Research archive

    The Church of St Martin at Lepuri

    The church of St. Martin is located within a catholic cemetery with a long chronological continuity in Lepuri (a village in Ravni Kotari that is 8 km east of Benkovac). This simple and rustic building, which was restored in the 17th and 18th century, was built on the remains of a structure that dates to the Pre-Romanesque period and early late Antiquity. It underwent several reconstructions; the earliest in the Romanesque period up to the recent reconstructions in the past four decades when a significant number of Pre-Romanesque spoils of high-quality stone-masonry was discovered in the structure’s walls, as well as epigraphic remains that belonged to the stone furnishings of an early mediaeval church. Furthermore, fragments of an early Christian architectural sculpture, dating to the 5th-6th century, were also revealed there.

    Neither the site inside the cemetery nor the church of St. Martin were explored and the church itself was destroyed during the Homeland War by grenades. All this lead to the site’s clearing and the exploration of the structure and its surrounding area in July 1997.

    Remains of mediaeval tiling were uncovered in the church’s interior. Around this church, the ruin of an early Christian church with a mediaeval church built inside was discovered also during this exploration. It is a single-nave structure with an external polygonal and internal semicircular apse that is salient into the space on the backside of the building. Single-nave chapels were erected next to it, most probably after the construction of the early Christian church in the Early Middle Ages (9th century).

    In 1999, further research of the floor was planned, which belonged to the attached side chapels and was underneath the layer of mediaeval tiling, but also of the floor of the mediaeval church and the space around the facade of the early Christian structure and the assumed narthex. The conservation of certain parts was also foreseen within the scope of the above-mentioned activities.

    The exploration and conservation works are under the umbrella of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia, Directorate for Cultural Heritage Protection and the Conservation Department in Zadar.