NIN

The first political seat of Croatia about the year 800

We have booked an apartment at the village Privlaka for one week at the end of May.  We left Zagreb driving on the motorway up to Karlovac turning of to the main road to Plitvice as the new highway towards Split was not completed yet. The “Licka kuca” (Lika House) was open after one year of thorough renovation so we enjoyed a fine lunch there. The rustic ambient remained almost the same but we missed the smoked wood plank’s walls of old interior. Leaving Plitvice we had to detour at Korenica on a rather steep and narrow road with many curves (Ljiljana counted some 90 of) to get back on the main road at Udbina.

Soon after we reached the new motorway and the tunnel of Rok constructed through the Velebit Mountain. After some 8km driving through the tunnel from end to end one comes out below the Velebit’s peak of Mali Alan. Coming out of it you get a splendid view below on the Velebitski Kanal (Channel), Novigradsko more and the Island of Pag as well as Zadarske Ravni (Plains of Zadar) in front of you. Descending the motorway’s long stretched serpentines we turned of it near Posedarje to carry on a local road to Nin and to Privlaka some 3km away only.


The southward aerial view of the island with the City of Nin.  

Privlaka is located at the western tip of the Zdrijac peninsula some 20 km northwest of Zadar. Opposite to Privlaka is the Island of Vir that attracts some 70.000 tourists per annum. The heavy traffic and the tourists’ moves to and fro Vir cause lot of disturbance to the people of Privlaka during the holiday season. The accommodation In Privlaka is possible mostly in private apartments or in small hostelry and at two campsites. People here live of agriculture and viticulture for ages as this region was somehow isolated for many years in the near past. The tourist trade got to these places after the end of the Home-war only. The plains have a pleasant climate but when the “bura” (the northerly wind) gets over the Velebit it gets rather turbulent and nasty. We got a proper bura for one night only but it was quite impressive.   

The next day we drove to Zadar as I was anxious to see how the city developed since my last visits there in 1950s. Zadar ancient buildings of the old city and the harbor structures were severely destructed by retreating Germans forces in 1944. During the 1950s I worked as the consultant for the Institute of Buildings Research and looked after the structural salvage of damaged Roman and old Croatian buildings. On our way to Zadar soon after the road junction leading to Nin we noticed a little church on an earthen hill amidst of the Prahulje plain. We had to stop coming back from Zadar and trailed on a furrowed path for some 100m to get close to the earthen hill some jutting some 10m over the surrounding field. The grassy hill was easily ascended but found the church’ only door locked.

    

At left St. Nicolas Church in the Prahulje field near Nin on the day of our visit and at the sunset at right .
(The picture is from URL: <http://www.nin.hr/>)

The St. Nicolas’ Church is the only preserved example of Romanesque architecture with the central ground-plan and the cross-ribbed vault. The church dates from the end of 11th and early 12th century. According “The history of the City of Nin” seven Croatian kings were crowned in Nin. On that occasion the crowned ruler would arrive riding with his entourage to the church of St. Nicolas where he introduced himself the assembled peoples. The king would point with his pulled out sword to the four sides of the World.

The following days we visited the City of Nin some 17km northwest of Zadar few times. Nin is a coastal town in the south of the Nin Bay on the Zdrijac peninsula and has a population of about 1,700. The old town had been built-up on a low alluvial peninsula that was converted into an islet by a canal dug in the 14th century. It is connected with the mainland by two small bridges: one of which is for pedestrian use only where the other one on north side provides the access for the vehicles. On that side are several shallow evaporation basins for the salt production.

     

 At left the ruins of Roman temple from 1st century AC. At right the Main Gate that is the south exit of Nin .

On our way back we passed the post office, the bank, several small shops, a few inns of which we choose the small restaurant “Tomislav” as our favorite eating place in Nin. Passing by the parish church we came upon the central square in background of which rose the tall black monument in that we recognized the bishop Grgur Ninski (Gregory of Nin) instantly. The bronze sculpture is a work of Ivan Mestrovic who gave his first sculpture to the cities of Varazdin (1931) and Split (that is more monumental but not alike the original). In Nin the one sculpture was erected on the occasion of 900th anniversary of the chart issue (“Mare nostrum”) by the Croatian king Petar Kresimir IV in 1069.

         

 At left the old front of the parish church and Zvonko confronts the monument of bishop Grgur Ninski at right.

On the other side of the square amidst a lawn stands the Church of St. Cross that is the smallest Cathedral in the World. Next to it is the recently opened Museum that contains many essential exhibits of Enona alias Nin of a long history.  However the oldest traces originate in this region from the Palaeolithic and the first settlement dates from the Neolithic. The tribe of Liburnians founded the first colony of Enona during the 9th century BC. Enona was one of the Liburnian Municipality to that the Roman authority entitled the status of a Municipium Aenona later. By end of the 7th century Nin became the first Croatian administrative, cultural and religious seat. Later the Franks enforced the Christianization of the newcomer Croats in their sphere after they crushed the rebellion under Duke Ljudevit in 823 finally. After the division of the Frankish Kingdom in 843 their influence declined over the Croats.

The baptismal font of Prince Višeslav is found in Nin that was the first political seat of Croatia. At the edge of the six-sided font the last sentence on the inscription reads: “This act (baptismal) was devout done by a priest John at a time of Prince Višeslav to the honor of St. John the Baptist, to speak for him and his protégés.” According the historians the Prince Višeslav ruled around 800 year. Thus the font testifies about the time of baptizing of the Croats. The missioners Cyril and Methodius came to Croatia from Constantinople in 863 and they introduced the old church Glagolotic Script to the Croats. That script was used for the liturgical texts all over Croatia since.

In 924 the Župan of Nin Tomislav (a district governor) was crowned as the King of the Croats by the legate of Pope John X.  The bishop Grgur from Nin had the leading church position in Croatian state then. On one of the church synods the archbishop from Split took over the ruling of all Dalmatian dioceses placing itself under the Rome authority. Bishop Grgur got the Skradin diocese but by the synod’s decision it was forbidden old Slavic language in the liturgy too. As the priests were literate in Latin one followed the western liturgy in Slavic church language with Croatian details instead. Thus one saved the Croatian Glagolitsa to become the cultural heritage as people’s language in the liturgy and the literature to be replaced by the living language in the Middle Ages. 

            

The Baptismal Font of Prince Višeslav with an inscription around the six-sided font and the Church of St. Cross after recent reconstruction (The picture is from URL: <http://www.nin.hr/>).

The small church of the Holy Cross from the 9th century is the most important pre-Romanesque preserved monument of the old Croatian architecture. A cupola covers the center of the cross-shaped ground plan of the church named “the smallest cathedral of the World”. The name of a Croatian župan Godecaj is extolled on the adorned stone lintel of the small church. There is another inscription “Branimir Duke of the Croats” that originates from a former church of St. Michael around 888. The present parish church of St. Anselm has been built on the location of an old Romanesque- Gothic cathedral. Its treasury keeps the reliquaries from around 800 AD.

Nin impressed us mostly with its concentration of historical artifacts in such a small place. During our 7-day stay we visited this tiny town several times. One could marvel of its bulwark that seems to be almost intact as it had not have to repel any enemy attack. We visited the new museum that has on display many objects of recent findings and some reports about ongoing excavations. One really has to ponder about the ancient Croatians who arrived to these regions some 13 century ago. There are so many of evidences of the Croatian early history concentrated in this region that certainly you want to learn more about it. I may consider composing a web-site about the history of City of Nin and to include more of my pictures going with more historical particulars.

 
The reconstructed replica of an old Croatian boat. (The picture is from URL: <http://www.nin.hr/>).

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About the Literature:
The author compiled and/or translated the text
from various sources mainly from: <http://www.hr./darko/etf/et112.html> or <http://www.croatianhistory.net/>. Certain pictures are from: <http://www.nin.hr/> and <www.zadar.hr>.





DISCLAIMER : On URL: http://www.cosy.sbg.ac.at/~zzspri/ published pages are originals and authorized by copyright of Zvonko Z. Springer, Salzburg 1999.

Email Zvonko Springer at : zzspri@aon.at