The exhibition Judita was opened in the National and University Library in Zagreb on 19 October 2021, to mark a half a millennium of the printing of the 1521 Croatian epic. The first work in the Croatian language and as such the cornerstone of Croatian literature, earned its author Marko Marulić (1450-1524) the designation of “the father of Croatian literature” as well as that of “the Croatian Dante”, and significantly contributed to his inclusion among the most notable European humanists of the Renaissance.
Judita, or Istoria sfete udovice Judit u versih harvacchi slozena (The History of the Holy Widow Judith Composed in Croatian Verses), is an epic in six cantos written in Chakavian – along Shtokavian and Kajkavian, one of three major dialects of the Croatian language – thematising the bravery of Judita (Judith), who saved her people, the residents of the Jewish city of Bethulia, from the Assyrian general Holofernes. Rendering this biblical story in a unique verse characteristic of Croatian cultural space, a twelve-syllable verse with a double rhyme, and additionally using a characteristic cross rhyme, Marulić poignantly addressed the conditions of his age, marked by fear and uncertainty of the people of Split, Marulić’s native town, facing the threat of the Ottoman invasion. Judita’s complex and demanding versification scheme reflects all the skill and agility of Marulić’s poetic talent, which enabled him to combine the conventions of the humanistic poetry with those characteristic of Petrarch.
The exhibition, which will remain on view until 2 November 2021, was opened by the Director General of the National and University Library in Zagreb Dr Ivanka Stričević and the Envoy of the Government of the Republic of Croatia and State Secretary at the Croatian Ministry of Culture and Media Dr Ivica Poljičak. The epochal epic and other works by Marulić preserved in the Library Manuscripts and Old Books Collection were presented by the Head of the Collection Dr Irena Galić Bešker, while the Senior Public Relations Adviser in the Library Marketing and Communications Section and the exhibition author Nela Marasović presented the concept of the exhibition.
Apart from the monumentally relevant Judita, the exhibition’s 15 display panels feature a representative selection of other works by Marulić preserved by the Library and thus offer a wider perspective on the great writer’s life and work. The focus of the exhibition are several copies of Judita that the Library holds – two copies of the 1522 edition and copies of Judita’s fourth and fifth editions. The displayed Library’s treasures also include works inspired by Judita in the Music Collection and Map Collection.
The visitors may also see the digitised versions of Marulić’s works available as part of the Digital Collections of the National and University Library in Zagreb web portal (https://digitalna.nsk.hr/pb/) and learn more about Marulić and his oeuvre through the Marko Marulić virtual exhibition (http://virtualna.nsk.hr/portfolio/virtualna-izlozba-marko-marulic-2/), created with the support of the Croatian Ministry of Culture and Media as part of the 2018 project aimed at the digitisation of Marulić’s works.
The exhibition was organised on the initiative of Književni krug Split, a cultural and publishing association of the intellectuals of Split, and Dr Bratislav Lučin, Head of MARVLIANVM (https://sites.google.com/site/kksmarulianum2a/home), a Split-based research centre focusing on Marko Marulić’s heritage, whose research findings and texts make the backbone of the exhibition.
The exhibition was organised with the support of the Croatian Ministry of Culture and Media as part of the Year of Reading 2021 national campaign (https://min-kulture.gov.hr/the-year-of-reading-in-croatia/20875).