Pazin – Beram


St. Mary at Škrilinah

On your way to Beram, the view of it will appear suddenly. You will be able to see the top of the belfry while the village covered by thick forest is hardly noticeable. Fifty years ago the terraces of the hill were still cultivated and showed a completely different aspect of this acropolis-type of settlement, whose present-day appearance has been created in pre-history and the Middle Ages.

Frescoes in the Church of St. Mary’s at Škrilinah are the best known mural paintings in Istria, and along with the Arena in Pula and Euphrasian Basilica, is the best known cultural monument of Istria. Late Gothic frescoes were completed by the workshop of Master Vincent from Kastav on November 8, 1474 commissioned by the confraternity of St. Mary’s, testified in the Latin inscription and painted on the southern wall above the side entrance. The first scene you will notice when entering is an unusual representation of jester on its right embrasure. When our eyes adapt to the dark interior after a few moments, as if in some puppet theater, figures of saints start to appear within the fields framed by a climber of acanthus leaves. Scenes from Mary and Christ’s life are mixed with scenes of saints. One of the most skillful depictions is the Baptism of Christ, whose figure can favorably be compared to all works of art of the time of sub-Alpine origin. Clearly modeled figures such as Joseph in the Flight to Egypt and King David with a violin are in disharmony with the figures in the scenes of Entry into Jerusalem and the Prayer on the Mount of Olives of lesser quality. The rustic component of the latter scenes has led earlier scholars to consider this painting a work of local craftsmen. On the western wall, above the scene of the Original Sin and the Wheel of Fortune, the Dance of Death is the one that most attracts the attention of the visitors. It is one of the oldest preserved representations of this theme, painted after the epidemics of Bubonic plague. The fear of death and the equality of all before the inevitability of the end of life are even nowadays engaging while watching representatives of every class and age. Along with the dancing skeletons, in the silent procession, toward the open tomb march the merchant and the knight, the beggar, child and inn-keeper, and profane and secular dignitaries. The rhythm to the dancing skeletons is given by death itself by playing the bagpipe. Meticulously delineated figures of clear and delicately created volume as well as the harmony of composition and color, confirm to us the skillfulness of its painter. Influences of German and Dutch graphic sheets, such as the Master with Scrolls, indicate once again that Vincent’s art is close to the origins of the northern Gothic Knitterungstil (sharp corners on tube-like drapery folds), nowadays the territory of Carinthia.

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