Edward Augustus Freeman.

Sketches from the subject and neighbour lands of Venice online

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as we see it from the sea, has a strikingly rich and picturesque look,
which is lost as we follow the coast towards the south. The small
Istrian towns, each one of which has its civil and ecclesiastical
history, jut out, each one on its own smaller peninsula; and in this
part of the voyage the spaces between them are not lacking in signs of
human dwelling and cultivation. Capo d'Istria, once Justinopolis, lies
in its gulf to the left, to remind us that we have passed into the
dominions of the Cæsars of the East. Forwards, Pirano stands on its
headland, its _duomo_ rising above the water on arcades built up to
save it from the further effects of the stripping process which is so
clearly seen along the coast. The castle, with its many towers capped
with their Scala battlements, rises over town and church, with a
picturesqueness not common in Italian buildings. The church, on the
other hand, is as far from picturesque as most Italian churches are
without, and the detached campanile is simply, like many other Istrian
bell-towers, a miniature of the great tower of the ruling city. But
neither Capo d'Istria nor Pirano is so likely to cause the traveller
bound for Dalmatia to halt as the other and more famous peninsular
town of Parenzo. Long before Parenzo is reached, the Istrian shore has
lost its beauty, though the Istrian hills, now and then capped by a
hill-side town, and the higher mountains beyond them, tell us
something of the character of the inland scenery. At last the
Parentine headland is reached; the temples which crowned it are no
longer to be seen, but the campanile of the famous _duomo_, with its
Veronese spire, and one or two smaller towers, have taken their place
as the prominent objects of the little city. On the side which would
otherwise be open to the Hadriatic, the isle of Saint Nicolas shuts in
the haven guarded by a round Venetian tower. The other side of the
peninsula is washed by the mouth - here we must not say the estuary - of
a stream yellow as Tiber, which comes rushing down by a small
waterfall from the high ground where the Parentine peninsula joins the
mainland. On this peninsula stood the older _municipium_ of Parentium,
and the colony, some say the Julian Colony of Augustus, others the
Ulpian Colony of Trajan. The zeal of Dr. Kandler, the great master of
Istrian antiquities, made out the position of the forum, patrician and
plebeian, of the capitol, the theatre, and the temples. The traveller
will probably need a guide even to the temples, though one of them
keeps the greater part of its stylobate, and the other one has two
broken fluted columns left. A single inscribed stone in the ancient
forum he can hardly fail to see; but the truth is that the Roman
remains of Parentium are such as concern only immediate inquirers into
local Parentine history. At Pola it is otherwise; there the Roman
remains stand out as the great object, utterly overshadowing the
buildings of later times; but at Parenzo the main interest, as it is
not mediæval so neither is it pagan Roman. As at Ravenna, so at
Parenzo, the real charm is to be found in the traces which it keeps of
the great transitional ages when Roman and Teuton stood side by side.
Against the many objects of Ravenna Parenzo has only to set its one.
It has no palace, no kingly tomb - though the thought cannot fail to
suggest itself that it was from Istrian soil that the mighty stone was
brought which once covered the resting-place of Theodoric. Parenzo has
but a single church of moment, but that church is one which would hold
no mean place even among the glories of Ravenna. The capitol of
Parentium has given way to the episcopal precinct, and the temple of
the capitoline god has given way to the great basilica of Saint
Maurus, the building which now gives Parenzo its chief claim to the
study of those for whom the days of the struggle of Goth and Roman
have a special charm.

* * * * *

As to the date of the church of Parenzo there seems little doubt. It
is a basilica of the reign of Justinian, which has been preserved with
remarkably little change, and which will hardly find, out of Rome and
Ravenna, any building of its own class to surpass it. With the
buildings of Ravenna it stands in immediate connexion, being actually
contemporary with the work both at Saint Vital and at Saint
Apollinaris in Classe. Its foundation is a little later, as the
church of Parenzo seems to have been begun after the reconquest of
Italy and Istria by Belisarius, while both Saint Vital and Saint
Apollinaris, though finished under the rule of the Emperor, were begun
under the rule of the Goth. There are points at Parenzo which connect
it with both the contemporary churches of Ravenna. The pure basilican
form, the shape of the apse, hexagonal without, though round within,
are common to Parenzo and Classis; the capitals too have throughout
the Ravenna stilt above them; but of the capitals themselves many take
that specially Byzantine shape which at Ravenna is found only in Saint
Vital. That the founder was a Bishop Euphrasius is shown by his
monogram on many of the stilts, by the great mosaic of the apse, in
which he appears holding the church in his hand as founder, and by the
inscription on the disused tabernacle, which is engraved in Mr.
Neale's book on Dalmatia and Istria. At Parenzo, as at Sebenico, Mr.
Neale was in a serious mood; but, though he copied the inscription
rightly or nearly so, he misunderstood it in the strangest fashion,
and thereby led himself into much needless puzzledom. Euphrasius,
according to Dr. Kandler, having been before a decurion of the town,
became the first bishop in 524, when the Istrian bishoprics were
founded under Theodoric. The church would seem to have been built
between 535 and 543. The inscription runs thus: -

Famul[us] . D[e]i . Eufrasius . Antis[tes] . temporib[us] .
suis . ag[ens] an[num] . xi. hunc. loc[um] . fondamen[tis] .
D[e]o . jobant[e] . s[an]c[t]e . æc[c]l[esie] Catholec[e] .

The church was therefore begun in the eleventh year of the episcopate
of Euphrasius; that is, in 535. Dr. Kandler prints, unluckily only in
an Italian translation, a document of 543, the sixteenth year of
Justinian, who appears with his usual titles, in which Euphrasius
makes regulations for the Chapter, and speaks of the church as
something already in being. Mr. Neale quotes from Coletti, the editor
of Ughelli's _Italia Sacra_, part of a document in Latin which is
obviously the same, but which is assigned to 796, the sixteenth year
of Constantine the Sixth. The difference is strange; but the date of
the document does not directly affect the date of the church, and,
whatever be the date of either, Mr. Neale needlessly perplexed himself
with the inscription. He says that the inscription commemorates a
certain Pope John, and wonders that Euphrasius, who took part in the
Aquileian schism about the Three Chapters - the Three Chapters which
readers of Gibbon will remember - should record the name of a Pope with
whom he was not in communion. But this difficulty is got rid of by the
simple fact that there is nothing about any Pope John in the
inscription. Mr. Neale strangely read the two words DO . IOBANT . - the
words are carefully marked off by stops - that is, in the barbarous
spelling of the inscription, DEO IVVANTE, into the four words "Domino
Johanne Beatissimo Antistite." We therefore need not, in fixing the
date of the church of Parenzo, trouble ourselves about any Popes.
There can be no doubt that it is the work of Euphrasius, and that
Euphrasius was one of those who opposed Rome about the Three Chapters.
In any case, the _duomo_ of Parenzo has the interest which attaches to
any church built while our own forefathers were still worshipping
Woden; and we may safely add that it has the further interest of being
built by a prelate who threw off all allegiance to the see of Rome.

The church is indeed a noble one, and its long arcades preserve to us
one of the most speaking examples of the forms of a great basilica.
Every arch deserves careful study, because at Parenzo the capitals
seem not to have been the spoil of earlier buildings, but to have been
made for the church itself. Some still cleave to the general
Corinthian type, though without any slavish copying of classical
models. Animal forms are freely introduced; bulls, swans, and other
creatures, are made to do duty as volutes; and when bulls and swans
are set on that work, we may be sure that the Imperial bird is not
left idle. Others altogether forsake the earlier types; it perhaps
became a church built in the dominions of Justinian while Saint Sophia
was actually rising, that some of its capitals should adopt the square
Byzantine form enwreathed with its basket-work of foliage. But all,
whatever may be their form in other ways, carry the Ravenna stilt,
marked, in some cases at least, with the monogram of the founder
Euphrasius. Happily the love of red rags which is so rampant on either
side of Parenzo, at Trieste and at Zara, seems not to have spread to
Parenzo itself, and the whole of this noble series of capitals may be
studied with ease. The upper part, including the arches, has been more
or less Jesuited within and without, but enough remains to make out
the original arrangements. The soffits on the north side are
ornamented like those in the basilica of Theodoric, a style of
ornament identical with that of so many Roman roofs; above was a
simple round-headed clerestory, and outside are the same slight
beginnings of ornamental arcades which are to be seen at Saint
Apollinaris in Classe. The apse, with its happily untouched windows
and its grand mosaic, also carries us across to Ravenna. Besides the
founder Euphrasius, we see the likeness of the Archdeacon Claudius and
his son, a younger Euphrasius, besides Saint Maurus the patron and
other saintly personages. Below is a rich ornament, but which surely
must be of somewhat later date, formed largely of the actual shells of
mother-of-pearl. The Bishop's throne is in its place; and, as at
Ravenna and in the great Roman basilicas, mass is celebrated by the
priest standing behind the altar with his face westward. Such was
doubtless the usage of the days of Euphrasius, and in such an
old-world place as Parenzo it still goes on.

But if, in this matter, Parenzo clings to a very ancient use, we may
doubt whether, at Parenzo or anywhere else, the men who made these
great apses and covered them with these splendid mosaics designed them
to be, as they so often are, half hidden by the _baldacchini_ which
cover the high altar. Even in Saint Ambrose at Milan, where the apse
is so high above the altar and where apse and _baldacchino_ are of the
same date, we feel that the view of the east end is in some measure
interfered with. Much more is this the case at Parenzo, where the apse
is lower and the _baldacchino_ more lofty. But the Parenzo
_baldacchino_, dating from 1277, is a noble work of its kind, and it
is wonderful how little change the course of seven hundred years has
made in some of its details as compared with those of the great
arcades. The pointed arch is used, and the Ravenna stilt is absent;
but the capitals, with their animal volutes, are almost the same as
some of those of Euphrasius. Between the date of Euphrasius and the
date of the _baldacchino_ we hear of more than one consecration, one
of which, in 961, is said to have followed a destroying Slavonic
inroad; but it is clear that any works done then must have been works
of mere repair, not of rebuilding. No one can doubt that the columns
and their capitals are the work of Euphrasius, and by diligently
peeping round among the mass of buildings by which the church is
encumbered, the original design may be seen outside as well as in.

But the church of Parenzo is not merely a basilica; it has all the
further accompaniments of an Italian episcopal church. West of the
church stands the atrium, with the windows of the west front and the
remains of mosaic enrichment rising above it. An arcade of three on
each side surrounds the court, a court certainly far smaller than that
of Saint Ambrose. Two columns with Byzantine capitals stand on each
side; the rest are ancient, but those of the west side are a repair of
the present king, or by whatever title it is that the King of Dalmatia
and Lord of Trieste reigns on the intermediate Istrian shore. To the
west of the atrium is the roofless baptistery, to the west of that the
not remarkable campanile. We have thus reached the extreme west of
this great pile of building, which, after all - such is the difference
of scale between the churches of northern and southern Europe - reaches
only the measure of one of our smallest minsters or greatest parish
churches. The basilica of Parenzo, with all its accompaniments,
measures, according to Mr. Neale's plan, only about 240 feet in
length. But, if we have traced out those accompaniments towards the
west, we have not yet done with those towards the east. A modern
quasi-transept has been thrown out on each side, of which the northern
one strangely forms the usual choir, much as in St. Peter's at Rome.
These additions have columns with Byzantine capitals, like those in
the atrium, copied from the old ones. But beyond this choir, and
connected with the original church, is a low vaulted building of the
plainest round-arched work, called, as usual, the "old church," the
"pagan temple," and what not, which leads again into two chapels, the
furthest having an eastern apse. Now these chapels have a mosaic
pavement, and it is most remarkable that, below the pavement of the
church, is a pavement some feet lower, which evidently belongs to some
earlier building, and which is on the same level as the pavement of
these chapels. It is therefore quite possible that we have here some
remains of a building, perhaps a church, earlier than the time of
Euphrasius. Between Constantine and Justinian there was time enough
for a church to be built at Parentium and for Euphrasius to think it
needful to rebuild it. Lastly, among the canonical buildings on the
south side of the church is one, said to have been a tithe barn, with
a grand range of Romanesque coupled windows, bearing date 1250. They
remind us somewhat of the so-called John of Gaunt's stables, the real
Saint Mary's Guild, at Lincoln. In short, so long as any traces are
left of the style once common to all Western Europe, England and Italy
are ever reminding us of one another.

Such is the church of Parenzo, and at Parenzo the church is the main
thing. As we pass away, and catch the last traces of the church of
Euphrasius rising above the little peninsular city, our thoughts fly
back to the other side of the Hadriatic, and it seems as if the men
who came to fetch the great stone from Istria to Ravenna had left one
of the noblest basilicas of their own city behind them on the Istrian


1875 - 1881.

After Parenzo the most obvious stopping-place on the Istrian shore
will be Pola; and at Pola the main objects of interest for the
historical student will be classed in an order of merit exactly
opposite to those which he has seen at Parenzo. At Parenzo the main
attraction is the great basilica, none the less attractive as being a
monument of early opposition to the claims of the Roman see. Beside
this ecclesiastical treasure the remains of the Parentine colony are
felt to be quite secondary. At Pola things are the other way; the
monuments of Pietas Julia claim the first place; the basilica, though
not without a certain special interest, comes long after them. The
character of the place is fixed by the first sight of it; we see the
present and we see the more distant past; the Austrian navy is to be
seen, and the amphitheatre is to be seen. But intermediate times have
little to show; if the duomo strikes the eye at all, it strikes it
only by the extreme ugliness of its outside, nor is there anything
very taking, nothing like the picturesque castle of Pirano, in the
works which occupy the site of the colonial capitol. The _duomo_
should not be forgotten; even the church of Saint Francis is worth a
glance; but it is in the remains of the Roman colony, in the
amphitheatre, the arches, the temples, the fragments preserved in that
temple which serves, as at Nîmes, for a museum, that the real
antiquarian wealth of Pola lies.

There is no need to go into the mythical history of the place. Tales
about Thracians and Argonauts need not be seriously discussed at this
time of day. Nor can there be any need to show that the name Pola is
not a contraction of Pietas Julia. Save for the slight accidental
likeness of letters, so to say is about as reasonable as to say that
London is a corruption of Augusta, or Jerusalem of Ælia. In all these
cases the older, native, familiar, name outlived the later, foreign,
official, name. When we have thoroughly cleared up the origin of the
Illyrians and the old Veneti, we may know something of the earliest
inhabitants of Pola, and possibly of the origin of its name. But the
known history of Pola begins with the Roman conquest of Istria in 178
B.C. The town became a Roman colony and a flourishing seat of
commerce. Its action on the republican side in the civil war brought
on it the vengeance of the second Cæsar. But the destroyer became the
restorer, and Pietas Julia, in the height of its greatness, far
surpassed the extent either of the elder or the younger Pola. Like all
cities of this region, Pola kept up its importance down to the days of
the Carolingian Empire, the specially flourishing time of the whole
district being that of Gothic and Byzantine dominion at Ravenna. A
barbarian king, the Roxolan Rasparasanus, is said to have withdrawn to
Pola after the submission of his nation to Hadrian; and the
panegyrists of the Flavian house rank Pola along with Trier and Autun
among the cities which the princes of that house had adorned or
strengthened. But in the history of their dynasty the name of the city
chiefly stands out as the chosen place for the execution of princes
whom it was convenient to put out of the way. Here Crispus died at the
bidding of Constantine, and Gallus at the bidding of Constantius.
Under Theodoric, Pola doubtless shared that general prosperity of the
Istrian land on which Cassiodorus grows eloquent when writing to its
inhabitants. In the next generation Pola appears in somewhat of the
same character which has come back to it in our own times; it was
there that Belisarius gathered the Imperial fleet for his second and
less prosperous expedition against the Gothic lords of Italy. But,
after the break up of the Frankish Empire, the history of mediæval
Pola is but a history of decline. It was, in the geography of Dante,
the furthest city of Italy; but, like most of the other cities of its
own neighbourhood, its day of greatness had passed away when Dante
sang. Tossed to and fro between the temporal and spiritual lords who
claimed to be marquesses of Istria, torn by the dissensions of
aristocratic and popular parties among its own citizens, Pola found
rest, the rest of bondage, in submission to the dominion of Saint Mark
in 1331. Since then, till its new birth in our own times, Pola has
been a falling city. Like the other Istrian and Dalmatian towns,
modern revolutions have handed it over from Venice to Austria, from
Austria to France, from France to Austria again. It is under its
newest masters that Pola has at last begun to live a fresh life, and
the haven whence Belisarius sailed forth has again become a haven in
more than name, the cradle of the rising navy of the united Austrian
and Hungarian realm.

[Illustration: PORTA GEMINA, POLA.]

That haven is indeed a noble one. Few sights are more striking than to
see the huge mass of the amphitheatre at Pola seeming to rise at once
out of the land-locked sea. As Pola is seen now, the amphitheatre is
the one monument of its older days which strikes the eye in the
general view, and which divides attention with signs that show how
heartily the once forsaken city has entered on its new career. But
in the old time Pola could show all the buildings which befitted its
rank as a colony of Rome. The amphitheatre of course stood without the
walls; the city itself stood at the foot and on the slope of the hill
which was crowned by the capitol of the colony, where the modern
fortress rises above the Franciscan church. Parts of the Roman wall
still stand; one of its gates is left; another has left a neighbour
and a memory. At the north side of the capitol stands the _Porta
Gemina_, leading from it to the amphitheatre. The outer gateway
remains, a double gate-way, as its name implies, with three Corinthian
half-columns between and on each side of the two arches. But here
steps in a singular architectural peculiarity, one which reminds us
that we are on the road to Spalato, and which already points to the
arcades of Diocletian. The columns support an entablature with its
frieze and cornice, but the architrave is wanting. Does not this show
a lurking sign of what was coming, a lurking feeling that the arch
itself was the true architrave? Be this as it may, there it stands,
sinning, like so many other ancient works, against pedantic rules, but
perhaps thereby winning its place in the great series of architectural
strivings which the palace of Spalato shows us the crowning-point. The
other arch, which is commonly known as _Porta Aurea_ or _Porta
Aurata_, conforms more nearly to ordinary rules. Here we have the
arch with the coupled Corinthian columns on each side of it,
supporting, as usual, their bit of broken entablature, and leaving
room for a spandril filled in much the same fashion as in the arch of
Severus at Rome. Compared with other arches of the same kind, this
arch of Pola may certainly claim to rank amongst the most graceful of
its class. With Trajan's arch at Ancona it can hardly be compared.
That tallest and slenderest of monumental arches palpably stands on
the haven to be looked at; while the arch of Pola, like its fellows at
Rimini and Aosta, and like the arch of Drusus at Rome, is a real
thoroughfare, which the citizens of Pietas Julia must have been in the
daily habit of passing under. And, as compared with the arches of
Rimini and Aosta, its design is perhaps the most pleasing of the
three. Its proportions are better designed; the coupled columns on
each side are more graceful than either the single columns at Rimini
or the pair of columns which at Aosta are placed so much further
apart. The idolater of minute rules will not be offended, as at Aosta,
with Doric triglyphs placed over Corinthian capitals, and the lover of
consistent design will not regret the absence of the sham pediment of
Rimini. But it must be borne in mind that the arch of Pola did not
originally stand alone, and that its usual name of _Porta Aurea_ is a
misnomer. It was built close against the _golden gate_ of the city,
whose name it has usurped. But it is, in truth, the family arch of the
Sergii, raised in honour of one of that house by his wife Salvia
Postuma. As such, it has a special interest in the local history of
Pola. Ages afterwards, as late as the thirteenth century, Sergii
appear again at Pola, as one of the chief families by whose
dissensions the commonwealth was torn in pieces. If there is authentic
evidence to connect these latter Sergii with the Sergii of the arch,
and these again with the great Patrician _gens_ which played such a
part in the history of the Roman commonwealth, here would indeed be a
pedigree before which that of the house of Paris itself might stand

A curious dialogue of the year 1600 is printed by Dr. Kandler in his
little book, _Cenni al Forrestiere che visita Pola_, which, with a
later little book, _Pola und seine nächste Umgebung_, by A. Gareis,
form together a very sufficient guide for the visitor to Pola. From
this evidence it is plain that, as late as the end of the sixteenth
century, the ancient buildings of Pola were in a far more perfect
state than they are now. Even late in the next century, in the days of
Spon and Wheler, a great deal was standing that is no longer there.
Wheler's view represents the city surrounded with walls, and with at
least one gate. The amphitheatre stands without the wall; the arch of
the Sergii stands within it; but the theatre must have utterly
vanished, because in the references to the plan its name is given to
the amphitheatre. And it must have been before this time that the
amphitheatre had begun to be mutilated in order to supply materials

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Online LibraryEdward Augustus FreemanSketches from the subject and neighbour lands of Venice → online text (page 7 of 23)