Christmas decorations, Advent wreaths and a red-and-green coalition of Christmas items fill the shops, echoing with Christmas carols that evoke nostalgia and encourage shopping fever. Until Christmas holidays arrive, the very same Christmas might be wasted and forgotten: Easter is not far away, either; and oxen, donkeys, reindeer and rabbits are bred on the same hay-rack.
The Christmas that was one and only, the Christmas Eve for which people used to wait and prepare for days, which made a difference from one hour to the next, from one ritual to another – such holidays have been scattered about like newspapers at a newspaper stand, in a high circulation and an even higher return. In the meantime Christmas learned to hide.
After a long time of not seeing it, one should take a good look at it, deliberately and focused. One of the most beautiful Croatian Christmas scenes found its shelter from too intensive illumination and too curious looks in the lateral nave of St. Michael’s church in Žminj, in the very heart of Istria. Where it came from, it is not known. It is a part of the wooden altar, the central field of which contains a scene of the shepherds paying reverence to the newborn Christ; the lunette above it shows the Holy Trinity, and it is bound with columns with vines: the vines denote the accession of human soul to God but also the blood of the Redeemer. The vine – that is, wine – is an Eucharistic symbol which after the Council in Trident was often depicted on the 17th-century altars, like on this one in Žminj.
The relief of Žminj shows various stylistic memories, which a native master united with poetic warmth. Rich garlands made of flowers and fruit, the heads of cherubs and other ornaments look like remains from the Renaissance; an intensive reduction of space, reduced almost to a plane, resembles a naive evocation of Mannerism; one of the ribbons held by the angels reads the year of 1690 although it is more probable that this year means the time point of some later intervention on the altar, which was initially created in the mid-17th century, still a legitimate period of Mannerism in most of Europe. The composition of scenes, although quite peaceful at the first glance, comprises a lot of contrasts: symmetry and asymmetry; lightness and heaviness (the angels fly by courtesy of gravitation); stylistic ornaments are contrasted with the manger woven in the same style as an old basket that might still be found in some Istrian village, and with the baldachin woven like the manger, leaning on fine, slender columns, organic graphisms – like some proto-chineiserie.
Title: Christmas 2009
Date of Issue: 4 December 2009
Denominations: 8 Kn
If you like this post, please say it in the comment!!!