Zagreb, October 2018
Text by: Davor Gazde, Ivana Svedružić Šeparović
Churches in Šibenik were furnished with high quality wooden altars in the first half of the 17th century. It is assumed that all of them were made in Venetian workshops and then shipped to Šibenik by sea. Nine altars from that period have been preserved. Unfavorable economic and political situation in Dalmatia slowed down larger investments needed to follow the trends in church furnishings and replace dilapidated altars.
Church of St. Barbara, located near the Cathedral of St. James, was built in the first half of the 15th century. At first it was dedicated to St. Benedict, and then to St. Nicholas. It should be noted that the church was desacralized in 1806 and converted into a military warehouse, and later served as the exhibition space of the Museum of Ecclesiastical Art.
The high altar of St. Barbara was created in early 17th century, probably in a Venetian workshop, and commissioned by St. Barbara’s Brotherhood. It is one of the most beautiful altars in Dalmatia: it has extremely balanced proportions and was masterfully crafted. The antependium has also been preserved, which is very rare. The altar retable is completely gilded, while the antependium also contains colored areas. On the antependium, inside the cartouche, there are two consoles that once most likely held two reliefs or small sculptures. Two fluted semi-columns (on the inside) and two fluted pilasters (on the outside) with Corinthian capitals stand out in the central area of the altar. The cartouche, held by two lions with an oval coat of arms, is located in the center of the pediment.
The altarpiece by Angelo Mancini that depicts St. Barbara with St. Nicholas and St. Paul was commissioned in 1608 and delivered in 1610.
Complete conservation and restoration, as well as chemical analyses and micro-sections, were carried out on the altar and antependium. Through the work of the Croatian Conservation Institute, the original surface made using three different methods (gilding using water-based gold leaves, gilding using oil-based gold leaves and the very rare gilding that combines quartz sand, gold powder and oil binding agent) was evaluated. By restoring the original appearance of the antependium, the altar was aesthetically harmonized, and the results of the research revealed a series of technologies used to achieve a playful appearance of the monolithic gilded surface of all the elements on the altar.
When the conservation and restoration of the altar and antependium of St. Barbara is finished, at least a part of its original rich furnishing will be returned to the Gothic church.
Presentation of completed conservation and restoration of the altar and antependium of St. Barbara Šibenik will be held on Wednesday, 17th October 2018 at 15 o’clock in the Cathedral of St. Jacob in Šibenik.