Monday, June 25, 2018

The Cultural Ties Between Dalmatia and Southern Italy

The Natural Borders of Italy

The deeply-rooted cultural ties between Venice and Dalmatia are well-known to all who are familiar with the history and culture of the Dalmatian coast. Equally known are the immemorial ties between Ancient Rome and Dalmatia, which formed the original basis for Dalmatia's Latin and Italic heritage. Much less known, however, are the profound cultural ties between Dalmatia and Southern Italy, and especially between Dalmatia and the Duchy of Benevento.

Beneventan Script

Beneventan script was a medieval script used from the 8th century until the 13th century in Southern Italy and Dalmatia. It originated in the Duchy of Benevento among the Italian monks and scribes of the Benedictine Abbey of Monte Cassino. It derived from Roman cursive, which was in use until the 7th century AD, when it developed into Beneventan and other scripts. Although Beneventan script declined after the 13th century, it survived in some places into the late 16th century.

The common use of Beneventan script is one of the many examples which testify to the ancient and inseparable cultural link between Italy and Dalmatia. Elias Avery Lowe, one of the foremost scholars on Beneventan script, said this about Dalmatia and Beneventan script:
“The aim of the present work has been to give a history of the South Italian minuscule... The use of Beneventan writing in Dalmatia is of interest both to the palaeographer and to the student of western culture. The Italian origin of our script needed no elaborate demonstration, as it is admitted now on all sides...”

“The history of a script which lasted five centuries is indissolubly bound up with the history of the region in which it was used. Such a script would of necessity receive some impress of the intellectual and political movements of its locality, and thus act as a register, as well as a medium, of culture. In the history of western culture southern Italy has played if not a leading certainly a significant part.”

“The peculiar script which grew up and flourished within the ancient duchy of Benevento, and remained in use for nearly five centuries in the monasteries and schools throughout Southern Italy, extending its domain even across the Adriatic to Dalmatia, we shall consistently call by its most fitting traditional name of Beneventan. ... Eastward the province of the script extended beyond the Italian peninsula. We find Beneventan used on the Tremiti Islands in the Adriatic and all along the opposite shores of Dalmatia from Ossero to Ragusa.

From data furnished by the MSS., we know that Beneventan was written in the following places:

Bari, Benevento, Bisceglie, Caiazzo, Capua, Cava, Fondi, Gaeta, Mirabella Eclano, Monte Cassino, Monte Vergine, Naples, Ossero (Dalmatia), Ragusa (Dalmatia), Salerno, San Angelo in Formis, San Bartolomeo di Carpineto, San Benedetto di Cesamo, San Benedetto di Clia, San Libera tore alia Majella, San Lorenzo in Carminiano, San Maria di Albaneta, San Michele, San Nicola della Cicogna, San Vincenzo al Volturno, Sora, Sorrento, Spalato (Dalmatia), Sulmona, Teramo, Traù (Dalmatia), Tremiti Islands, Troia, Veroli, Zara (Dalmatia).”

“Of the minor centres in which the Beneventan script was employed, special mention must be made of those in Dalmatia...

The maritime cities of Dalmatia have ever formed the natural border-land between different races, religions, and languages. ... It is as the outposts of that Latin civilization that they interest us here. If we examine their oldest MSS. and documents we are struck by the curious fact that their script is the same as that used in Southern Italy... The fact can have but one interpretation: it shows that the Latin culture of Dalmatia flowed chiefly from Southern Italy. Had no historical evidence concerning mediaeval Dalmatia reached us, the peculiar script of Dalmatian documents and MSS. from the 10th to the 13th century would have furnished patent and undeniable proof that the culture of Dalmatia was derived to a great extent from its Italian neighbours across the sea. As it is, the conclusion based on palaeographical considerations is confirmed by historical facts.
Beneventan Codices in the
Archiepiscopal Library
Benevento, Italy
In the year 986 when the monastery of S. Chrysogonus of Zara was rebuilt, the prior and nobles of the city, desiring to get for the abbey the most competent head possible, invited Madius, a monk of Monte Cassino, to become its abbot. At a time when the Benedictines were practically the sole custodians of learning, the coming to Dalmatia of a monk schooled in the most enlightened Benedictine centre was probably not without some importance to the culture of Dalmatia. Relations between Monte Cassino and Ragusa are attested by the inscription on the bronze door of Monte Cassino, which records the patrimony of St. Benedict at the time of Abbot Desiderius: in Dalmatia prope civitatem Ragusiam ecclesia sanctae Mariae in loco qui dicitur in Rabiata. The Benedictine abbey of Lacroma, near Ragusa, was founded in 1023 by Peter, a monk from the Tremiti Islands. Between these islands and Monte Cassino there were constant and varied relations in the 11th century. We know from an extant MS. that the Beneventan script was used on the islands. After the conflagration in Ragusa three monks of Monte Cassino are supposed to have come over to restore the Benedictine order in that city. A Bari architect took a leading part in the construction, about 1199, of the Ragusa cathedral. In 1081 and again between 1185 and 1192 Ragusa made common cause with the Normans of South Italy. The town of Cattaro, situated between Ragusa and Antivari, was subject to the ecclesiastical rule of the Archbishop of Bari. It is a well-known fact that there was continuous commercial intercourse between the cities of Apulia and those of Dalmatia.

That the Latin culture of the eastern shore of the Adriatic should be but an extension of that which prevailed on the western is natural enough. But the remarkable fact is that the dominant forces in that culture were Apulian rather than North Italian, as script and dialect show. Until the 15th century, when it began to yield to the Venetian, the dialect of Dalmatia resembled more that of Apulia than any dialect of North Italy. And the style of Beneventan writing usually practised in Dalmatia is of the variety represented by the Bari type, that is to say, by the type which we find throughout Apulia.

As Dalmatian centres of importance may be mentioned Spalato, Ragusa, Zara, and Traù, especially Zara, which possessed the Benedictine houses of S. Chrysogonus and S. Maria, the latter a nunnery which is still in existence.

The fact that the documents of Dalmatia from the 10th to the 12th century were written in Beneventan would naturally suggest that the same script was employed in the production of books. The extant Beneventan MSS. which originated in Dalmatia make this quite certain.”

(Elias Avery Lowe, The Beneventan Script: A History of the South Italian Minuscule, 1914)
The subject is also discussed by Professor Richard F. Gyug:
“In this period, the coastal centres grew and developed into small cities with civic institutions, including bishoprics... Many also maintained close associations with the nearby coastal centres of southern Italy. ... After the sixth century, the late antique ecclesiastical structure of the region was reduced to a local level by civic changes, and by divisions between Roman-Latin and Slavic regions. ...the coastal cities retained many Latin elements in both their culture and churches. Before the twelfth century, the monasteries of Lombard southern Italy were also a significant influence in Dalmatia. Benedictine monks were established on the Tremiti islands in the Adriatic by the tenth century, and there are records of monastic houses being founded in Dalmatia from Tremiti or from Montecassino, which claimed Tremiti as a dependency. The result is that many of the surviving high-medieval manuscripts from Dalmatia are in Beneventan script, the monastic script of southern Italy, and many of these contain monastic texts or liturgies. Dalmatian churches were also open to adopting southern Italian cults.”
(Richard F. Gyug, Liturgy and Law in a Dalmatian City: The Bishop's Book of Kotor, 2016)
The last sentence concerning southern Italian cults is particularly interesting, because it is very likely that the cult of St. Blaise – the patron saint of Ragusa – spread to Dalmatia from Southern Italy. Veneration of St. Blaise is recorded in the southern Italian town of Maratea as early as 732 AD, two centuries before he was adopted by Ragusa as their patron saint. The extant historical evidence would indicate that the cult of this saint – among many others – spread to Dalmatia and the rest of the Italian peninsula from the south.

Beneventan Chant

Besides Beneventan script, it is also interesting to note that Beneventan chant – a local variety of Roman Catholic liturgical chant, similar to Gregorian chant and Ambrosian chant – was practiced not only at Benevento and in other southern cities on the Italian peninsula, but was also used in Dalmatia, providing yet another testimony of the deep cultural ties between Dalmatia and the southern Italian Benedictine circle in Benevento:
“The cross-Adriatic connection was more than a political expedient. In addition to the cultural ties between Dalmatian and southern Italian monasteries that have already been noted, there were many possibilities for exchange that have left traces in communal practices, liturgy and forms of script.”
(Richard F. Gyug, Liturgy and Law in a Dalmatian City: The Bishop's Book of Kotor, 2016)
“The Beneventan liturgy was practiced at Benevento, Monte Cassino, Bari, and Salerno; in Dalmatia; and in other places almost as far north as Rome.”
(Christopher Kleinhenz, Medieval Italy: An Encyclopedia, 2004)
“Southern Italy was the home of Beneventan chant, also used in Dalmatia, and there are traces of a Naples-Capua tradition also.”
(Peter Jeffery, Re-Envisioning Past Musical Cultures: Ethnomusicology in the Study of Gregorian Chant, 1995)
“The Music of the Beneventan Rite” (2016)

Nearly all the relevant sacred musical sources in Dalmatia were influenced by Benevento and central-southern Italian cultural and musical circles. The majority of Dalmatian liturgical and music sources were written in Beneventan script, and thus the Beneventan type notation was used. In the second half of the 11th century the Beneventan chant used in the Benedictine centres of Benevento and Monte Cassino in southern Italy was gradually substituted by Gregorian chant and the Roman rite. On the other hand, the Dalmatian cities of Ossero, Zara, Traù, Spalato, Ragusa and Cattaro continued to nurture Beneventan chant all the way up to the end of the 13th century.

Dalmatian Language (Dalmatic)

Prior to the spread of the Venetian dialect and standard Italian, the language spoken along the entire eastern shore of the Adriatic was a set of Latin dialects known as Dalmatian or Dalmatic (Dalmatico). From Veglia to Ragusa, and from Cattaro to Durazzo, this was the native language spoken by the inhabitants of the Dalmatian coast in the Middle Ages. The Dalmatian dialects derived from Latin, the language of Rome, which was brought to Dalmatia in ancient times by Roman colonists from Italy.

Although written Latin remained the same, by the 9th century spoken Latin began to diverge into multiple dialects and languages, giving rise to the different – albeit closely-related – dialects of the Italian peninsula and Dalmatia. The dialects of Dalmatia later underwent a strong influence from Venetian before going extinct in the 19th century. As already noted earlier, Elias Avery Lowe regarded the original Dalmatian dialects as being most similar to the ones spoken in Apulia, in southern Italy:
“But the remarkable fact is that the dominant forces in that culture were Apulian rather than North Italian, as script and dialect show. Until the 15th century, when it began to yield to the Venetian, the dialect of Dalmatia resembled more that of Apulia than any dialect of North Italy.”
(Elias Avery Lowe, The Beneventan Script: A History of the South Italian Minuscule, 1914)
The Encyclopedia Britannica also noted a linguistic connection between Dalmatia and Southern Italy:
“Dalmatian and South Italian, on the other hand, were so closely connected with the languages that preserved -s and therefore prefixed the article that in this particular they separated from Rumanian. ... In its consonants, and, as far as one can judge, in its morphology, Dalmatian has preserved the stamp of antiquity. But in its vowel system there are marked changes, especially in the substitution of diphthongs for close vowels... Diphthongs such as they appear also in Istrian and Abruzzian, so that we must presuppose some sort of connection.”
(Hugh Chisholm, Encyclopedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, Volume 23, 1922)
T. G. Jackson, one of the most important writers on Dalmatia in the 19th century, made the same observation, noting the linguistic resemblance between Dalmatia and Southern Italy:
“The Italian spoken in Dalmatia before [the fifteenth century] was not the Venetian dialect; in some parts it had a distinct form of its own, in others it resembled the form into which Latin had passed in the south of Italy or Umbria, and it was only after 1420 that it began to assimilate itself to the Italian of Lombardy and Venetia.”
(T. G. Jackson, Dalmatia, the Quarnero and Istria, Volume 1, 1887)
Even after centuries of Venetian influence, a link between late Dalmatian and the dialects of Southern Italy could still be detected:
“The Dalmatian system stands out by reason of the fact that it is today completely extinct, though it has left traces of its former existence. It is supposed to be the continuator of the Vulgar Latin of the Roman province of Illyricum, on the eastern shore of the Adriatic... Dalmatian became more and more restricted, till in the late nineteenth century it became circumscribed to the island of Veglia (Krk) at the head of the Adriatic. Bartoli managed to record in transcription the speech of the last surviving speaker, Antonio Udina, before the latter's death. From his study, the following facts appear concerning the language in its late nineteenth-century form: Vegliote (the dialect of the island of Veglia) seems to form a link between the eastern Italian dialects, Venetian, Abruzzian, and Apulian, and Rumanian.”
(Mario Pei, The Story of Latin and the Romance Languages, 1976)
The same author goes further, saying that Dalmatian qualifies as an Italian dialect:
“In morphology, there is no indication of a double case, while the fall of final -s brings about the seeming use of Latin nominative forms in the plural, as in Italian. In these respects, Dalmatian would qualify as an Italian dialect.”
(Mario Pei, The Story of Latin and the Romance Languages, 1976)

Italo-Dalmatian Languages

Many linguists regard the Dalmatian, Istrian, Tuscan, Corsican, Central Italian, Southern Italian and Venetian dialects as all belonging the same branch of Italic dialects which they call Italo-Dalmatian. According to those scholars who use this linguistic classification, the dialects of Southern Italy would be more similar to Dalmatian than to the dialects of northwestern Italy, while the Italian language itself would be classified as an Italo-Dalmatian language:
“Italian (Italiano): Indo-European > Italic > Romance > Italo-Western > Italo-Dalmatian.”
(E. K. Brown, Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, Volume 2, 2006)
“Italo-Western Romance splits binarily into Italo-Dalmatian and Western Romance. The former language comprises dialects of northeastern, central, and some of southern Italia, also of (mainly coastal?) areas of Dalmatia and Pannonia; the latter language comprises dialects of northwestern Italia, Noricum, Gallia, and Iberia.”
(Frederick Browning Agard, A Course in Romance Linguistics, Volume 2, 1984)
“The language spoken in Abruzzo falls within a set of languages known as Italo-Dalmatian, which also includes standard, official Italian.”
(Luciano Di Gregorio, Italy: Abruzzo, 2017)

Dalmatian Nobility
Marino Ghetaldi (1568-1626)
The Ghetaldi Family of Ragusa
Originated in Taranto, Italy

Several of Dalmatia's most famous noble families originated in Southern Italy. The Ghetaldi family and Bona family of Ragusa both originated in Apulia before settling in Ragusa in the 10th century; the Ghetaldi came from Taranto, while the Bona came from Vieste. The Ragnina family is also said to have originated in the city of Taranto, in Apulia, before moving to Dalmatia (although, according to another tradition, the family would be of ancient Roman origin).

The Bertucci or Bertuzzi family of Lesina likewise traces its origins to Apulia, while the Paladini family of Lesina came from Teramo in Abruzzo. The Bonifacio family of Sebenico originated in Capua. Finally the De Lupis family, which became prominent in Dalmatia and Fiume, originated in Apulia before settling in Dalmatia in the 13th century.

These Italian families gave rise to many notable Dalmatian figures, such as Marino Ghetaldi, Domenico Ragnina, Serafino Cerva, Antonio Bertuccio, Natale Bonifacio, Giovanni Battista Benedetti Paladini, Nicolò Paladini, Paolo Paladini, Lorenzo Doimi de Lupis and Giovanni Biagio Luppis.

Apulia's Dalmatian Saint

It is worthwhile here to briefly reiterate the ancient ecclesiastical bond between Italy and Dalmatia. For many centuries all the major churches of Dalmatia were Italian, the ecclesiastical hierarchy was Italian, and the bishoprics were filled by Italians. On the other hand, on some occasions Dalmatians also entered into the ecclesiastical ranks in Italy. One such man became one of Apulia's most beloved saints: Blessed Agostino Casotti.

An Italian by language and culture, Agostino Casotti was born in the Dalmatian city of Traù into the Casotti family, a noble family of Venetian origin. He is best known in Italy for his tenure as Bishop of Lucera, in Apulia. Although his reign was short, he initiated many memorable public works. He also reestablished Christianity in the town, which was previously occupied by Muslims, and restored the city's old name: Santa Maria della Vittoria (Our Lady of Victory).

He retired to the Dominican convent in Lucera, where he died in the odor of sanctity on August 3, 1323. After his death, he was venerated by the people of Lucera and his cult quickly spread. His body rests today in the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta in Lucera, Italy.

The Renaissance

Cultural ties between Dalmatia and Southern Italy continued into the Renaissance period. While many architects and artisans from Italy were making their way to Dalmatia, at the same time many Dalmatians were making their way to Italy. The most emblematic example in this period is Francesco Laurana. Born in Dalmatia, he moved to Naples in 1453 and worked for several years at the court of the King of Naples before moving to Sicily in 1467. He returned to Naples in 1471, then worked in Urbino from 1474 to 1477.

It is Francesco Laurana who is remembered and credited as one of the founders of the Italian Renaissance in Sicily. He was in part responsible for the construction of the Triumphal Arch of the Castel Nuovo in Naples and the Mastrantonio Chapel in Palermo. He designed chapels, altars, sculptures, busts, tombs, funerary monuments and other artistic works. His works are preserved in various churches, cathedrals and palazzos throughout Sicily and Southern Italy, including Naples, Palermo, Castelvetrano, Noto, Messina, Siracusa, Sciacca and Andria.


These are just some of the many examples of the ancient flow of families and continuous exchange of culture between the eastern and western shores of the Adriatic Sea – a sea which has always united Dalmatia to Italy, rather than separated it.

The Latin and Italic culture which permeated Dalmatia for millennia is due not only to the Venetians and ancient Romans, but can also be partially credited to the close ethnic, linguistic and cultural ties existing between Dalmatia and Southern Italy in the Middle Ages, which no doubt aided in the preservation of Roman heritage in Dalmatia during the onslaught of the barbarian invasions which threatened to erase Latin civilization.

Southern Italy, in a sense, formed the proverbial “missing link” between Dalmatia and the Italian mainland in that period between the Fall of Rome and the Rise of Venice.