Little Bits of History

July 13

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 13, 2017

1490: Holy Trinity Church is painted. The small church is located in Hrastovlje, a village in southwestern Slovenia. It is located at the northern portion of the Istria peninsula on the Adriatic Sea. It is a small village covering just 1.17 square miles and has under 150 people living there. Hrastovlje has the only major spring in Slovenian Istria and is an important source of water for the coastal area. The early written sources from the 14th century list the village as Cristoglan and as Cristoviae in 1581 and then as Christoja in the late 1700s. The village is named after oak trees. What the village is most famous for is the Holy Trinity Church.

The church was built in the 12th century  or maybe 300 years later and there are two theories as to its origins. The first is that it was a Romanesque church and the second was that it was an Istrian variant of Early Venetian Renaissance architecture from hundreds of years later. The Roman Catholic church was built on bare rock and so does not have a deep foundation. It is made mostly of stone which is typical of the entire region. As typical, it was never covered and so construction methods are obvious. The top of the spire was rebuilt at some time, but the reasons are unknown.

It has only two windows (and a third was walled up in the past. This was due to local climate concerns. In the summers, the blazing heat could not permeated the interior and in the winter, the howling winds were kept out. The church is quite small, only 38 feet by 19 feet, smaller than most village churches. It also has a stone bell tower, while most of the smaller churches in the region sport wooden towers. At some point, a wall was built around the entire church in order to protect it from invading Turks. A new entrance was also built when the wall was erected. In 1896, a hole was knocked into a wall to add another window and damaged some of the frescoes inside.

On this day, local artist Johannes de Castua finished painting the Gothic frescoes lining the interior of the church. Some of them include letters in Glagolitic script, the oldest known Slavic writing. The most famous of the frescoes is entitle Danse Macabre or Dance of Death, which is pretty much just what it seems, Death inviting people from all walks of life on a dance to the grave. The artwork was commissioned by the parish priest and at some point covered over with a layer of plaster. In 1949, academic sculptor Jože Pohlen discovered them. The small church has been restored and the frescoes can be seen on the walls and ceiling.

Opera, next to Gothic architecture, is one of the strangest inventions of Western man. It could not have been foreseen by any logical process. – Kenneth Clark

The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time. – Mark Twain

For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one. – Khalil Gibran

Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely. – Buddha

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