• Meštrović's Crikvine - Kaštilac

    This abandoned complex of the well-known name Kaštilac Capogrosso, which served various needs through history, was purchased in 1939 by Ivan Meštrović and his brother Petar wanting to renovate it and repurpose it. Although the ground plan of the whole was preserved, Ivan Meštrović changed its dimensions and the appearance of some of the constructional remains with his modifications and new constructions. Some were taken down, and for the most part he ignored their former function. In the western part of the complex, which he planned to turn into an exhibition space for his sculptures, he built a porch for accommodating plaster models, and the exhibition hall – today's Church of St. Cross – where he exhibited wooden sculptures with motifs from the life of Jesus Christ: the figure of the Crucifixion of 1916 and the twenty-eight reliefs created between 1917 and 1950. The eastern part of the complex was foreseen for housing. Because of the architectural-sculptural features of the whole – Meštrović's spatial interventions and his sculptural accomplishments, the integrity of the thematic cycle and the joining of the natural and historical ambience – as well as the artist's emotional attachment to this space, Crikvine hold a unique place within Meštrović’s opus. In the context of time and space in which Meštrović worked, we also believe that Crikvine are, though perhaps not in all their segments, a prominent example of restoring neglected heritage, of course, keeping in mind certain conservation omissions that he had made.

    Meštrović saw Crikvine renovated in 1959 for the first time, during his stay in Croatia. It was his first visit to his home country since he had left in 1942, but also his last. He celebrated his birthday there on 15 August. Carried away by memories, he was going to come next year again, however, he was prevented by his poor health.

    About the name of Crikvine complex

    After the transfer of ownership onto the People's Republic of Croatia by the Deed of Donation of 31 January 1952, in which Meštrović donated his houses in Zagreb and Split, the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer in Otavice and the western part of the Crikvine estate in his property, along with the accompanying buildings and works of art to the Croatian people, the name Kaštelet became common. However, it is interesting that the artist himself opposed to referring to the building with that name. His assumption that on the land there are remnants of old churches – foundations of an old church in the eastern part of the complex (contested by subsequent research) and the Church of Our Lady of Good Council, and the newly built Church of St. Cross in the western part, built from stone of the former structure – urged Meštrović to name the complex Crikvine, i.e. remnants of old churches. This was the name that he stated in his Deed of Donation. He clarified the reason for this name to the art historian Cvito Fisković (director of the Conservation Institute of Dalmatia, whose jurisdiction covered the Meštrović Gallery and Crikvine at that time), in a letter from 1955:

    “ ‘Meštrović's kaštelet (casteletto)’ is out of the question, because I did not build it as a ‘kaštelet’ or for myself – I built it as a small legacy for our people, giving them content closest to their spiritual traditions, which also represents the drama of man, our light.
    You know that places are thus named so often where there is only a tradition, that there were some churches there. That was one of the reasons, and the other was, to say honestly, so that the people of Split would not name it ‘Kaštelet Capogrosso’ in their laziness. Such traditions of theirs often disagree with our character, and give, even if inadvertently, an alien character to this piece of Croatian land which the alien often called upon.
    Crikvine I liked, because it is an old Croatian word. Let local historians write what they want in their studies, but they do not have the authority to write ‘kaštelet’ over my reliefs from the life of Jesus of Nazareth, even if only as an addition."

    ŠEPAROVIĆ PALADA, Maja. Meštrovićeve Crikvine, Muzeji Ivana Meštrovića, Split, 2012.