Academic journal article Spatial Practices

3. St Clement of Rome: The Romanic-Slavic Symbiosis of the Cult and Its Tradition in the Croatian Lands

Academic journal article Spatial Practices

3. St Clement of Rome: The Romanic-Slavic Symbiosis of the Cult and Its Tradition in the Croatian Lands

Article excerpt

The territory of Croatia is marked by a host of hagiotoponyms that are often characterized by a rich folk Christian tradition and local pilgrimages, sometimes almost unknown to the broad public. They bear a thousand years of reverence of Christian saints through which one can read off many important historical events and cultural shifts that have sunk into oblivion today. Their evocation uncovers a treasure chest of testimonies whose powerful faith, narratives and legends strengthen the expression of distinctness and autochthony - the sacrosanct work of folk philosophy that has been transmitted through the generations, despite technological development and the dynamics of the life of which we are a part.

It was in that sense that the Institute of Art History in Zagreb compiled a computer program of hagiotopography by which one is able in a speedy and effective manner to identify all the hagiotoponyms with the basic geographical, ecclesiastical, temporal, stylistic and patronage characteristics of localities that bear the name of particular Christian saints. Based on that program and studies to date on veneration of Pope (Bishop) Clement of Rome, we shall endeavor to cast more light on the importance of this Early Christian saint's cult, its dissemination throughout Croatian territory and the significance of his tradition today.

Three levels of tradition

During research into the Croatian hagiotoponymic tradition of St Clement of Rome, 1 7 localities have been confirmed that are linked directly or indirectly with veneration of the fourth Roman pope, a pupil of St Peter. The attached map displays the distribution of known saints, clearly showing that the majority of the remembrances of St Clement are found in Dalmatia (12), then in Istria1 and the Quarnero Bay area (3), while they can also be found in continental Croatia (2). Three of these shrines from the 13th/14th century have disappeared and knowledge of their existence comes solely from existing literature. They are: St Clement on the Hill near Ljubac not far from Zadar; at Dracevo PoIj e on the island of Vis, and at Vrh in Pula.

The oldest information on the Early Christian shines of St Clement in continental Croatia is that of the Gora locality, west of today's Petrinje, lying on what was once the main road coming from Hungary and leading south through Sisak, playing an active part in the regional and cultural connection of the area. More definite data on the shrine emerges in the 13th and 14th century, when the Church of St Clement was mentioned as the parish church up until the disbanding of the Order of Templars. It is found in 16th and 17th century documents, but all traces of it disappear from then on (Dobronic 1984: 72, 76). Along with the toponym Klimen in Croatian Zagorje, 5 km north of Konscine, there is also the toponym Kelemen not far from Jalzabet in the Varazdin area, where the 12th century chapel of St Clement is found, this having been renovated in the Baroque style during the 18th century.

We shall be concentrating our research in this paper on evocation of the tradition and cult of St Clement along the Croatian coast, observing its survival through hagiotoponyms and preserved shrines and customs along three traditional levels:

- The first is the Roman and refers to the first centuries of Christianity and the time in which the earliest Christian saintly cults spread, prior to the arrival of the Slavs on the Adriatic coast. The very popular cult of St Clement of Rome spread in that historical context along the eastern coast of the Adriatic from the powerful Roman centers, among which that of Salona was particularly important. A diocese was established there in the mid-3rd century and it encompassed all the existing Dalmatian Christian communities, through which the cults of the Christian saints became more quickly rooted in the broader region.

- The second is the Slavic traditional level, linked with the 9th century and closely connected with the cultural and enlightenment mission in Great Moravia conducted by the Slavic Apostles, Constantine Cyril and Methodius, during which the discovered relics of St Clement of Rome were carried to Chersoneson (Heson in today's Crimea) on the Holy Brothers' journey to Rome, confirming the already existing cult of St Clement and establishing it in places in which it had not previously existed. …

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