Gradišće – Koper



During the Venetian dominance, Koper was the most important center of Istria and its largest town, while its historic core is impressive by size even nowadays. An obligatory stop is the main square with the Praetorian Palace, loggia and Cathedral of the Assumption. If you continue walking through the narrow streets, you will come across many Gothic buildings: the Percauz House, Carpaccio House, Almerigogna Palace, Favento- Guzzi House, and many others. Besides its many builders, medieval Koper remembers its painters, too. For instance, the famous family of painters Klerigin, who for generations met the needs of this area for decorating sacral buildings. Written sources bring the name of artist Peter from Koper, thus the poor state of preservation of its frescoes seems strange.

The first fresco we will find stands in the Rotunda of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, not far from the cathedral. From the top of its dome, as if from the vault of heaven, the monumental Christ on the throne looks upon us. Sitting on a rainbow he bestows benediction with his right hand, while his hand resting on the knee holds an open book in which we can read – ego sum lux mundi (I am the light of the world). The background is an eroded green-blue, with stars of faded pigment. If we imagine it in full splendor at the time it was made, perhaps we will sense the light of Christ’s message. Some elements of shaping Christ’s figure may lead us to the conclusion that the inspiration should be sought in the Rimini art circle of the 14th c. Apart from this, preserved in the lunette of the cloister of the one-time Franciscan monastery, lies a preserved fresco with three figures naked from the waist up revealing Tuscan influence. In the center stands the Virgin with Child between two saints, most probably SS. Elias and Nazarius. Although both churches reflect evident influences of North Italian workshops of non-Venetian origin, it is most probable that their painters came to Koper via Venice. Besides them, there is a faded and illegible Crucifixion with the Virgin and St. John in the chapel of St. Thomas.

Apart from the frescoes, take a look at the sarcophagus of St. Nazarius kept in the cathedral. According to the legend, this Early Christian martyr from Milan was the first bishop of Koper, and his relics are kept in a nice Gothic sarcophagus. He is healer of the lame and expelled evil spirits, which is nicely depicted here. All we can do is pray to him that our feet do not fail us along the way.

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