The Medieval Collection

Medieval archaeology in Istria was given a huge boost with the organization of new excavations after World War II. Soon afterwards a Medieval Department was established at the Archaeological Museum of Istria, which was a precondition for the development of early medieval and old Croatian archaeology in Istria. Important excavations were carried out in cemeteries and church ruins, all of which, together with the existent lapidarium of sacred monuments, enabled the presentation of known facts and new finds through the opening of a permanent exhibition in 1973.

Located in the two southern exhibition halls on the ground floor of the Museum building, alongside stone monuments, are also Early Christian polychrome floor mosaics from Nesactium and Pula (St. John at the Nymphaeum, St. Felicitas, St. Nicholas). The exhibition consists mainly of so-called church furniture parts (chancel screens, ambones, ciboria, sarcophagi) as well as architectural elements (capitals, window transennae) mostly decorated with pre-Romanesque interlaced ornaments in relief from the early medieval period of Pula (the complex of St. Mary’s cathedral, St. Felicitas, St. John at the Nymphaeum, St. Maria Formosa), and from other churches in southern Istria (St. Lawrence near Šijana, St. Lucy near Val Sudiga and in the vicinity of the Savolago estate near Galižana, St. Pelegrin near Fažana, St. Andrew – Betiga near Barbariga and the Guran church, St. Quirinus near Vodnjan, St. Andrew near Rovinj, St. Peter near Loborika and Marčana).

On display in the last two exhibition halls of the permanent exhibition (second floor) are material remains discovered on numerous sites, which come from two culturological periods: the late Roman – Early Christian period, and from the period of the early medieval settlement of Istria. Located in the first exhibition hall are finds discovered in Pula’s late Roman individual graves, and those from sites in the wider environs (Škicini, Betegenica, Lakuža, Fažana, Brijuni), and from all over the territory of Istria (Zambratija, Karpinjan, Sošići, Jurali), such as mostly locally made pottery vessels, and metal objects (standard jewelry, fibulae, belt sets) from the 4th and 5th centuries. Especially prominent are finds collected during the excavations of Old Christian cemeteries in the vicinity of the church of St. Peter near Dvigrad, St. Elysius near Fažana, St. Mary on the Brioni Isles as well as from the site of Frančini near Pazin.

Funerary monuments from Pula are represented by two valuable sarcophagus fragments – a marble slab with a depiction of orant gestures from the cathedral, and a limestone gable with depictions of the deceased. Presented alongside Early Christian oil lamps decorated with Old Christian symbols, are photographs and copies of the exceptionally valuable but inaccessible witnesses of Early Christian art: a reliquary made of ivory from the church of St. Hermagoras near Štinjan (nowadays located in Venice), and two reliquaries (a gold and a silver one) from the church of St. Thomas the Apostle at Pula (nowadays located in Vienna).

The finds that mark the rule of the Ostrogoths in Pula are rare (cemeteries in the vicinity of the amphitheater and near Hercules’ Gate). The period of the sequence of Justinianus’ reconquista (6th century) is presented by a fragment of a “Traditio legis” wall mosaic from Maximianus’ basilica of St. Maria Formosa at Pula, and also by objects pertaining to the material culture of fortified settlements and castles (Brijuni, Sipar, Stari Gočan).

In the other hall the period of early Byzantine rule in Istria is illuminated through the excavations that were executed after the War on the large cemeteries located on the hillocks near Novigrad, Motovun and Buzet (Čelega, Brkač, Veli Mlun, Mejica). On display are grave units with offerings (pottery vessels, glass beads from necklaces, bronze belt buckles, earrings, bracelets, knives, tinders, spear points), which belonged to the recently settled Slavic population, and where small traces of the impending Christianization (7th – 8th centuries) were noticed. The period marked by the rule of the Franks in Istria is represented with silver and bronze jewelry (rings, earrings) from the large old Croatian cemetery at Žminj (8th century) and from the cemetery near Mala Vrata in Buzet (9th century).

Shown towards the end of the exhibition is the small ivory case from Piran – a Byzantine product decorated with Dionysian scenes (9th – 10th century). The last part of the exhibition is dedicated to the development of the Glagolitic script that left important monuments of old Croatian literacy in the regions of Kvarner and Istria (11th and 12th centuries), such as the Valun tablet, the Grdoselo fragment, the Baška tablet and the inscription from Plomin.

Typo3 site by Ulisys d.o.o. , 2010.