Qantara Qantara

Saint Simeon’s Shrine

  • Title/name : Saint Simeon’s Shrine
  • Author : Francis of Milan (Franjo iz Milana)
  • Production place : Zadar, Dalmatia, Croatia
  • Date / period : 1380
  • Materials and techniques : Repoussé silverwork and gilding; the shrine is believed to be made from cedarwood
  • Dimensions : 1,92 m x 0,625 m x 1,27 m
  • Conservation town : Zadar
  • Conservation place : The Church of Saint Simeon

St Simeon’s shrine is displayed on the main altar of the Church of Saint Simeon in Zadar and is a monumental example of Croatian medieval goldsmithing. The shrine was commissioned by Queen Elisabeth to contain the body of the old prophet, Simeon, who held the infant Jesus in his arms during the Presentation in the Temple. Apart from its artistic merits, St Simeon’s shrine was an important element in Zadar’s historical and political role in the Mediterranean. The shrine’s decorations also give us an insight into life in the Middle Ages.

During the second half of the fourteenth century, Zadar’s economic and cultural prosperity enabled the town to enjoy a measure of independence and attracted the political interest of the ambitious King of Naples, Louis I of Anjou[1], who ruled over the most powerful kingdom between the Holy Roman Empire and Byzantium. Louis I of Anjou’s goals were to reinforce his ties with Western Europe and develop his Mediterranean policies, and Zadar was strategically placed between his possessions in Southern Italy and the Polish-Hungarian-Croatian State over which he ruled.

 

The shrine’s commission is recorded in a document dated 5 July 1377 in Zadar. The patron was Queen Elisabeth, Louis I of Anjou’s wife, whose political influence greatly increased after the king’s death.

The document mentions the name of the master goldsmith, Francis of Milan, and reveals the techniques used in making the shrine. The document also explains that the queen donated about 250 kg of silver for the rich decorations that cover the shrine’s entire surface.

The rectangular shrine is surmounted with a gabled roof, whose front is dominated by the high relief recumbent statue of Saint Simeon. Most of the thirteen narrative reliefs adorning the shrine’s other surfaces represent the saint’s miracles. The central area on the back of the shrine contains the dedication bearing the goldsmith’s signature and the date 1380, the year when the shrine was finished. The three scenes on the front of the shrine respectively portray the arrival of the saint’s body in the cemetery of a suburban monastery of Zadar after being transported from Constantinople or Palestine (The Presentation in the Temple[2]), and the arrival in Zadar of King Louis I Anjou, a scene that was almost contemporary to the shrine’s creation, and which represents the era’s costumes and the town ramparts. The composition of the scenes, and particularly The Presentation in the Temple, is close to the artist’s frescos in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. These scenes representing the local environment attest to the goldsmith’s impressive skill and creativity.

The scenes are separated by small columns surmounted with small heads of angels, which were created during the restoration of the shrine in 1630 by two goldsmiths, Piazzalonga and Libani. The shrine’s interior contains a relief executed in 1497 by the goldsmith Martinić of Zadar, representing, amongst others, the patron saints of Zadar. The shrine also contains several votive offerings, most of which were given by Queen Elisabeth.

Francis of Milan’s work was influenced by Giotto’s innovative techniques, and attests to the important role played by the Dalmatian coastal town as a crossroads for arts and artists.

NOTE

[1] Louis I was first count, then duke of Anjou, and titular king of Naples, (born in Vincennes, France, on 23 July 1339 and died in the castle of Bisceglie, near Bari, Italy, on 20 September 1384); he was the second son of Jon II of France and Bonne of Luxembourg.

[2] The Presentation in the Temple is related in the Gospel According to Luke (Luke 2:22), in response to the commandment ‘Consecrate to me every firstborn male’ (Exodus 13:2, 11–13).

BIBLIOGRAPHY RELATED TO THE ITEM

Petricioli I., Artistic innovations on the silver shrine of St. Simeon in Zadar, in: Hortus artium medievalium, vol. II, Zagreb - Motovun, 1996, pp. 9-17

Petricioli I., Škrinja Svetog Šimuna u Zadru, Zagreb, 1983



Transversal sheets
Artistic patronage
Artistic patronage
Craftsmen, artists and workshops
Craftsmen, artists and workshops
Furniture and religious objects
Furniture and religious objects
Metal
Metal
Power
Power
Religious life
Religious life
Transmission of knowledge
Transmission of knowledge