Saturday, December 20, 2014

On Dalmatian Architecture

There is nothing particularly Slavic about the Dalmatian coast: the region of Dalmatia has always been separated from the Balkans by the Dinaric Alps, and linked to Italy through the Adriatic Sea. When one looks at the churches, squares and structures of Dalmatia it becomes immediately obvious that the land is entirely distinct not only from the rest of the Slavic world, but even from the rest of modern Croatia, while on the other hand it bears a striking resemblance to Italy. This is because the architecture which characterizes the Dalmatian coast, from Zara to Cattaro, from Spalato to Ragusa, from Sebenico to Perasto, is the product of Italic people and Latin culture. The great cathedrals, churches, bell towers and city plans of Dalmatia are easily recognizable as being Roman, Romanesque, Renaissance, Baroque, Venetian—in a word, Italian. Nothing peculiar to the Slavs is to be found in Dalmatia, because the Slavs had very little to do with the formation of Dalmatian heritage and culture, which has always been thoroughly Latin and Italian.

Harold D. Eberlein, an architectural expert, writing in 1919, said of Dalmatian architecture:
“Dalmatian architecture is essentially Italian, as it is but natural it should be. The Dalmatians, whatever foreign racial strains they may have absorbed [today], were indubitably Italian and so considered themselves. From 1102 to the end of the fourteenth century, although they were politically attached now to Venice and now to Hungary, they were Italian by race and culture. From the beginning of the fifteenth century till the end of the eighteenth, when Napoleon arbitrarily wrenched it away, Dalmatia was an integral part of the Venetian Republic. The architecture everywhere proclaims the Italianity of the country beyond all question. … Latinized Slavs often became more Italian than the Italians themselves; but the Slavic element, as a separate race, has left no appreciable trace upon Dalmatian architecture other than destruction.”
Another observer, T. G. Jackson, writing in the 19th century, said:
“In the maritime cities of the mainland, and on most of the islands the traveller may well imagine himself in Italy; for the language, architecture, manners and dress of the citizens are the same as on the other side of the Adriatic.

The architecture of Dalmatia has so much in it that is peculiar and distinctive that it is entitled to rank as a style by itself among the various national styles of mediaeval Europe. It is entirely urban, and confined to the maritime cities, for the sea has in all ages been the parent of Dalmatian civilization; the history of the country is in fact the history of the maritime towns, and it was in them alone that art and letters found a congenial soil and took root. The Slavonic conquerors came in as barbarians with everything to learn and nothing to teach; they gradually received the religion and in a rude way imitated the art of the Byzantine Empire to which they paid a nominal subjection, but they never developed an art of their own, and the silversmith's work which has been produced in purely Slavonic districts in modern times is but little removed from the Byzantine art of the eighth and ninth century.

The Dalmatians of the maritime cities on the contrary were brought into contact with the nations of western Europe, and above all with Italy, and though their architecture bears traces of Byzantine influence as late as the twelfth century, they developed after that period a native art of their own, and have left us a series of architectural monuments not inferior in interest to those of any country of Europe. Their style is principally based on that of Italy...”
Yet another observer and traveler, Walter Woodburn Hyde, writing in 1908, said of the Dalmatian city of Zara:
“On awakening next morning, we find ourselves at Zara, the modern capital of the country. Here we get our first real impression of Dalmatia. To one familiar with north Italian towns and especially Venice, there is little that is distinctive in the outward appearance of this quaint little town of scarcely 12,000 people. For it has the same network of narrow streets, most of which are only broad enough for pedestrians, the same tall houses with pointed doorways and grated windows below, and the same church architecture. Its fortification walls—now planted with trees—were built by an architect of Verona, the Porta di Terra Ferma being a copy of one in his native city; the cathedral is Romanesque, very similar to one in Pisa, while the church of St. Donato (the municipal museum now), has an interior recalling that of the Baptistery in the same town.”
The Italian character of Dalmatia's architectural heritage is undeniable, no matter how much the Slavs attempt to obscure, distort and rewrite history in order to justify their continued occupation of Dalmatia and their ethnic cleansing against the indigenous Italian population of the region.

The Cattedrale di San Giacomo in Sebenico,
constructed between 1431-1536 by Italian architects
Giorgio da Sebenico, Niccolò di Giovanni Fiorentino
and several other Italian architects and artists.
The Torre dell'orologio (Clock Tower) in Cattaro,
(today in Montenegro), constructed in 1602 by
the Italian governor Antonio Grimaldi, whose
initials are engraved in the structure.

Italian baroque altar inside the Cattedrale
di Sant'Anastasia
in Zara, constructed in
the 13th century by the Venetians.
The Chiesa di San Biagio in Ragusa, constructed
between 1706-1714 by the Italian architect
Marino Groppelli