In the Croatian city of Trogir there is a medieval cathedral with a stupendous and beautifully crafted stone arch. I will tell you more about this in future blogposts, but today I will give you one of my favourite details of this masterpiece of masonry.
The stone arch is the accumulative product of the skills and efforts of several masons over a period of three centuries. But the earliest elements of the arch were put in place by the master mason Radovan, who finished his work in 1240. We know this because an inscription survives from the time of its completion, giving the name of the maker and the year it was finished.
The arch has been the subject of extensive study throughout the twentieth century, and there has been established a consensus concerning the layers of its genesis.
One of the details established as belonging to Radovan's workmanship is a scene depicting some of the labours of the year, namely the making of sausages. Below, we see how skilfully and life-like Radovan rendered this scene, one with which he was most likely very familiar from his own life. We see the sausage-maker in his clogs, minding the stew that will go into the intestines already prepared and drying from being cleaned, hanging above him. Meanwhile, a young boy pours liquid into a bowl. This is most likely pig's blood that will be mixed in with the stew that will go in the sausage.
There are many stunning things about this depiction. For instance, it shows that realism and sophistication were not absent from medieval masonry - a point that should not have to be made, but which bears repeating. Secondly, moreover, this scene is a great reminder that we modern people are not all that different from those of the Middle Ages. Having grown up on a farm, I am well familiar with the making of sausages, and in its basic elements we do this in the same way as the thirteenth-century Dalmatian man who served as Radovan's inspiration for this beautiful carving.