Oter AHAS 8angl


Twelfth century architectural sculpture in Stična Abbey

Hardly any pieces of Romanesque architectural sculpture, apart from three capitals decorated with stylized foliage, and three bases, were known to exist in the earliest monastery in Slovenia, the Cistercian abbey of Stična/Sittich, founded in 1136 by the Aquileian patriarch Peregrinus I. Therefore, the discovery made during restoration works there at the end of 2002 of several pieces of Romanesque architectural sculpture in the wall surrounding the atrium of the cloister was a great surprise. The bases of the columns found (with a circular or octogonal shaft) correspond aptly to the general type of Romanesque bases with characteristic angle spurs, so the present paper discusses the capitals only.

The sculptural features of the newly found capitals are expressed in their geometric, i.e. linear, ornaments and schematic foliage decoration. As regards their construction, the capitals belong to the Kämpferkapitell type since they perform the function not only of a capital but also of an impost block. The items brought to light recently presumably belong to the one-time Romanesque cloister which opened into the atrium and had two-light windows with a single mullion. The existence of such a cloister has not been suggested before in Slovene scholarly literature. A priority task now is to classify properly the newly discovered sculptural fragments within the context of Stična's already known architectural sculpture, the style of which has never been fully analysed. The present paper tackles the task of dating it, determining its chronology and analysing it stylistically.

Analysis has shown that the three hitherto known capitals, which presumably decorated the chapter-house, belong to the second quarter of the 12th century and display Italo-Lombard-German influences. The newly discovered fragments, however, whose ascetic decorative forms perfectly correspond to St. Bernard's aesthetic ideals, belong to a later time, probably the last quarter of the same century. The question of the stylistic influences in the latter case remains open and further investigation is needed to provide the answer. A plausible geographic origin of this type of architectural sculpture can only be ascertained when comparable materials are found that show identical, or similar, carved architectural decoration, that is to say, examples of the combination of the two types of the Kämpferkapitell decoration, one with cut angles only and the other with graded moulding.