The beginnings of the Croatian art are represented by a rich ornamentation in interlace pattern. You can see an important monument with the interlace pattern which contains the name of Duke Branimir (9th century).
One of the earliest Croatian cultural monuments is a baptismal font of Prince Viseslav from Nin (around 800 AD), with a nice interlace cross. It contains the following Latin text, full of interesting ligatures: HEC FONS NEMPE SUMIT INFIRMOS, UT REDDAT ILLUMINATOS. HIC EXPIANT SCELERA SUA, QUOD DE PRIMO SUMPSERUNT PARENTE, UT EFFICIANTUR CHRISTICOLE SALUBRITER CONFITENDO TRINUM PERHENNE. HOC IOHANNES PRESBITER SUB TEMPORE VUISSISCLAVO DUCI OPUS BENE COMPOSUIT DEVOTE, IN HONORE VIDELICET SANCTI IOHANNIS BAPTISTE, UT INTERCEDAT PRO EO CLIENTULOQUE SUO.
A special importance have about 150 Pre-Romanesque Croatian churches (9th to 11th century), mostly along the coast. About 15 of them are well preserved (some of them completely destroyed during the Greater Serbian aggression in 1991-1995). Probably the best example of old Croatian church architecture is the Pre-Romanesque Chapel of Holy Cross in Nin built around 800 AD (Sveti Križ; see on the right; on the left is the small church of Sveti Nikola). The British architect Thomas Graham Jackson called it in 1887 the smallest cathedral in the Christianity, because of its monumental architectural conception.
One of the most important monuments of the Pre-Romanesque architecture in Europe is the Church of St. Donat in Zadar built in the 9th century. According to [Goss, p 92], a discovery of wooden beams in this monumental church, adorned with interlace, datable by carbon method to around 710, indicates that this building, often referred to as “Carolingian”, was well-under construction in the course of eighth century.
Truly fantastic stone monuments with interlace patterns were found in Dubrovnik and its environs.
Monolithic stone grave monuments, called stechak (literally – standing tombstones), are very impressive, some of them weighing 30 tons, the earliest of them dating from the 13th century. Their overall number is more than 66,000, mostly on the territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina. There is no doubt that such monuments were put up by Catholics and Krstyans (members of a local Christian religious sect in Bosnia) during the Middle Ages. The origin of Krstyans is still not clear. Some of the stecaks have interesting decorations, some even swastika and other symbols and ornaments of eastern provenance, with epitaphs like: “Please, do not disturb me, I was like you, and you will be like me…” written in the Croatian Cyrillic alphabet. The most widespread ornaments are Christian symbols.
Richly ornamented Zgosca stechak (15th century?), held in the Sarajevo Archeological Museum.
A stechak near Dubrovnik.
The first documents of the Croatian Cyrillic alphabet are inscriptions carved in stone in present-day Bosnia-Herzegovina dating from the 10th or 11th century (Humačka ploča) and on the Croatian island of Brač from the 12th century. They also contain some glagolitic letters. Many written documents concerning medieval Croatia contain simultaneously three Scripts, thus proving their unexclusiveness and coexistence, which is unique in the history of European culture. For example some of the religious texts end with `Amen’ written three times: in the Glagolitic, Cyrillic and Latin script. Apart from the parallel use of the three Scripts, unique is also the simultaneous use of three languages – Croatian, Latin and Church Slavonic.