Centrally planned buildings have always had a special purpose in religious architecture. Used by the Romans for mausolea and, at times, for temples, the rotundas continued to be built by the Christians as baptisteries, funerary chapels, and churches with a memorial purpose. However, the same shape was used for palatine and episcopal chapels, especially in the early middle ages. The focus of this talk will be on several early medieval rotundas located on both sides of the Adriatic coast, and in particular on the ninth-century episcopal chapel of the Holy Trinity at Zadar in Croatia. For a long time, this rotunda was seen as a reflection of Carolingian influences and linked with Charlemagne’s territorial pretensions in the Adriatic. Recently, however, the financial backing of such a large building has been attributed to Byzantium. This talk will examine the validity of the ‘Western’ and ‘Eastern’ explanations by comparing the form and function of the Holy Trinity to the well-known rotundas from the East and West such as St Mark’s at Venice and the Palatine Chapel at Aachen. Dr Magdalena Skoblar is a post-doctoral teaching assistant in the Department of History of Art of the University of York. Her PhD thesis (York, 2011) on eleventh-century figural sculpture in Croatia focused on the iconography and contextualisation of liturgical furnishings decorated with narrative images and isolated depictions of Biblical stories and saints.
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