The Institute of Musicology

Dissertation projects

Dissertationsprojekt von Tin Cugelj

Polyphonic Mass in Renaissance Croatia

In the period of 1400—1600, Croatia was politically and culturally defined mainly through domination of two powers: in the east by the Venetian republic, which ruled over Dalmatia and Istria, and in the west by the Habsburg Empire. Third power, never ruling but present through attacks, was Ottoman empire. All three cultures left some impact already in the early days of oppression, but the quickly-spreading Italian humanismus was far the most implemented one. Taking root on the Adriatic coast, which was to become the musical focal points for hundreds of years, it slowly spread to other parts of Croatia, coexisting with the traces of traditions of other cultures that surrounded Croatia.
The literature of the time proves that the closeness to Venice provided Croatian coastal cities with the influence of new humanistic movement and its discoveries; archival employment documents present how the development of this new movement motivated Croats to go study to Italy, and how Italians were often invited—by Croatians or sent by Italian rulers—to Croatian coast as more knowledgeable. Neighbouring Slovenia, which Croatia shares the coastline with, and which was part of the Venice republic as well in the period, had a strong polyphonic tradition in its capital, Ljubljana, what was materialized through the production of choirbooks of bishop Tomaž Hren. Finally, the free democratic Republic of Dubrovnik, flourishing with musical activity, both secular and sacred, is a strong proof of how economic and political safety reflect in cultural activity of any kind.
While the situation at the Croatian coast enabled production of music of whatever sort and scale, Croatian composers—among them Ivan Lukačić (baptised 1587—1648) and Julije Skjavetić (second half of 16th century)—composed only small-scale sacred polyphony.
With all the similarities with Italian Renaissance culture and while all prerequisites for the development of polyphonic mass were met, Croatian authors (and others working in Croatia), did not compose a polyphonic mass, as far as we know.
With historian Serafino Razzi’s (1531—1611) implication of hearing polyphony in the Feast of St. Blaise in Dubrovnik as a starting point, the goal of this doctoral research is to find any traces of polyphonic mass in Croatia from 1400 to 1600: hints of its existence, beginning, importance in different liturgical contexts and, if really non-existent, the context of its non-existence.