Časopis ARS 28 (1995) 2-3

Martin VANČO

Kaplnka sv. Margity pri Kopčanoch. Otázka jej pôvodu a problematika architektonického typu
[St. Margarita’s Chapel near Kopčany and the Genesis of This Architectural Type]


Identity of the St. Margaritta’s Chapel near Kopčany

The St. Margaritta’s Chapel is situated between the Morava river and the Kopčany village. This building was not researched by our specialists or presented in the complex work “List of Monuments in Slovakia”. Archeological and architectural research of the chapel has discovered the medieval architectural details. The disposition of the chapel belongs to the Group of the Single-Nave Churches with a Rectangular Apse being found all over the territory of the Great Moravia at the time of the 9th century. Subtle dimensions of this object are comparable with the St. George pre-Romanesque church in Kostoľany pod Tribečom constructed before 1lth century and also other architectural ele¬ments of both these churches are nearly compatible.

There is a very modest number of written documents on the chapel. The only detailed written document is The Batthyany Visitatio Cannonicae of 1787 where is a mention about the chapel constructed by a noble virgin Margaritta and consecrated to the saint of the same name.

Hypothesis about the identity of the St. Margaritta’s chapel is conditioned by a presumption of the destruction of the original village around the church. The name of this village was probably derived from the church standing in this place. Because of the fact mentioned in the medieval Hungarian written documents saying that a habitation of this territory had been started at the beginning of the 13th century, I focused my research on the medieval Bohemian written documents where is a mention about the locality Sekirkostel near the Morava river. The oldest mention about Sekirkostel is in the Kosmas’ Bohemian Chronicle – the church Sekirkostel [kostel = a church] with the court and the village, all of 1067, and this date is terminus ante quern of Sekirkostel’s construction. V. Richter devoted his study to the identity of Sekirkostel and he identified this church and the destroyed locality Kostelisko.

I think Sekirkostel may be identified with the St. Margaritta’s chapel. The name Sekirkostel is probably derived from the geographical site of the chapel “Behind the lake at St. Margaritta’s”. Therefore it may be deduced that this church was originally situated near a lake. I am convinced Sekirkostel is a simplification of the German name Seekirche [See = a lake, Kirche = a church], meaning Lakechurch.

Genesis of the Single-Nave Church with a Rectangular Apse

Discovery of the St. Margaritta’s chapel renews again the problem of the genesis of this architectural type. The fact of non-acceptance of the territorial extent of this architectural type all over Europe, and of the genesis of these churches researched only within the limited territory present the essential defect of the last theories. It caused different conclusions about the genesis of these churches.

The first theory is on the genesis in the insular area of Ireland and Britain. B. Ortmann and J. Cibulka were inspired by the specific “Irish” Early Christian Architecture in order to derive the Type of the Single-Nave Church with a Rectangular Apse and its expansion to continental Europe put together with the activity of the Irish monks. This “Irish-Scottish theory” was contradicted by V. Richter.

Next theory is on the genesis without the strong antique tradition in the territory beyond the Alps. K. Ginhart, G. R Fehring and W. Boeckelmann derived the rectangular composition from the old-German wooden architectural tradition and they interpreted a rectangular composition as to be utilitarian with a very simple construction. V. Richter continued in “the old German theory” but he questioned the presumption of the rectangular disposition utility. From the old German type with a separate apse he detached a Mediterranean type with an unseparated apse which was not in discrepancy to the antique tradition, e.g. the Early Christian buildings in Ravenna and Trier.

Croatia is the last territory where the single-nave churches with rectangular apses are extended. This area was not included into those theories and there are a lot of various modifications of this church type since the beginning of the Middle Ages. I think this architectural type of the Insular, German and Croatian territory is derived from the one general pattern because in Croatia there were not either Irish or German influences and this area used to be the Roman province Dalmatia (Illyricum), thus with a strong antique tradition.

Identification of the Vitruvian proportional system and the St. George church in Kostoľany pod Tribečom have inspired me towards the theory on the genesis of this type from the antique architecture because the antique proportional system of all churches researched by me is in the fraction form, e.g. 2:3, 3:5, 5:9 etc. I have determined the typology of the single-nave churches with rectangular apses with regards to the nave formation conditioned by a requirement for the gathering-place extension. I named the churches with the longer naves as “the Monumental Type” (comparable with the reduced basilica disposition) which is more characteristic for castle sites and monasteries. On the other hand I marked the smaller churches (with the hall conception) as “Simple Type” characteristic for courts and little settlements.

My antique genesis theory is based on homogeneous relationship of the nave and the apse which are derived from the antique civil architecture. I believe the Roman Atrium House may be the pattern for the genesis of the single-nave church with a rectangular apse. Central rooms of these houses – Atrium and Tablinum – are explainable by the theory of “Contamination by Reinterpretation” by E. Loewy. Then the Christian architecture has reinterpreted Atrium into the nave and Tablinum into the apse. I compared the Vitruvius’ Proportional System of the Atrium House with the preserved atrium houses in Pompei and I concluded this proportional system is compatible with the “Simple Type” of churches form (the proportions 2:3, 3:5, √2). On the other hand I believe that the “Monumental Type” (the proportions about 1:2) is the reduced basilica disposition. Evolution of the single-nave churches with rectangular apses may be defined as a combination of various elements of the Roman civil architecture, confirmed by the example of the monumental building in Trier of the 3rd – 4th centuries where the basilica disposition with the rectangular Apsidal Exedra was found. In E. B. Smith’s opinion, the Apsidal Exedra was originally Tablinum taken from the Roman palaces. The Early Christian buildings in the area of the Roman province Germania, e.g. Epfach am Lech (Abodiacum), Speyer, Koblenz, perhaps Augsburg too, show also at antique features. Finally, the genesis of the churches with rectangular apses may be explained as the Early Christian tradition using the civil houses as the gathering-places.