Časopis ARS 44 (2011) 2

Martin ILLÁŠ

Adriatický pôvod niektorých predrománskych kostolov v strednom Podunajsku
[Adriatic Origin of Some Pre-Romanesque Churches in the Middle Danube Region]


Some preromanesque churches from the 9th century in the middle Danube region probably have their origins in the architecture of the Adriatic region, namely some Great-Moravian rotundas or the church on Devín Castle.

The aim of the first part of this work is to contribute to find the origin of the basilica on Récéskút Island and identify the origin and form of the basilica on Bratislava Castle, and thereby help to specify their dating. The aim of the second part is an attempt to reconstruct the building development and design of the church No. 10 in Mikulčice and answer the question of the origin of this church.

The Basilicas in Zalavár — Récéskút and Bratislava

The basilica on Bratislava Castle (Slovakia) and the basilica on Récéskút Island near Zalavár – Vársziget (also Blatnohrad, Mosapurc; Hungary) have several common features. The basilica on Récéskút Island is a three-apsed three-aisled building with the apses inscribed in a common housing with the aisle. On the west, north and south facades there are marked buttresses standing on their own isolated basis (they are certainly not the lesenas with blind arcades, which stand typically on a common basis with the wall). In the first building phase, the church was a hall building. There is an annex situated in the southwest of the building which served probably as a tower. The church is mostly dated from the 9th century.

The foundations of the basilica on Bratislava Castle are preserved only in the size of the southwest corner with the adjacent wall sections with two exterior and interior buttresses and the foundations of six pillars. The plan of basilica is symmetrically skewed in the west – east axis. The southwest section of the foundation is covered by foundations of a younger building interpreted as a tower dated from the 10th century. The church is dated from the middle up to the last third of the 9th century.

The origin of the churches on Récéskút Island and Bratislava Castle was connected with the Disentis-Chur-type basilicas in northern Italy (Aquileia and Grado Patriarchate). These basilicas are missing the essential feature of the Récéskút church – the apses inscribed in a common housing with the aisle. The church on Récéskút Island has the most consistent features with the Istrian basilicas with the inscribed apses dated mainly from the 7th to the 9th century, especially St. Gervasius Church (7th – 8th century) in Bale – Pižanovac, St. Stephen Church (7th – 8th century) in Peroj and St. Sophia Church (8th century) in Dvigrad with the tower erected on the south in the 9th century.

The basilica on Récéskút Island and also the basilica on Bratislava Castle, provided that it is related to the basilica on Récéskút Island, have probably their origins in Istria (i.e. in the realm of the Patriarchate of Aquileia) what allows to reconstruct their form, including the tower on the southwest corner. The tower at the basilica in Bratislava was therefore probably the church belfry.

These basilicas originated probably at the time when the fort on Vársziget Island and the seat on Récéskút Island still served their function, it means during the reign of Pribina and Koceľ about in the years 840 – 875, not later than 900 when the area was conquered by Hungarians, and during the reign of Rastislav and Svätopluk in Great Moravia about in the years 850 – 880 in relation with limiting the influence of the Bavarian Church and the establishment of the Moravian-Pannonian province, which is accompanied by intensive communication on the route Moravia – Blatnohrad – Venice – Rome. It is possible that the basilica on Bratislava Castle could be one of the episcopal churches for one of the bishops ordained in Great Moravia in 899.

We may make a conclusion that the basilica on Bratislava Castle was built after the fashion of the basilica on Récéskút Island, both of which were inspired by the Istrian-basilica type with inscribed apses and their construction, and their earliest possible reconstruction can be dated back to the second half of the 9th century or the last third of the 9th century. They are connected with efforts to the establishment of the own Great Moravian ecclesiastical province, or with the Byzantine mission to Great Moravia and Pribina’s/Koceľs principality in Lower Pannonia, and as for the basilica in Bratislava also with the establishment of four Great Moravian dioceses in 899.

The Church No. 10 in Mikulčice

The church No. 10 is located south-west to the fort Valy in Mikulčice. It is generally dated to the 9th century.

The foundations of the church are mostly preserved only as the secondary filled negatives of the masonry. It was a one-nave church with a square presbytery with a rectangular footprint. The exterior of the nave and the presbytery was regularly divided by the significant buttresses. This regularity is broken on the west facade by the three longer buttresses and a closed irregular rectangular space. There are probably remnants of the two bases of interior buttresses inside the nave right opposite the exterior buttresses. Together four interior buttresses can be assumed. There are two separate foundations of a rectangular footprint inside the nave which do not respect the rhythm of the exterior or interior buttresses.

The exterior buttresses were very significant and did not have the form of lesenas. Certainly, they were not only a non-functional aesthetic accessory but had a static function to counteract the eccentric force of the walls of the church, which was probably caused by the weight of the vault in the nave. It is therefore possible to assume the presence of the arch bands mounted on the interior buttresses.

The three buttresses on the exterior walls of the presbytery indicate the necessity for effective static security of the presbytery walls against the forces facing all three walls of the presbytery. The presbytery therefore was probably vaulted with the conch situated on the tromps or pendentives.

The church can be reconstructed as a building with simple buttresses in the exterior, with the interior buttresses carrying the arch bands in the nave vaulted with barrel vault, and in the presbytery with the conch carried by the tromps.

More than one construction phase of the church can be assumed. Some parts of the ground-plan, which distort the original regularity and symmetry, might be the result of rebuilding of the church, namely the foundations of the tribune pillars in the interior of the nave, the three longer western exterior buttresses and the room in the south of the western facade.

The two isolated foundations in the interior space of the nave are without reservations interpreted as the basis for pillars bearing the tribune. The interpretation of the three longer western exterior buttresses and the room on the west facade of the church is not clear. The room seems to not have an autonomous function. It is likely that the tribune in the interior and the room in the exterior of the church were the parts of one rebuilding phase and the room in the south of the western facade can be interpreted as a part of building the tribune. It was probably a staircase leading to the tribune in a form of the tower-like extension. The extension of the three buttresses on the west of the church is connected with the construction of the tower-like staircase and with building a hall in front of the church. The church had thus two construction phases.

The origin of the church No. 10 is sought in north-Italian and especially in the Dalmatian architecture. In southern Dalmatia there have been extended two types of churches from the 9th to the 11th century with arrangement identical in principle to the first phase of the church No. 10. It was the type of a one-nave church with external walls divided by lesenas carrying blind arcades and the type of south-Dalmatian church with a cupola with a vaulted interior divided by lesenas carrying arch bands and with a small tower with a cupola situated above the middle vault field. These types of Dalmatian churches differs from the church No. 10 in the lesenas with blind arcades, in the footprint of the presbytery, in dating mostly to the 10th – 11th century and in the absence of the tribune. Despite these differences, these types of Dalmatian churches are the closest analogies for the first construction phase of the church No. 10.

Only in one case of these Dalmatian churches the tower extension is assumed which should serve as a westwork and should be a proof of influence of Carolingian, respectively Ottonian architecture on old Croatian architecture. Therefore, neither the tribune with the tower-like staircase which represents the second construction phase of the church No. 10 in Mikulčice can be derived from the Dalmatian church types, but must be regarded as an import of Western Carolingian architecture.

The church No. 10, similarly to the other Great Moravian churches, is a result of the synthesis in architecture that is unique for the Great Moravian environment – it combines the impacts of European South and European West.

Dating the first construction phase of the church No. 10 can be expected during the reign of Rastislav, and probably in the years 850 – 870, when it is possible to expect an increased activity of the priests from „Welsch and Greece“, i.e. from northern Italy and the Byzantine Dalmatian coast called „Greece“, in Great Moravia in connection with efforts to reduce the impact of the Bavarian Church and with the establishment of the own Moravian province. Building the tribune and reconstruction of the western part of the church may be generally dated back to the last third of the 9th century or at latest the early 10th century.

English translation by M. Jánošík