Protective measures taken in order to ensure the safety of the monument that is thought to be the founding stone of national archaeology
The Archaeological Museum in Zagreb secures a piece of an altar with an inscription that mentions Prince Branimir and the year 888. During the earthquake, this monument, thought to be the founding stone of national archaeology, was not damaged, but was placed in a protective case in fear of further earthquakes and possible additional damage to the display area.
In 2018, the Archaeological Museum in Zagreb celebrated an anniversary, 1130 years from 888, the year that is carved next to the name of Prince Branimir on a fragment of an altar partition discovered in Gornji Muć near Split, in a part of a church that was built in Branimir’s time.
The year-long program, entitled “Croatia during Prince Branimir – the 1130th anniversary of the year carved along the name of Prince Branimir on the altar partition from Gornji Muć”, was recognized by the Croatian Archaeological Society, the leading national society of archaeologists that gave the authors, Maja Bunčić and Anita DUgonjić, the yearly “Josip Brunšmid” award in the category of heritage popularization. The program about Croatia during Prince Branimir’s rule, the period that is often called “Branimir’s Renaissance” due to the significant rise in the construction of churches and stonemasonry, included a series of scientific-popular lectures, workshops, a camp for children, three exhibitions and the production of a reconstruction of the altar partition in the permanent exhibition of the Medieval collection at the Archaeological Museum in Zagreb. Archaeologists and historians added to the program, resulting in the digital publication, entitled “Proceedings of lectures delivered during Branimir's year at the Archaeological Museum in Zagreb”, with ten interesting contributions about the political history and some aspects of material culture, as well as about the everyday life of medieval people.
The fragment of the altar partition was discovered by vicar don Mijo Jerko Granić in August of 1871 in Gornji Muć during the construction works at the Church of St. Peter the Apostle. Quickly seeing the value of the monument, it was also recorded that the church bells went off to mark this exquisite event. At the end of 1872, the monument was given to the National Museum in Zagreb (the Archaeological Department), then headed by don Šime Ljubić, and the Archaeological museum in Zagreb, as its successor, still keeps it and has it on display to this day. It is amongst the most valuable and most famous finds.
One of the best-preserved early medieval stonemasonry artifacts, which also has significant documentaristic value, it is the fragment of beam (architrave) of an altar partition that was placed in the pre-Romanesque church of St. Peter in Gornji Muć. This limestone monument measures 87 cm in length (27 cm in height, and 11 cm in thickness). The beam is divided into three horizontal fields. The upper field is decorated with hooks that lean to the right (twelve are preserved), and the central one with a triple weave in the shape of, so called, pretzels. Below the decorations, the bottom field contains a votive inscription in Latin that also continues on to the bottom side of the beam.
... BRANIMIRI ANNORUM CHRISTI SACRA DE VIRG/ine/ CARNE/m/ VT SVMPS/it/ S/acrum/ DCCCLXXX ET VIII VIQUE INDIC/tione/
... At the time of Prince (ruler?) Branimir, in the year 888, when Christ took the Holy Body from the Holy Virgin and the sixth indiction.
The monument has a double datation – based on the time of rule of Prince Branimir, and, based on the Christian era, to the year 888 and the sixth indiction. The church was constructed between March 25 and August 31, 888. The high level of the Latin language and the weave-like ornaments, as well as the datation, point to the fact that this monument diverges from the average on many levels, and that it can be seen as an exquisite testament to both literacy and artistic expression.
The monument saw the light of day in the historical context of the second half of the 19th century, a time when the national political thought was revived and blooming. The mere fact that it bears the name of the Croatian Prince Branimir and the year 888, as later shown, had significant affects on archaeology. At the time of discovery, it was the first excavated monument that contained a name of a Croatian ruler. It sparked further research into monument of national history, headed by the Dalmatian priesthood, who were joined by historians such as Ivan Kukuljević Sakcinski, Tadija Smičiklas and Franjo Rački. The inscription of Branimirov showed what early medieval monuments looked like, and demonstrated the ways in which such monuments, undisputable witnesses of Croatian identity, should be sought after, which is why it is seen as the grounding stone of Croatian national archaeology.