Edward Augustus Freeman.

Sketches from the subject and neighbour lands of Venice online

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for the fortress on the capitoline hill. Indeed it is even said that
there was at one time a scheme for carrying off the amphitheatre
bodily to Venice and setting it up on the Lido. This scheme, never
carried out, almost beats one which actually was carried out, when the
people of Jersey gave a _cromlech_ as a mark of respect to a popular
governor, by whom it was carried off and set up in his grounds in
England. Of the two temples in the forum, that which is said to have
been dedicated to Diana is utterly masked by the process which turned
it into the palace of the Venetian governor. A decent Venetian arcade
has supplanted its portico; but some of the original details can be
made out on the other sides. But the temple of Augustus, the restorer
of Pietas Julia, with its portico of unfluted Corinthian columns,
still fittingly remains almost untouched. Fragments and remains of all
dates are gathered together within and without the temple, and new
stores are constantly brought to light in digging the foundations for
the buildings of the growing town. But the chief wonder of Pola, after
all, is its amphitheatre. Travellers are sometimes apt to complain,
and that not wholly without reason, that all amphitheatres are very
like one another. At Pola this remark is less true than elsewhere, as
the amphitheatre there has several marked peculiarities of its own. We
do not pretend to expound all its details scientifically; but this we
may say, that those who dispute - if the dispute still goes on - about
various points as regards the Coliseum at Rome will do well to go and
look for some further lights in the amphitheatre of Pola. The outer
range, which is wonderfully perfect, while the inner arrangements are
fearfully ruined, consists, on the side towards the town, of two rows
of arches, with a third story with square-headed openings above them.
But the main peculiarity in the outside is to be found in four
tower-like projections, not, as at Arles and Nîmes, signs of Saracenic
occupation, but clearly parts of the original design. Many conjectures
have been made about them; they look as if they were means of approach
to the upper part of the building; but it is wisest not to be
positive. But the main peculiarity of this amphitheatre is that it
lies on the slope of a hill, which thus supplied a natural basement
for the seats on one side only. But this same position swallowed up
the lower arcade on this side, and it hindered the usual works
underneath the seats from being carried into this part of the
building. In the other part the traces of the underground arrangements
are very clear, especially those which seem to have been meant for
the _naumachiæ_. These we specially recommend to any disputants about
the underground works of the Flavian amphitheatre.

The Roman antiquities of Pola are thus its chief attraction, and they
are enough to give Pietas Julia a high place among Roman colonies. But
the ecclesiastical side of the city must not be wholly forgotten. The
_duomo_, if a small matter after that of Parenzo, if absolutely
unsightly as seen from without, is not without its importance. It may
briefly be described as a church of the fifteenth century, built on
the lines of an ancient basilica, some parts of whose materials have
been used up again. There is, we believe, no kind of doubt as to the
date, and we do not see why Mr. Neale should have wondered at Murray's
Handbook for assigning the building to the time to which it really
belongs. No one could surely have placed a church with pointed arches,
and with capitals of the kind so common in Venetian buildings, more
than a century or two earlier. There is indeed an inscription built
into the south wall which has a special interest from another point of
view, but which, one would have thought, could hardly have led any one
to mistake the date of the existing church. It records the building of
the church by Bishop Handegis in 857, "Regnante Ludowico Imperatore
Augusto in Italia." The minute accuracy of the phrase - "the Emperor
Lewis being King in Italy" - is in itself something amazing; and this
inscription shares the interest which attaches to any memorial of that
gallant prince, the most truly Roman Emperor of his line. And it is
something to mark that the stonecutter doubted between "L_o_dowico"
and "L_u_dowico," and wrote both letters, one over the other. But the
inscription of course refers to a reconstruction some hundred years
earlier than the time when the church took its present shape. Yet
these basilican churches were so constantly reconstructed over and
over again, and largely out of the same materials, that the building
of the fifteenth century may very well reproduce the general effect,
both of the building of the eighth and of the far earlier church,
parts of which have lived on through both recastings.

The ten arches on each side of the Polan basilica are all pointed, but
the width of the arches differs. Some of them are only just pointed,
and it is only in the most eastern pair of arches that the pointed
form comes out at all prominently. For here the arches are the
narrowest of the series, and the columns the slightest, that on the
south side being banded. The arch of triumph, which is round, looks
very much as if it had been preserved from the earlier church; and
such is clearly the case with two columns and one capital, whose
classical Corinthian foliage stands in marked contrast with the
Venetian imitations on each side of it. The church, on the whole,
though not striking after such a marvel as Parenzo, is really one of
high interest, as an example of the way in which the general effect of
an early building was sometimes reproduced at a very late time. Still
at Pola, among such wealth of earlier remains, it is quite secondary,
and its beauties are, even more than is usual in churches of its type,
altogether confined to the inside. The campanile is modern and
worthless, and the outside of the church itself is disfigured, after
the usual fashion of Italian ugliness, with stable-windows and the
like. Yet even they are better than the red rags of Trieste and Zara

Such is Pola, another step on the road to the birthplace of true grace
and harmony in the building art. Yet, among the straits and islands of
the Dalmatian coast, there is more than one spot at which the
traveller bound for Spalato must stop. The first and most famous one
is the city where Venetians and Crusaders once stopped with such
deadly effect on that voyage which was to have led them to Jerusalem,
but which did lead them only to New Rome. After the glimpses of Istria
taken at Parenzo and Pola, the first glimpse, not of Dalmatia itself,
but of the half-Italian cities which fringe its coast, may well be
taken at Zara.


1875 - 1877 - 1881.

The name of Zara is familiar to every one who has read the history of
the Fourth Crusade, and its fate in the Fourth Crusade is undoubtedly
the one point in its history which makes Zara stand out prominently
before the eyes of the world. Of all the possessions of Venice along
this coast, it is the one whose connexion with Venice is stamped for
ever on the pages of universal history. Those who know nothing else of
Zara, who perhaps know nothing at all of the other cities, at least
know that, at the beginning of the thirteenth century, the possession
of Zara was claimed by Venice, and that the claim of Venice was made
good by the help of warriors of the Cross who thus turned aside from
their course, not for the last time, to wield their arms against a
Christian city. It is as Zara that the city is famous, because it is
as Zara that its name appears in the pages of the great English teller
of the tale. And perhaps those who may casually light on some mention
of the city by any of its earlier names may not at once recognize Zara
under the form either of _Jadera_ or of _Diadora_. One is curious to
know how a city which under the first Augustus became a Roman colony
by the name of _Jadera_ had, in the time of his orthodox successors in
the tenth century, changed its name into anything with such a
heathenish sound as _Diadora_. Yet such was its name in the days of
Constantine Porphyrogenitus; and the Imperial historian does not make
matters much clearer when he tells us that the true Roman name of the
city was "Jam erat," implying that the city so called was older than
Rome. Let us quote him in his own Greek, if only to show how oddly his
Latin words look in their Greek dress.

[Greek: To kastron tôn Diadôrôn kaleitai tê Rhômaiôn dialektô iam
erat, hoper hermêneuetai aparti êton; dêlonoti hote hê Rhômê ektisthê,
proektismenon ên to toiouton kastron. esti de to kastron mega; hê de
koinê synêtheia kalei auto Diadôra.]

Yet the name of the colony of Augustus lived on through these strange
changes and stranger etymologies, and even in the narrative of the
Crusade it appears as _Jadres_ in the text of Villehardouin.

The history of the city in the intermediate ages is the usual history
of the towns on the Dalmatian coast. They all for a while keep on
their formal allegiance to the Eastern Empire, sometimes being really
its subjects, sometimes being practically independent, sometimes
tributary to the neighbouring Slaves. Still, under all changes, they
clave to the character of Roman cities, just as they still remain
seats of Italian influence in a Slavonic land. Then came a second time
of confusion, in which Zara and her sister cities are tossed to and
fro between another set of contending disputants. The Eastern Empire
hardly keeps even a nominal claim to the Dalmatian towns; the Slavonic
settlements have grown into regular kingdoms; Hungary on one side,
Venice on the other, are claiming the dominion of the Dalmatian coast.
The history of Zara now consists of conquests and reconquests between
the Republic of Saint Mark and the Hungarian and Croatian kings. The
one moment when Zara stands out in general history is the famous time
when one of the Venetian reconquests was made by the combined arms of
the Republic and the Frank Crusaders. The tale is a strange episode in
a greater episode - the episode of the conquest of the New Rome by the
united powers which first tried their 'prentice hand on Zara. But the
siege, as described by the Marshal of Champagne and the many writers
who have followed him, is not easy to understand, except by those who
have either seen the place itself or have maps before them such as are
not easily to be had. Like so many other Istrian and Dalmatian towns,
Zara stands on a narrow peninsula, lying east and west. It has on its
north side an inlet of the sea, which forms its harbour; to the south
is the main sea, or, more strictly, the channel of Zara lying between
the Dalmatian coast and the barren islands which at this point lie off
it. Villehardouin describes the port as being guarded by a chain,
which was broken by the galleys of the Crusaders. They presently
landed on the opposite coast, so as to have the haven between them and
the town ("et descendirent à terre, si que di porz fu entr' aus et la
ville"). That is to say, they landed on the mainland north of the
haven. The Frank army then besieged the city by land - that is, from
the isthmus on the east, and perhaps also from the shore of the haven;
while the Venetians, though their ships anchored in the haven ("le
port ou les nés estoient"), made their assault on the side of the open
sea ("devers la mer"). On the spot, or in reading the narrative of
Villehardouin by the light of remembrance of the spot, the description
becomes perfectly clear.

Zara still keeps its peninsular site, and the traveller, as he draws
near, still marks the fortifications, old and new, the many towers, no
one of which so predominates over its fellows as to make itself the
chief object in the view. Either however the modern Venetian and
Austrian fortifications of Zara are less formidable, in appearance at
least, than those which the Crusaders found there, or else they seemed
more terrible to those who had actually to undertake the business of
attacking them. Villehardouin had never seen such high walls and
towers, nor, though he had just come from Venice, could he conceive a
city fairer or more rich. The pilgrims were amazed at the sight, and
wondered how they could ever become masters of such a place, unless
God specially put it into their hands. The modern traveller, as he
draws nearer, soon sees the signs of the success which the pilgrims so
little hoped for. He sees the badge of Venetian rule over the
water-gate, and most likely he little suspects that the outer arch, of
manifest Venetian date, masks a plain Roman arch which is to be seen
on the inner side. There is another large Venetian gate towards the
inlet; and the traveller who at Zara first lands on Dalmatian ground
will find on landing much to remind him that Dalmatian ground once was
Venetian ground. The streets are narrow and paved; they are not quite
as narrow as in Venice, nor is the passage of horses and all that
horses draw so absolutely unknown as it is in Venice. Still the
subject city comes near enough to its mistress to remind us under
whose dominion Zara stayed for so many ages. And the traveller who
begins his Dalmatian studies at Zara will perhaps think Dalmatia is
not so strange and out-of-the-way a land as he had fancied before
going thither. He may be tempted to look on Zara simply as an Italian
town, and to say that an Italian town east of the Hadriatic is not
very unlike an Italian town on the other side. This feeling, not
wholly true even at Zara, will become more and more untrue as the
traveller makes his way further along the coast. Each town, as he goes
on, will become less Italian and more Slavonic. In street architecture
Zara certainly stands behind some of the other Dalmatian towns. We see
fewer of those windows of Venetian and Veronese type which in some
places meet us in almost every house. The Roman remains are not very
extensive. We have said that Jadera still keeps a Roman arch under a
Venetian mask. That arch keeps its pilasters and its inscription, but
the statues which, according to that inscription, once crowned it,
have given way to another inscription of Venetian times. Besides the
_Porta Marina_, two other visible memorials of earlier days still
exist in the form of two ancient columns standing solitary, one near
the church of Saint Simeon, presently to be spoken of, the other in
the herb-market between the _duomo_ and the haven. But the main
interest of Zara, apart from its general and special history, and
apart from the feeling of freshness in treading a land so famous and
so little known, is undoubtedly to be found in its ecclesiastical

The churches of Zara are certainly very much such churches as might be
looked for in any Italian city of the same size. But they specially
remind us of Lucca. The cathedral, now metropolitan, church of Saint
Anastasia, has had its west front engraved in more than one book, from
Sir Gardner Wilkinson downwards; it is a pity that local art has not
been stirred up to produce some better memorial of this and the other
buildings of Zara than the wretched little photographs which are all
that is to be had on the spot. But perhaps not much in the way of art
is to be looked for in a city where, as at Trieste and Ancona and Rome
herself, it seems to be looked on as adding beauty to the inside of a
church to swathe marble columns and Corinthian capitals in ugly
wrappings of red cloth. This at least seems to be an innovation since
the days of the Imperial topographer. Constantine speaks of the church
of Saint Anastasia as being of oblong, that is, basilican,
shape - [Greek: dromikos] is his Greek word - with columns of green and
white marble, enriched with much ancient woodwork, and having a
tesselated pavement, which the Emperor, or those from whom he drew his
report of Zara, looked on as wonderful. It is very likely that some of
the columns which in the tenth century were clearly allowed to stand
naked and to be seen have been used up again in the present church.
This was built in the thirteenth century, after the destruction
wrought in the Frank and Venetian capture, and it is said to have been
consecrated in 1285. It is, on the whole, a witness to the way in
which the Romanesque style so long stood its ground, though here and
there is a touch of the coming pseudo-Gothic, and, what is far more
interesting to note, here and there is a touch of the Romanesque forms
of the lands beyond the Alps. The church is, in its architectural
arrangements, a great and simple basilica; but, as might be expected
from its date, it shows somewhat of that more elaborate way of
treating exteriors which had grown up at Pisa and Lucca. The west
front has surface arcades broken in upon by two wheel windows, the
lower arcade with round, the upper with pointed, arches. Along the
north aisle runs an open gallery, which, oddly enough, is not carried
round the apse. The narrow windows below it are round in the eastern
part, trefoiled in the western, showing a change of design as the work
went on. Near the east end stands the unfinished campanile; a stage or
two of good Romanesque design is all that is finished. The one perfect
ancient tower in Zara is not that of the _duomo_.

On entering the church, we at once feel how much the building has
suffered from puzzling and disfiguring modern changes. But this is
not all; the general effect of the inside has been greatly altered by
a change which we cannot bring ourselves wholly to condemn. The choir
is lifted up above the crypt as at Saint Zeno and Saint Ambrose; the
stone chair still remains in the apse; but the object which chiefly
strikes the eye is one which is hardly in harmony with these. The
choir is fitted up with a range of splendid _cinque cento_
stalls - reminding one of King's College chapel or of Wimborne as it
once was - placed in the position usual in Western churches. This last
feature, grand in itself, takes away from the perfection of the
basilican design, and carries us away into Northern lands.

Of the church which preceded the Venetian rebuilding, the church
described by Constantine, little remains above ground, allowing of
course for the great likelihood that the columns were used up again.
There is nothing to which one is even tempted to give an early date,
except some small and plain buildings clinging on to the north side of
the choir, and containing the tomb of an early bishop. But in the
crypt, though it has unluckily lost two of its ranges of columns, two
rows, together with those of the apse, are left, columns with finished
bases but with capitals which are perfectly rude, but whose shape
would allow them to be carved into the most elaborate Byzantine
forms. The main arcades of the church form a range of ten bays or five
pair of arches, showing a most singular collection of shapes which are
not often seen together. Some are simple Corinthian; in others
Corinthian columns are clustered - after the example of Vespasian's
temple at Brescia; others have twisted fluting; one pair has a
section, differing in the two opposite columns, which might pass for
genuine Northern work; while - here in Dalmatia in the thirteenth
century - not a few shafts are crowned with our familiar Norman cushion
capital. Yet the effect of the whole range would be undoubtedly fine,
if we were only allowed to see it. The hideous red rags have covered
even the four columns of the _baldacchino_, columns fluted and
channelled in various ways and supporting pointed arches. They have
also diligently swathed the floriated cornice above the arcade; in
short, wherever there is any fine work, Jaderan taste seems at once to
hide it; but nothing hides the clerestory with its stable windows or
the flat plastered ceiling which crowns all. The triforium has an air
of Jesuitry; but it seems to be genuine, only more or less plastered;
six small arches, with channelled square piers, which would not look
out of place at Rome, at Autun, or at Deerhurst, stand over each pair
of arches. With all its original inconsistencies and its later
changes, the _duomo_ of Zara, if it were only stripped of its
swaddling-clothes, would be no contemptible specimen of its own style.

[Illustration: TOWER OF ST. MARY'S ZARA.]

But Saint Anastasia is not the only, it is hardly the most
interesting, church in Zara. Saint Chrysogonos, monk and martyr, was
held in reverence at Diadora in the days of Constantine, where his
tomb and his holy chain were to be seen. Perhaps they are to be seen
still; certainly his name is still preserved in an admirable church of
the same general Lucchese type as the _duomo_, but which surpasses it
in the exquisite grace of the three apses at its east end, after the
best models of the type common to Italy and Germany. Within, the
arrangement of the triapsidal basilica is perfect; the range of
columns is, as is so often found, interrupted by two pairs of more
massive piers, making groups of three, two, and two arches. It is
almost startling to find that the date of the consecration of this
exquisite Romanesque church is as late as 1407; but the fact is only
one example out of many of the way in which in some districts, in
Dalmatia above all, the true style of the land stood its ground. In
Dalmatia the Italian pseudo-Gothic, common in houses, is but little
seen in churches at any time. Another church, Saint Simeon, called
after the Prophet of _Nunc dimittis_, boasts of its gorgeous shrine
borne aloft behind the high altar, the gift of Elizabeth of Bosnia,
the wife of Lewis the Great. The church itself is of the same
basilican type as the other, but in less good preservation. Saint
Mary's, a church of nuns, is itself of a rather good kind of
_Renaissance_, but its chief merit is that it keeps the only finished
ancient tower in Zara, a noble campanile of the best Italian type,
thick with midwall shafts, which every Englishman will feel to be the
true kinsman of our own towers at Lincoln and Oxford. Its date is
known; it is the work of King Coloman of Hungary, in 1105. But, after
all, the most interesting architectural work in Zara is one which, as
far as we have seen, is not noticed in any English book, but which was
described by the Imperial pen in the tenth century, and which has in
our own days been more fully illustrated in the excellent work of
Eitelberger on the Dalmatian buildings. Close by Saint Anastasia there
stood in the days of Constantine, and there still stands, a round
church, lately desecrated, now simply disused, which was then called
by the name of the Trinity ([Greek: heteros naos plêsion autou
eilêmatikos, hê hagia Trias]), but which now bears that of Saint
Donatus. Its dome and the tower of Saint Mary's are the two objects
which first catch the eye in the general view of Zara. Tradition, as
usual, calls the building a pagan temple, in this case of Juno; but it
has in no way the look of a temple, nor does the Emperor who
describes it with some minuteness give any hint of its having been
such. Yet it is plain that, if it was not itself a pagan building, the
spoils of pagan buildings contributed to its materials. Formed of two
arcaded stages, the whole pile rises to a vast height, and the height
of the lower stage alone is very considerable. The arches of the round
rest on heavy rectangular piers of truly Roman strength, save only two
vast columns with splendid Composite capitals - which mark the approach
to the triapsidal east end. This building, lately cleared from the
disfigurements and partition of its profane use, forms one of the
noblest round churches to be found; the so-called house of Juno at
Zara is almost a rival of the so-called house of Jupiter at Spalato.
The upper stage is of the same general type as the lower, having again
two columns left free and uninjured, but not rivalling the splendour
of those which are in bondage below. Zara had lately another
desecrated church of extreme interest, but of quite another type from
Saint Donatus. This was the little church of Saint Vitus, a perfect
example of the genuine Byzantine arrangement on a very small scale.
The ground-plan was square; four arms, square-ended without,
quasi-apsidal within, bore up the cupola on perfectly plain
square-edged piers. Between our first and second visits to Zara,
between 1875 and 1877, this charming little piece of Byzantine work
was swept away to make a smart shop-front. It was a recompense no more
than was due to find on our third visit that the round church had been
cleared out.

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Online LibraryEdward Augustus FreemanSketches from the subject and neighbour lands of Venice → online text (page 8 of 23)