THE BAŠKA TABLET
precious stone of Croatian literacy

Dedicated to the memory of Branko Fučić (1920.-1999.)

reconstruction of Baska tablet according to Branko Fucic

Darko Žubrinić, Zagreb (2000); in Croatian

The Baska tablet is probably the most famous monument of early Croatian literacy, dating from about 1100, i.e. almost four centuries before the discovery of America. Its size and weight are impressive: 2x1 m, 800 kg. According to Branko Fucic and Eduard Hercigonja, the language of inscription is Croatian - Chakavian with elements of liturgical Church Slavonic, and the script is Croatian Glagolitic.

Its importance is, among others, due to the fact that in its third line we can read "Zvonimir, Croatian King". While there are even older documents in the Latin language mentioning the Croatian name, the Baska tablet is the oldest known document in which the Croatian name is written in Croatian language, and moreover, in Croatian Glagolitic Script.

Let us mention that the Croatian name for Croatian language is in use at least since 1275 (it is often encountered in the legal document Istrian Boundaries), that is, more than two centuries before the discovery of America.


Miraculous view to the Baška valley on the island of Krk and on Učka in Istria from the legendary Velebit mountain.
Photo by D.Ž. The Baška valley is situated in one of the most beautiful ambiences in the world.

It was found in the church of St. Lucy (Sv. Lucija) in Jurandvor near Baska on Krk, the largest Croatian island. Since 1934 the monument is placed in the main building of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, and anybody can see it.

The Baska Tablet today

Here we provide transliteration of 13 lines of the Glagolitic text of the Baska tablet into Latin characters. We denote

  • Glagolitic "yus" by Ju,
  • Glagolitic "yat" by Ja or Je,
  • Glagolitic "iže" by Ï,
  • semivowel "jer" with apostrophe,
  • missing letters are placed in parentheses.
Also, we use stars in *BÏ* to denote that BÏ should be understood as number 12 (by Ï we denoted Izhe; B = 2, Y = 10) and the same for *G*, which is 4. Finally, we use "-" to denote the usual hyphenation of words. On the original Baska tablet there are no distances between words.
 
 AZ V' IME OTCA I S(I)NA I SVETAGO DUHA AZ'
 OPAT' DR'ŽIHA PISAH SE O LEDINE JuŽE
 DA Z'V'NIM(I)R KRAL' HR'VAT'SKI V'
 DNI SVOE V' SVETUJu LUCIJu I SVEDO -
 MI ŽUPAN' DESIMIRA KR'BAVE MARTIN' V L(I) -
 CE PRB'NEBŽA S' POSL' VIN(0)DOLE JaK(O)V' V O-
 TOCE DA IŽE TO POREČE KL'NI I BO(G) I *BÏ* AP(OSTO)LA I *G* E -
 VANJELISTI I S(VE)TAJa LUCIJa AM(E)N' DA IŽE SDE ŽIVE -
 T' MOLI ZA NE BOGA AZ OPAT' DBROVIT' Z' -
 DAH' CREK'V' SIJu I SVOEJu BRATIJu S DEV -
 ETIJu V' DNI K'NEZA KOS'M'TA OBLAD -
 AJuĆAGO V'SU K'RAINU I BJeŠE V' T' DNI M -
 IKULA V' OTOČ'CI S' SVETUJu LUCIJu V' EDINO
 

Audio: Baska tablet (1 MB), narrated by Mr Stjepan Bahert


 
The approximate English translation of the Baska tablet is as follows:
 
 I, in the name of Father and Son and the Holy Spirit, I
 abbot Držiha, wrote  this about the plot of land which
 was given by Zvonimir, the Croatian King, in 
 his days to St. Lucy (Sv. Lucija) and witnesses (are): 
 Desimir, Prefect of Krbava, Martin (Mratin) in 
 Lika, Pribineža, clerk in Vinodol, Jacob (Jakov) on the
 island. If anyone denies it, let him be cursed by 12 Apostles and 4
 Evangelists and St. Lucy (Sv. Lucija). Let anyone who lives here
 prays God for them. I abbot Dobrovit
 built this church with my nine brethren 
 at the time of Prince Kosmat who ruled 
 the whole Country. In those days
 Mikula was in Otočac with St. Lucy (Sv. Lucija) together.
 

Of particular interest is the third line of the Baska tablet, which mentions the Croatian King Zvonimir. Note that the Glagolitic text corresponding to HR'VAT'SK'[I] ends with K', since the tablet is damaged on this place.
 

Z'V'NIM(I)R'  (ZVONIMIR)
KRAL'
HR'VAT'SK'[I]

The glagolitic "az" appearing in KRAL' is different from the "az" appearing in HR'VAT'SK'I, which has a unique triangular form:

tringular A

In this form it appears on Supetarski fragment found in Istria in Sveti Petar u Sumi (12th century), and also in glagolitic inscriptions found in Brodski Drenovac near Pozega on the Croatian north, in Slavonia (12th century?). According to Fucic, this is the so called "long A" on the Baska tablet. The triangular A itself is very common in ancient scripts of the Near East.
Its source is obviously from cuneiform scripts, and the meaning is known, see e.g. Hans Jensen's monograph Sign, Symbol and Script, (English translation from German; London, George Allen and Unwin Ltd, 1970), pp 85, 87. Curious glagolitic P seems to be related to very old Egyptian group of scripts (Meriotic script), see pp 79 and 81 in the same monograph. Also some Etruscian letters have analogues in the glagolitic.

The reconstructed third line of the Baska tablet containing Zvonimir, Croatian King, looks like this:


Zvonimir, Croatian King (note that there are no spacings between words)


Table of Croatian Glagolitic Script on the Baska Tablet


A view to the island of Krk and to its Baška valley from the mountain of Velebit.

Several detilas from the Baska tablet:

D.Ž.: Croatian Glagolitic letters of the Baska Tablet [PDF]
D.Ž.: Croatian Fonts for Users of LaTeX [PDF], [LaTeX source file] (here you can see how to use the Glagolitic TeX font for the Baska Tablet)

The Baška tablet has 402 characters and 107 words, and as such is the larges Croatian Glagolitic inscription from 10th-12th centuries. The following two in order are from the region of Dubrovnik: the Župa dubrovačka inscription which has 102 characters and 24 words, while the Konavle inscription has 49 characters and 15 words. Source [Cuncic-Perkic].


A view to the island of Krk and to Učka from the mountain of Velebti.

The Baska tablet served as the left side of the former closure screen which separated the church monastic choir from the space for congregation. There existed also the right side of the closure screen, out of which only four small pieces have been left.

Remain of the Second Baska Tablet, 11/12. st.

The Jurandvor 2nd fragment, probably a remain of the second Baska tablet (right side of the closure screen), had been discovered and published in 1864. by Ivan Crncic, together with the Jurandvor I fragment. But already in 1879 Geitler did not find it any more. Accordin to [Fucic, Glagoljski natpisi, p. 63], it was either discovered or is now in a foriegn collection. It contains a remain of the Croatian name: ...VATSK... (HRVATSKI - Croatian)

...VATSK...

Photo of the Jurnadvor 1st fragment from no later than 1914, made by J. Brunsmid. According to [Fucic, Glagoljski natpisi, str. 65], the Jurandvor 1st fragment could have belong to the left upper corner of the second Baska Tablet, that is, of the right side of closure screen.

Here we can see the text U ZV'ONIM..., and this is without any doubt a part of the name of Croatian King Zvonimir, 11th century. Here we can see the so called bifurcating M, a ligature ZV, and a semivowel ' in the form of the left key. The photo is from 1914 at the latest.

The condition of the Jurandvor 2nd fragment in 1980 was the following, see [Fucic, Glagoljski natpisi, see p. 62]:

The characters are hardly recognizable, and bifurcating M is almost entirely damaged, contrary to the above photo taken some 70 years earlier.

As we see, one of the fragments contains the Croatian name (...VATSK...), another a part of name of King Zvonimir (ZV'NIM...), but the content of the whole inscription is unfortunately unknown (see [Fucic], pp 62-65). Thus, we can speak of two Baska tablets, the left one which is saved but damaged, and the right one which is destroyed.

Two Baska tablets in the church of St. Lucy, Jurandvor

Croatian name in glagolitic texts from around 1100 until 17th century

It is worth noting that in the fifth line of the Baska tablet the names of joupan (prefect) Desimir from Krbava and Martin (Mratin) from Lika are mentioned as witnesses.

The earliest known photo of the Baska Tablet, 1869, by Ivan Standl
See a large photo: JPG (1MB)


Breathtaking view to the Baška valley and Velebit mountain from the convent Sv. Marije Goričke in Batomalj.
The oldest known confraternity rules written in the Croatian Glagolitic Script are those of the Confraternity of Sv. Marije Gorička, from 1425. Two leaves are kept in the National Library in Norway, and the other have dissappeared.

Baska valley and VelebitThe Baska Tablet has been studied by Ivan Kukuljević Sakcinski (1851), Franjo Rački (1855), Ivan Črnčić (1866), Vjekoslav Štefanić (1955), and Branko Fučić (1982), where the years in parentheses refer to published papers and books. The name "precious stone" for the tablet was given by Stjepan Ivsic, outstanding Croatian linguist. The place where the Baska tablet has been found is a fascinating valley that you can see on the photo, with the mighty mountain of Velebit behind it.

 

 

Krk viewed from Velebit (photo M. Zubrinic, 2005)

 

Krk viewed from Velebit (photo M. Zubrinic, 2005)

 

Church of Sv. Lucija (St. Lucy) in Jurandvor

 

Croatian coat of arms from 1494

Croatian Coat of Arms on the Church of St. Lucy, not later than 1494,
and probably much older (a remain of unknown church)

Church of St. Lucy


Eduard Hercigonja, Tisućljeće hrvatskoga glagoljaštva, str. 35:

Bašćanska je ploča signum temporis iskona nacionalne kulture na više doživljajnih razina: cjelinom vanjske dojmljivosti - od reprezentativnog volumena, jednostavne ljepote motiva trolinijskih vitica i lišca na gornjem dijelu, do likovno  ekspresivne, skladne ornamentike glagoljskih slova, kao i svojim sadržajem,  "ritmički organiziranom strukturom teksta i, naposljetku, jezikom u kojem se starohrvatska čakavska riječ funkcionalno prožimlje elementima liturgijskoknjiževnoga crkvenoslavenskog jezika, što književni izraz tog spomenika osebujno patinira, utiskuje mu pečat visokog stila.



A view to the island of Krk and to Učka from the mountain of Velebit.

Ivo Frangeš of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts said the the Baska Tablet is simultaneously document and monument, history and art, continuous present of  our language and of our being, and that all in it is Croatian: its name, language, king, land and spirituality.

Croatian writer Silvije Strahimir Kranjčević in his Uskočkim elegijama, Pred Kraljevskom
pločom u Baški recites beautiful verses:

Daj da spustim svoje čelo 
na taj kamen poizdrti, 
daj mi časak da mi duša
pomoli se prije smrti. ...

Pružimo si bratske ruke
rastrgane iz daljine,
iskopajmo grob si velik 
s kraja na kraj domovine 
i lezimo u njeg mirno, 
kao braća zagrljeni; 
udruženi jednim srcem 
i zanav'jek sjedinjeni!

Below you can see an imaginary portrait of King Zvonimir by a Croatian painter Kristian Kreković, known for his famous gallery in Palma de Mallorca, Spain:

King Zvonimir, ruled 1075-1089


A view to the island of Krk and to Učka from the mountain of Velebit.

The Baska tablet and its content were also inspiring for musicians. Maestro Ljuboslav Kuntaric's composition "The Baska Tablet" was performed in 2004 by a mixed choir of the parish church from Gernlinden, Munich, Germany, directed by maestro Alfons Strähhuber, in the church of St. Lucy, Jurandvor. Also Stjepan Sulek wrote a capella composition in 1978/79 entitled "Bascanska ploca". Croatian composer Krešimir Fribec (1908–1996) compsed a cantata for choir and chamber orchestra inspired by the text of the Baska Tablet. Distinguished Croatian composer Dusan Praselj is the author of Staroslavenska misa and Bascanska ploca.

Baska on the island of Krk

It seems that Dante traveled through Croatia, and with help of Croatian pilgrim, now a friend and guide through Croatia, Bishop Kažotić, he visited Jurandvor on the island of Krk and saw the Baska Tablet.

The Baska Tablet on the banknote of 100 Croatian Kuna (HRK), and Ivan Mazuranic (1814-1890).

It was only in 1971 that the Baska tablet, the most important monument of early Croatian literacy, was allowed to enter the curriculum of our primary schools. During many years of the communist rule in ex-Yugoslavia the Baska tablet was forbidden in Croatian schools. Similarly to this, European representatives of international community in Bosnia - Herzegovina do not allow that textbooks written for Croatian children in this state mention the Baska Tablet, and even the Croatian national anthem Lijepa Nasa Domovino (Our Beautiful Homeland)!

An invitation card to a Christmas party by the Old-Slavonic Institute in Zagreb, decorated with glagolitic characters from the Baska tablet.

 

Alter cover in Baska inspired by the Baska Tablet


Kravata inspirirana Bašćanskom pločom, www.kravata.hr

On this web since July 2000, prepared on the occasion of 9 centuries since the creation of this precious stone of Croatian literacy.

Croatian Glagolitic Script