by side, a bit in one style and a bit in the
other, and yet the two contrive to harmonize. We go down again to the
haven; we mark a few classical capitals preserved, as we here preserve
ammonites and pieces of rock-work; we start again to make the second
portion of our second day's voyage, and to reach the most marked and
memorable spot in our whole course.

After Sebenico the coast is for a while almost free from islands.
Presently we pass along among a few small ones, and Lissa, famous for
piracies two thousand years back and for more regular warfare in our
own century and in our own day, shows itself in the distance. Our
course has by this time turned nearly due east. We pass by Bua, hardly
conscious that it is an island. We pass by the mouth of the bay which
Bua guards, hardly conscious of the depth of the inlet into which it
leads, or that two cities - Traü and fallen Salona - are washed by its
waters. For the child of Salona, the great object of a Dalmatian
voyage, is coming within sight far away. The mighty campanile of
Spalato rises, kindled with the last rays of sunlight; presently the
cupola of the metropolitan church, the long line of the palace wall,
the buildings of what is plainly no inconsiderable city, stand out
against their mountain background. The sun has gone down behind the
western headland, but we can get our first glimpse of the city, its
arcades and tower and temples, by that moonlight which is as good at
Spalato as at Melrose. We have been in the home of Diocletian, and we
go back to our ship, for the next day to bring us to the one city
along these shores which the might of Venice could never bring into

* * * * *

In such a voyage as this many points necessarily escape notice, and
the great objects of study are well reserved for the return journey.
In all travelling for instruction's sake, it is a point specially to
be insisted on that every place should, whenever it is possible, be
seen twice. Nothing fixes a thing so well in the memory as going
through the process of recollection. And, in such a voyage as this, it
is no bad way to go at once to the furthest point, to see on the way
so much of the several points as the arrangements of the steamers
allow, and to stop a longer time at the important places coming back.
In this way a general notion of Dalmatia and its cities is gained
first of all - a notion which may be enlarged and corrected by more
minute examination of the chief places, and of course, foremost among
them, of Spalato itself. But Spalato, though the great object of a
Dalmatian voyage, is by no means its final object. When we have
reached Spalato, we have not yet gone through half our course. Before
we can come back to study its wonders more worthily, we have to spend
a day in the archipelago of larger islands, nearly each of which,
unlike their northern fellows, has some old historical memory. We have
for part of another day to sail along that still narrower strip of
Christendom which fences off Ragusa from the Mussulman, to thread our
way through the lovely Bocche of Cattaro, till we reach the furthest
of Dalmatian cities, with the path to unconquered Montenegro over our



Parenzo, the ancient colony of Parentium, is likely to be, for many
travellers in Istria and Dalmatia, their first point of stoppage after
leaving Trieste. To such travellers it will be the beginning of the
dominion of Venice in spots lying wholly beyond the Hadriatic, the
first glimpse of the long series of lands and cities, from Istria to
Cyprus, which once "looked to the winged lion's marble piles," and
where the winged lion still abides in stone to keep up the memory of
his old dominion. The short voyage is a lovely one. Looking back,
there is Trieste on her hill-side, with her suburbs and detached
houses spreading far away in both directions, and backed by the vast
semicircle of the Julian Alps, with the snowy peaks of their higher
summits soaring above all. The northern part of the Istrian peninsula,

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Online LibraryEdward Augustus FreemanSketches from the subject and neighbour lands of Venice → online text (page 6 of 23)