Island of Brac
Description. In the neckless of the islandís settlements, Povlja stood as
early as Roman times, creating thus a long and rich history which is now
imprinted in the cultural and historical monuments ranging from the ancient time
to the present day. In this beautiful region composed of dozens of coves bearing
the common name Luke (The Harbours), a Roman chose the most eastern part Zalo,
to erect there his household. Then in early Christian times and the Middle Ages,
Povlja climbed up the ridge of Brdanjak, near the old Lokva (The Pond). The pond
was very important for the position and the development of the settlement. It
was just between Zalo and Lokva that later on the settlement developed,
sheltered on the sunny hill-side from the northern wind that comes in the winter
months from Vrulja from across the sea and falls downon it again. Its squalls
are hardly anywhere else in Dalmatia so strong as in Povlja. The pines on the
cape of Povlja crouch down, touching the ground with their crowns and, daring
the wind, they grow low, right next to the ground. The houses expose their
larger fronts to the sun. The northern walls are dug into the hill. The two-eaved
roofs are covered with slabs. In the early autumn they are covered with lime in
order to stop the rain that from there flows into the gutter pipes that frame
the house like a decorative wreath. The houses are surrounded by many walled
gardens and lots of green tree-crowns.
The coast is fringed by the two-storey houses. With their size, site and fittings they reflect the wealth of their dwellers by the end of the 19th century. In the background, right up to the end of the place there is a row of low cottages with mansarde roofs inside which the kitchen hearths were set. Between these houses are the smaller ones built out of loose stone. With wooden lintels, small openings and unpartitioned rooms with chimneyless hearths and big unchiselled stone surfaces, they present the very old form of the inherited Mediterranean architecture of these parts.
This variety of forms in both the age and architecture of the detached houses and the old Kostilo and the new belfry, gives to Povlja the appearance and atmosphere of a southern settlement. Povlja has its own chronicler, Dr. I. Ostojic and his very specialist guide. It treats Povlja excellently in full detail.
History. The harbour of Povlja and Luke on the west were the main anchorages
for Roman ships. The remains of amphoras affirm such a hypothesis. Near the
Roman estate building on Zalo there are the remains of a water-tank. In the
surroundings there are some copper objects and graves which all bear witness to
the size of this estate.
We see the row of wooden dwellings on Lokva where a large Early Christian basilica with font used to stand with graves and other, auxillary religious objects, possibly from the 6th century. It was erected upon the site of a former pagan shrine such as are found in the neighborhood Bunje (q.v. Novo Selo) and in Pucisca (q.v.) The size of the Early Christian church and the font give the idea that it was the religious center of a wider region, probably the whole of Eastern Brac and, to some extent also of Podbickovlje, across the channel.
At the end of the 9th and the beginning of the 10th century, Christian history began its course here with the big and famous Benedictine monastery of St. John. Upon the deserted Early Christian church, the Benedictines built a shrine (the Early Christian font) and the gathering place, (above the apse of the former church). The monastery was devastated in 1145 by pirates, but the friars rebuilt it in 1184. It was in the year of the council that was held in the episcopal palace in Bol (q.v.). On that occasion all the formerly possessed estates were returned to the monastery. By means of various prebends and other acquisitions the friars in Povlja succeeded in gaining one sixth of the most fertile land in the eastern from 1184 was rewritten and verified 66 years later in the famous Register of Povlja which is by its lay-out the oldest register written in the Croatian language. It is kept in the parish office in Pucisca (q.v.). Of no less importance is the Povlja lintel. It is the lintel of the Benedictine church in which in 1184, the first Croatian master known by name of Radonja engraved, besides his name, a few lines in dodecasyllabic verses following the Greek pattern. These lines are the first verses found with the Croats and belong to the very rare old verses ever written in any of the Slav languages. The lintel is kept in the Museum of Croatian monuments in Split. The monastery was many times attacked and plundered (in 1240, 1294) so that it was finally deserted in the middle of the century. In 1415 the islandís authorities visited the island and decided the boundary lines of the abbey and returned to it its estates. Those boundaries are marked with crosses carved in stone which can still be seen on the bluff near the sea on the Scirova glava (The Scirova cape). In the centuries to come there were constant disputes about the rights of jurisdiction over the abbey. Napoleonís rule in Dalmatia put a final end to the abbey in 1807 and in the middle of the 19th century the entire estate was sold.
Up to the 16th century the surroundings of the church of Povlja were not populated. Only after the Kandiís war (1645-1669) did the refugees from Bosnia come through Poljica and Krahina and mix with Bracís old settlers. The consequences of this migration are felt in the Povlja dialect.
The first dwellers settled at a distance of a kilometer and a half from the present settlement where we can still see the ruins and a cemetery. This place is called Gornja Povlja (The Upper Povlja). In the 19th century Povlja reached an economic development that caused the awakening of national conciousness. In 1894 the Tomislav society was founded with a reading room. At that time Povlja had 900 inhabitants. They founded the first Dalmatian oil-community. After the First World War, the number of population records decrease, which was also the case with other settlements on Brac.
Name. Povlja is the substantival adjective derived from the Latin Paulinus-Portus Paulinus-Povlja (the harbour). The lands to the east of the monastery are called Abacija (the abbey). The name Bota (from bolta-vault directs us to the old vaulted tombs that were set in front of the church because burials were not allowed to be performed in the basilica. The name Kastil is a borrowing from Venetian and denotes the fort built during the times of the Venetian authority of the island.
Monument. Povlja is rich in monuments of exceptional culture value. During
the peaceful period of the Roman rule the dwellings were built either near the
sea or at the fringes of the field. Of such a kind was the estate building on
Zalo at the end of the harbour of Povlja. In Povlja a Roman stele was also found
on which it says that the Roman women Romula erected the stele to her daughter.
We mentioned the relics of the pagan shrine upon which a big Early Christian
basilica was erected.
The Early Christian basilica with the font is the best maintained monument of the period and one of the most frequent religious of the kind in Croatia. The basilica has three naves of which the central one is by far the widest. The apse of the basilica is drawn inside and is over ten meters high. The back of the apse has a three-part window partitioned with two harmoniously made pillars. The three longitudinal naves are crossed by a transversal one which makes for the cross-like groundplan of the church. The interior of the basilica was painted with frescoes. At the front of the shrine the arched vestibule was added in front of which Lokva (The Pond) was set.
The baptistery was to the northern side of the basilica and connected to it by a separate vestibule. Its ground-plan was square from the outer side and octagonal from the inside. The baptistery was 12 meters high and domed. It is completely preserved and belongs to the complex of the present parish church. In the middle of it stands the cross-chaped font. This font was for centuries a place of homage and therefore it was considered as the grave of St. John of Povlja. The northeastern niche of the church was also painted with frescoes. In regard to the fact that they are in good condition and have clear terra-cotta hues they are considered the most beautiful Roman frescoes in Dalmatia.
Two rooms adjoined the baptistery. The one on the south with a corrider to the basilica served for the assembling of the baptized while the one on the east was probably the priestís dwelling quarters. In the southeastern corner of the basilica was the bath which was filled with water from the nearby pond. Near the western side are still visable the relics of the staircase by means of which one descended to the pool.
Next to the eastern wall stand the two barrel-vaulted tombs which have slightly elevated bolsters.
Upon the ruins of the famous Roman Early Christian shrine the Croatian Benedictines erected their monastery at the end of the 9th and the beginning of the 10th century. This monastery is regarded as the biggest and the oldest one in Croatia. The former baptistery, the Benedictines turned into the monastery chapel and upon the preserved apse they built their modest dwelling quarters. The monastery was in 1145 devastated by the Omis pirates. The friar Ratko restored the monastery in 1184. Afterwards, the abbey of Povlja was plundered several times, but the cult of St. John never died out and pilgrimages from distant parts continued to come for a very long time.
The present parish church was raised in the 16th and the 17th century by the enlargement of the Early Christian baptirtery. In such a way in fact inherits the cult of a sacred place formed out of the pagan shrine, Early Christian basilica the Bendictine church, up to the present day.
On the site of the former font (baptisting well) now stands the main altar. The belfry was raised in 1858-1872. Only in 1925 were the side naves added and in the Second War the vestibule was built. There is a lapidary there with relics of the old cultural history of this place. The church also possesses a very valuable collection of rural objects and ecclesastical garments.
The conservation work started in 1962 and it is owing to this that many ancient religious objects deposited up there in Lokva over the centuries are now accesible to us. Thereupon, we can follow the development from the pagan to the modern Christian sacrificial post which finally closes the cyle with the symbolism of the sacrificial table.