Island of Brac

Description. Bol is and exceptional settlment for several reasons. It is the first and the oldest town on the islandís coast. Unlike the other coastal towns that chose their sites on the ampiteartrical hill-sides of the well-hidden coast, fringed with shingle-shores that stretch like pearls in the heedlessly laid necklace. Above bol there is the sheer mountain ridge of Bolska kruna (The Crown of Bol), the fortified Kostilo (for, stronghold), at 66 m above sea level, and Vidova gora (The Vidova Mountain) at 778 m above sea level, the highest peak of the Adiratic islands. The white stone-houses that stretch along the sea-end accompanied by strings of old pines, look like sea-gulls when luled to sleep by the bag-pipes of Nazorís sheperds. Bol is famous for its beaches, full of shite, sandy pebbles resembling the eye-balls of fish. Zlatni rat (The Golden Cape), which is considered the most beautiful beach in all of Dalmatia (I. Rubic), has stretched Brac into the sea towards the south with its half-kilometre long body. It quivers restlessly with its white tongue when sbmitting to the waves that move it to and fro in obedience to the winds.
The centuries-old pines grow along the lines and paths, squeezed between the blocks of houses and set on the edges of the beaches. The summer heat is cooled in the early afternoon by the gentle western breeze, the maestral.
Underneath the mountian range, there is the deserted, burnt-down hamlet of Podbarje, which stands as a memory to the terror of the occupation during the Second World War. Through this village the way, partly Roman built led to the interior of the island.
History. Bol is set on a geological contrast, that of a junction of limestone and marl. This is why it has a fresh water spring which was the condition required for the development of the settlement. It is no wonder, therefore, that the settlement was already populated in Roman times. Above the Zlatni Rat, there are the remains of the walls of a Roman arched water storage tank. They are coated with water-proof mortar mixed with brick-like grains of road-metal. The ceiling is desroyed. Neither the ancient dock, lying in the sea east of Rat on Bork (Cape on Bork) nor the accidentally discovered tombs on the way to Murvica, can be seen any more today. The remains of the walls in the surroundings point to the existence of a stronger agglomeration of populace that needed both, water and the harbour. In support of this hypothesis there are also the right numismatic discoveries from this location, kept now in the museum of Dominican friars in Bol. Above Bol, there is an ancient fortified castle, Kostilo, raised on an almost unapproachable cliff. The castle was already fortified in Roman times for it served as a shelter to the Romans who lived and worked on the fertile coastal fields of ancient Bol.
With the arrival of the Croatians in the 7th century, many Romans from Skrip and other places took refuge in this well protected region and erected a fortified settlement near the present village of Podbarje. That Bol was attacked by the Saracens in the second half of the 9th century and thereupon heavily destroyed and plundered. To the Roman period belongs the relief of Neptune (now in the Archaeological Museumin Zadar), an ornamented stele walled in at the Dominican Monestary. In the monastery yard there is and Early Christian sarcophagus, carved with long-stemmed crosses.
Name. The name of Bol, together with the names of the surrounding environs throws more light on the history of the settlement.
Bol had a dual choice of site: the one underneath the range of mountains, under the prehistoric fort of Kostilo and the one near the sea. The fertile lands needed to be protected for tilling. The old Bol had chosen its site under the mountian range because it was necessary to work and to defend oneself. The Bol of today sees its opportunity in the beaces and therefore has stretched itself along their edges.
That the ancient prehistoric fort already served its purpose in the Roman period, is supported by its Croatized Latin Name, Kostilo, (from Lat. castellum- castle, fort, stronghold). The name Bol is derived from the Latin Vallum which means trench, earth-rampart or a settlement reinforced with earthen walls. Latin vallum has the same meaning as the old Croatian word obala (coast). The present beach the former quay of Borak is derived from Lat. burgum and denotes the same as varos (a secluded settlement outside a fortified town). This is a common feature of many Dalmatian towns. When the forts on Bol lost their former function, a new more accurate name, that of Podbarje (Pod brde, The Under-Hill) was created.
Monuments. This stony little town with its folk building structures knew how to harmonize the period architecture with the environs. During the attacks of the pirates and the Venetian-Turkish wars, it gathered its houses round the fortified strongholds.
To the period architecture belongs the interesting, fortified castle on the dyke in the Gothic stule, raised at the end of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th century.
It is characteristic because of its pointed arches with beautiful stony biforums, the interior staircase and the stony border walls. It is an outstanding example of the Gothic style on Brac.
On the coast there is a Renaissance-baroque palace from the end of the 17th century with a vast balcony on the eastern side of its facade. The old Bol family Vuzic raised a kastel (fort, stronghold) near the coast and yet a second one in the region of Raven, between Bol and Sumartin.
The baroque church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was enlarged at the end of the 18th century. It is remarkable for its vivid front, with restless wave-like lines. In the middle stands the statue of Our Lady, and above the profiled door there is the angel with Veronicaís veil which, jusdging by its style, probably originates from the previous church that stood on this same site.
Special mention should also be made of the Dominican monastery complex on Glavica and the Gallery of Contemporary Art.
1. The Dominican Monastery. On its present site there was in 1184 the episcopal palace in which that year the session of the Brac Council was held under the patronage of the Prince. They met to decide upond the restoration of the Benedictine monastery estate in Povlja. This meeting in Bol and the document issued thereupon and composed in the Croatian language, is of outstanding importance in the histroy of Brac. The small peninsula of Glavica was then fortified with a wall on its northern side. In nearby Murvica there was a fresh water spring that babbled near the episcopal estates. The episcopal palace in Bol was practically and strategically a well chosen site for the bishopís occasional presence on the island, for his former seat for Brac, Hvar and Vis was not in the town of Hvar, but in the exactly opposite town of Stari Grad (The Old Town), former Greek Pharos.
In the bishopís palace (in palatio episcopati), the Dominicans established their monastic community. In 1475 they raised the monastery andthe church which the Boljans had already started to build on the site of the old church of St. Rocchus because the neighbooring church of St. John was getting too narrow for them. The common church of Our Lady of Mercy initiated a conflict: the question was, whether it belonged to the Boljans or to the Dominicans. In the course of time it also became too small and in the 17th century the Boljans raised a new nave on the northern side at their own expense. The asymmetrical appearance of the churchís front is a curisotiy in itself in church arcitecture. The belfry was completed in the middle of the 18th century.
In spirte of its being built at intercals, this church has preserved some main characteristics of the late Renaissance. It is known for its altar-screen from the end of the 16th century with ornaments in whose carved stone we feel the technique of the wood-engraving which is characteristic of the Dalmatian chisel workships of the late renaissance and late baroque. The church is partly paved with tomb-stones. Some of them have the inscribed initials of the monastic orders, others have inscriptions written in the Croatian language. The altars at the sides are among the most beautiful ones on the island especially the altar of Our Lady of Rosary with its harmonious marble polychromy on the ornamented antependium.
The greatest attention is drawn by the Tintoretian altar paining of Madonna and Child and Saints. Mariaís figure in red robes with a blue cloak over it and the naked Child in her arms dominates the whole composition. The angels hold the crown above her head and a few silhouettes of saints are set around it which makes the whole of the composition a little overloaded but still harmonious.
The paintings of the Croatian baroque painter T. Kukolja (1661-1713) on the ceiling under the choir are also very valuable.
The picture in the middle shows St. Dominic with angels: around him are the beautifully executed flower-baskets and the pictures on the sides show other saints of the dominican order. The whole of Kukoljaís painted ceiling was restored in 1970.
Next to the new cemetery raised in 1830, is the oldest parish church, a notable old Croatian monument from the 11th to 12th centruy which has, since then, gone through many altarations. Of special value is the altar-screen of which a pilaster has remained with the old Croatian interlaced ornament. This motif we find in the chapels from the 9th to the 11th century of the soverings of the Croatian dynastics. Interesting also is the triangular gable with the interlaced ornament on the cross in the midle, surrounded with peackocks and grapes. From the inscription on the arch we can assume that the chapel was dedicated to St. John and St. Tudor (D. Vrsalovic). The later saint, belonging to the eastern church, was forgotten in the course of time and omitted from the churchís name. This oldest example of the Croatian sculpture on the island is on display in the Museum of the Dominican Monastery.
The Monasteryís Museum contains 1. an interesting collection of prehistoric excavated items from the cave of Kopacina near Donji Humac (stone arrows, boring tools, bone-pointers, stone-scrapers which were all found and donated by D. Vrsalovic), 2. a rich numismatic collection (of Bysantine, Dracian, Gallic, Greek, Heracleic, Illyrian and Croatian-Hungarian coins, among which we also find coins of the Dalmatian medieval municipalities of Dubrovnik, Split, SIbenik etc.) 3. A colection of underwater archaeology (notable are the amphoras of all sizes, shapes and purposes), 4. a collection of Mass-robes, 5. rich archives that contains registers, charters, decrees from the 15th century and some twenty partments and a few incunabula.
The musuem guides will draw to your attention some architectural characteristics of the monastery, the old bishopsís palace, the Early Christian sarcophagus and the roman steel, a few valuable paintings of the Venetian settecento. They will also tell you about the life and work of the few great men who came from this monastery, among whom the most interesting is the personality of Rev. Luka Bracanin, the first traslator of the Psalms of David, by means of which the Brac dialect of cakavstina of the 16th century was introduced in Croatian literature.
1. The Picture Gallery Branko Deskovic had 145 exhibits in 1971. Here we have an opportunity to feel the Mediterranean once again through the inspiration of artist: to see his colours, purity and lightness, the intensity of the colours of his landscapes and people who live their days on these coasts. It has all invariably been and attractive subject for the painterís eyes. These paintings repeatedly reflect the blended affinity of locality and man that we know as being Mediterranean, southern, tempermental. We see here the rich forms of life of these coasts, deposited together with the ancient culture. Such is the gist of these canvases, quite regardles of the artistís origin.
This intimate pciture gallery does not by mere chance bear the name of an important figure in the more recent Croatian sculpture, that of the Intimist B. Deskovic, the observer of animal movement and tenseness before action, the sculptor of tiny dog figures and intimate human portraits. Tenseness and caution, animal and man!
Small galleries along the Adriatic coast teach their visitors to peceive that local and intimate feeling that the artist gave to a region, to a place and people. Of such a kind are the galleries in Rovinj, Anale in Porec, the Simposium of Sculptores in Labin, the Blue Salon in Zadar and the gallery of Hvar. The chian of these small galleries in which the one in Bol has an outstanding position, has a very important although still insufficently valued part in our cultural life.
Bolís gallery is proud of its rich store of pictures by Ignjat Job, which is a treasure that must not be just passed by. It is not accident that the gallery pays such attention to Job if we know that his encounter with this very landscpae (Supetar, 1928), inspired him with the spirit and colour that we shall later on recognize as being expressly Jobís. In paintings of Lj. Ivancic we feel the richness of the aristic texture, the warm Dalmatian interiors and the patina of the objects. The expressive faces bitten by the wind and th sea we find in the sculptures of V. Michielli. The beauty of Bracís stone inspired the talent of the father of Croatian modern sculpture, I. Rendic who chiselled impassive faces caught in stone and the pensive fairies in the Dalmatian cemeteries. Some of the continental painters were taken by the Mediterranean and that impression remained with them as a lasting one (Sohaj, Svecnjak).
Bracís pictureesque settlements were a source of inspiration to many artists, Bol (to E. Kovacevic, Konjovic, Mujadzic, Sohaj, Svecnjak, Ulrich) Murvica (Nevjestic), Postira (Mujadzic), Pucisca (Mise), Sumartin (Mateljan, Mijic, Sestic), Supetar (Job, Kastelancic) etc.
The gallery in Bol is not only a remarkably interesting store of Mediterranean subjects but it is yet another eye through which to see the landscape in which we are staying!