Croatia and Dalmatia

views updated

Croatia and Dalmatia

Located on the Adriatic Sea across from Italy, Croatia has come under the control of many foreign powers in the course of its history. During the Renaissance, the powerful republic of Venice ruled the southern region of Croatia known as Dalmatia. Venice had a profound influence on Croatian culture, especially in the cities of Split, Zadar, and Dubrovnik. It also played an important role in the formation of Croatian humanism*.

Italian Influence. Venice affected the development of Croatian humanism in a number of ways, such as the influence of Venetian rule on the Dalmatian nobility and the literary connections between Venice and Dalmatia. But the most important factor was Italian education. The Croatians who studied in Italy brought back to their homeland both their knowledge of and passion for humanist ideas.

After studying in the Venetian city of Padua, Juraj Sizgoric wrote the first book of Croatian poems to be printed (1477). Ivan Cesmicki studied church law in Italy and spent much of his life at the court of king Matthias Corvinus of Hungary. Cesmicki is best known for his short witty poems. Another important poet, Marko Marulic, also studied in Padua. When he returned home to Split, he assembled a large group of Dalmatian humanists. They had all been educated by Italian teachers and remained in contact with Italy and its humanistic movement.

Major Italian writers such as Dante and Petrarch had a significant impact on Dalmatian writers, both in style and literary themes. The works of Petrarch were first introduced to Dalmatia in the 1380s. Some of his Dalmatian admirers wrote most of their own poetry in Italian. Others translated Petrarch's works into Croatian. The influence of Petrarch can be seen in the works of Marin Drzic, who wrote comedies.

Dalmatian humanists preferred to write in Latin to make themselves more "European." They often used Latin when dealing with historical matters. One important author was Vinko Pribojevic, whose history of the Slavs was published in Venice in 1532. Although many Dalmatian humanists wrote in Latin, some also worked in the vernacular* of Croatia. Because many works from Dalmatia were published in Venice, Venetians played an important role in discovering the works of Dalmatian humanists.

Croatian Patriotism. Although Dalmatian humanists owed a great debt to Italy, they also developed their own Croatian style of expression. Many showed their patriotic pride by adding the name of their birthplace to their Latin names to identify their origin. In addition, their works portray the background and tradition of their native lands. For example, in his epic* Judith (1521), poet Marko Marulic refers to medieval* Croatian literature and Dalmatian folk poetry. Marulic combines Latin literary forms in the tradition of ancient Rome with images inspired by the sea breezes and storms of his native Split. Many other poets also depicted the Dalmatian landscape in their work, including Petar Zoranic, whose work Mountains (1569) was the first Croatian novel.

Croatians believed that they were part of a wider group of Slavic peoples. They felt a common bond with Czechs, Poles, Russians, and other Slavs. On the Origins of the Slavs and the Events Among Them (1532), by Vinko Pribojevic, was the first work to express an overall sense of Slavic unity and identity. At times, Croatian patriotism took the form of criticism directed at Venice and its policies. In Slavic Fairy, the author Juraj Barakovic expresses sorrow and regret over the changes that occurred in the town of Zadar after its takeover by the Venetians.

Art in Croatia and Dalmatia. During the Renaissance, Croatian lands were divided between Venice (Dalmatia, Istria, and Kvarner) and Hungary and Austria (northern Istria, Croatia, and Slavonia). Only the Republic of Dubrovnik remained free and independent. The historic division between northern and southern Croatia was reflected in the contrasting cultural heritage of the two regions. Works of Renaissance style were produced in Dalmatia, but the Turks occupied the region of Slavonia and constantly threatened to invade the rest of northern Croatia. While both religious and secular* architecture flourished in southern Croatia, military architecture dominated in the northwestern regions.

The greatest achievements in art and architecture in southern Croatia occurred in the 1400s and 1500s. This region, which included Dubrovnik, chose freely between various artistic models—such as the styles of Florence and Venice—and combined them in creative ways with the ancient heritage of Dalmatia. The early Renaissance appeared in southern Croatia before the mid-1400s. Renaissance-style palaces and houses, churches, bell towers, and city halls were added to cities of the Adriatic coast and islands. New walls with rounded towers and strongholds went up around many cities, including Dubrovnik, where the impressive walls and towers still remain.

Most of the monuments of the 1400s and 1500s in Croatia are in Renaissance style. Yet several architectural works of that period stand out because of their originality and their contribution to the European Renaissance. For example, the Sibenik Cathedral, designed in the 1440s by Juraj Dalmatinac, marks the first appearance of the early Renaissance in Dalmatian architecture and sculpture. Constructed entirely of stone, without the use of mortar*, the cathedral incorporated large tiles, pilasters*, sculptural elements, and other features that reflect early Renaissance style.

Another significant monument, the Trogir Chapel by Nikola Firentinac (1468), uses the forms of early Renaissance style typical of Florence. However, its stonework and the harmony of architecture and sculpture reflect Dalmatian tradition. The third great building of the period is Sorkocevicev's summer palace (1521) in Dubrovnik. Its unique organization of interior space reflects both Renaissance and Dalmatian styles. A number of monuments in Croatia also provide outstanding examples of Renaissance art of the 1500s. Among these are the facade* of Hvar Cathedral, St. Mary's Church in Zadar, and various villas in Dubrovnik and Hvar.

While many Croatian artists worked in their native land, many also went to Italy (where they were identified as Schiavoni, or Slavs) and created masterpieces there. Among the most notable of these are the architects Juraj Dalmatinac and Luciano Laurana, the sculptor Giovanni Dalmata (Duknovic), and the painter Andrea Meldolla (Medulic). Among the painters who remained in Croatia, one of the most significant was Nikola Bozidarevic in Dubrovnik.

(See alsoArchitecture; Art; Humanism; Literature; Palaces and Townhouses; Poetry. )

* humanism

Renaissance cultural movement promoting the study of the humanities (the languages, literature, and history of ancient Greece and Rome) as a guide to living

* vernacular

native language or dialect of a region or country

* epic

long poem about the adventures of a hero

* medieval

referring to the Middle Ages, a period that began around a.d. 400 and ended around 1400 in Italy and 1500 in the rest of Europe

* secular

nonreligious; connected with everyday life

* mortar

bonding agent between bricks or stones

* pilaster

ornamental column or pillar set partially into a wall

* facade

front of a building; outward appearance