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Development and cultural heritage of Principality of Poljica PDF Print E-mail
Written by Tonci Jercic   
Sunday, 07 November 2004

The Republic of Poljica is placed close to the towns that once had a significant meaning both on the cultural and military field. All of that had a great influence on life and development of teritorially small but democraticaly very strong Principality of Poljica.

Since pre-historic times life has been traced in the area of Poljica. Namely, close to the Cetina river, on the opposite side (as far I know) remains from the time of Paleolithic have been found (and even older examples in the area of Dubci, Kučiće and Podašpilje). As far I know, nobody was exploring it sistematically and if people happened to find something, they would hide it, because they were afraid  that their property, especially their ground,  would be taken away from them.

Ilirska Gradina is placed in Poljica, it was probably built in the 3. century B.C., during the reign of Queen Teuta, who used it to protect the country from the Roman invasion.

Ilirska Gradina is actually placed on the hill Gradac and Podgrađe is named after it. Ilirska Gradina is going to be examined archeologically, but as usual there's a lack of money. In this area there must be remains of Ilirian settlements dating from the period before and after Roman arrival. The inhabitants could have hidden well within the mountain of Mosor to protect themselves from any kind of danger. The fact is that the Croats used it afterwards.

We can find tracks of Roman stay in Poljica, because they had their properties there. In 1982 a large early Christian basilica (30x18 m) was discovered in Gata, in the middle part of Poljica. It is placed  close to the Church of St. Ciprijan. In the neighbouring village of Ostrvica, 3 km east from Gata, you can see well-maintained and still unexplored remains of athe huge Roman "villae rusticae" (estate).  Traces of Roman presence in this area are found in Donja Poljica, too.

After the arrival of Croats the first proof was a document, belonging to the prince Trpimir and dating from 852. In it the prince confirms purchase of some pieces of ground in the village of Tugare, Srednja Poljica, to the Split archibishop Peter. The name Tugare originates from the name of one of old-Croatian brotherhoods - Tuga, mentioned by Konstantin Porfinogenet. He didn't know for brotherhoods, so he called them brothers and sisters - since the names Tuga and Buga have a female form of the name.

That old-Croatian organizing into brotherhoods influenced the life in Poljica, too. As far  I know they still exist in Tugare, but their original aim is lost, so they just act as an association. Another old-Croatian name remained , it's the mountain Perun, which is slightly fading due to stone pit, which causes  rather large amount of stone-dust in the surrounding places.  The place was named after an old Slavic pagan god.

According to my opinion everything was deeply rooted in the people, so when  it came to Christening,  a lot of old-Croatian tradition was kept. It can be best seen in the works of Glagolitic priests from Poljica, especially through their autonomy and forcing the Croatian divine service, as well as the use of the Croatian alphabet, called Glagolitic script ( Bosnian cyrillic and later script of Poljica). They continued working as old-Croatian druids. It means that it was impossible to do anything without their permission - on no field. They were chosen from all parts of the society of Poljica.

I suppose, one of these Glagolitic priests was acquanted with works of the great Greek philosopher Plato and with more or less success he copied Plato's work "About the State", with some modifications, refering mostly to the use of common law and inheritance and revealing in that way the background of the parish. Those priests were main organizators of Autonomy, they were lawmakers, worriors and educators. It was them who wrote the most important work, that made the Principality of Poljica well-known. The famous work was called "The Statute of Poljica".

Poljica took an active part through the history due to the fact, that people used to write down everything they did - if they helped someone on military field, or elsewhere, if they happened to be under somebody's attack (because somebody wanted to take their land away - like noblemen from Split, or if somebody wanted to take their whole territory and their autonomy away  - like Venice and Turkey ). In such cases representatives of Poljica would come and refering to that document they would use all the relations and frienship they had succeded to make with the courts of the mighty neighbouring countries  by diplomacy and presents. In that way they succeded in keeping their autonomy until Napoleon came. They failed in trying to make an agreement with him. Namely the French were convinced that they were those who had won democracy and formed a republic, where everybody was equal, having the right to elect and be elected.

They didn't know that in  the "Republic of Poljica" democracy had existed for centuries before the French revolution. For the first time in the world's history a plebeian was elected grand-duke. Marchal Marmont wrote in his memoirs that democracy in the Republic of Poljica was put down, after having spread to all parts of the world (from there).  So, the most important keepsakes in the Republic of Poljica have mainly a written form.

The most important written  keepsake of the Republic of Poljica is the Statute. It's a law document, prescribing all norms and functions of the politics of the Principality, as a parlamentar democracy. There is no other similar document in the medival history of the world nations.

The Statute was written in the Bosnian script and the oldest version of the codified Statute dates from 1440. It is written inside that it was coppied from an even older version; it is kept in Zagreb in HAZU (Croatian Academy of Science and Art).

The Statute of Poljica, besides The Code of Vinodol (1288) is the most precious historical and law keepsake of the middle ages in Croatia. In the 20th century the Statute was the subject of numerous examinations, made by domestic and foreign scientists. It was translated into German, Russian, English and Spanish. They study it in universities of  Moscau and Berlin.

"Sumpetarski kartular" was written in 1105 on pergament and is kept in the treasury of the cathedral in Split. It's a wide review  of properties and donations of Benedictine abbey St. Peter in Selo or St. Peter Gumajski, built by Peter, son of Crni or Gumaj under Jesenice by the sea, a noble from Split. His ancestors came from Poljica. The document is written in Latin (Caroline) under the name: Jura sanci Petri de Gomai.

"Zlatna dukala" was published on 15.March 1537 by the Venetian dodge Andrija Gritti with the Council of the  ten to the three-men representative of Poljica,and deals with relationship between the Venetians and the Republic of Poljica and with organization of co-operation to fight Turks. The golden seal from "Dukala" was lost, and the document belongs to don Frane Mihanović from the village of Sitno. He also possesses "Srebrena Dukala" from 1707, the time of the Venetian dodge Aloysio Mocenica.

Seals also belong to the interesting things in Poljica; after the year of 1500 Latin words  were engraved in the big seal of Poljica. On the older one there is: Sigillum s. Georgi Provinciae Poglieze, and on the somewhat younger one there is: Sigillum communitatis Poggicie, with the figure of Saint Juraj, as well. Before these, a seal with the figure of the new Moon and the morning star was used, but without title. But, as Turks arrived, who had the new Moon and the Jupiter star, the people from Poljica changed theirs into the flag of St. Juraj.

The region of Poljica was not reach enough to make  investments  into art, the excess was invested in protecting souverenity, but still there are monuments that deserve admiration. Especially worth mentioning is the St. Peter's church on Priko, built round 878, during the reign of prince Zdeslav; then the small church of St. Klement in Sitno,  dating from the 13th  century, that  was the residence of Glagolitic priests, where they used to write out the Statute and other church documents into Glagolitic script. There are other small churches and chapels, some built even before these old ones and some on their foundations.

In ancient times in Poljica there were lots of monastries which left no visible traces, they exist just in tradition. Their remains are covered by time and uncare of those who never thought that the remains of Croatian culture and statehood should be open to public.

There are a couple of monuments that are somewhat younger and they are made as reminiscence on past days, as for example, the monument to Mile Gojsalić, a sculpure made by Ivan Meštrović and placed on cliffs over Zakučac. The cross of the priest Pezelj in Gornja Poljica at the  place of his death and a sign of his heroic death during the last expelling of Turks in 1686. The historical museum of Poljica was established in Gata, in front of it there is a monument "To a Glagolitic priest", the work of Kruno Bošnjak and inside there is a mosaic "The life of Poljica", made by Joko Knežević and a big collection of interesting things from every-day life, as well as a facsimile of other important documents on the existence of Poljica.

The most interesting thing in Poljica now is the fact that a lot of places and villages in Poljica are practically abandoned, so that you can even visually feel the touch of old times. There are places, a couple of houses, abandoned centuries ago when different invaders stopped attacking  that can be seen in remote parts of the place, that is in "Jut".

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