In 2011, during archaeological research and conservation work on the church of St. Vid in the Klis fortress, conservator R. Bužančić came across pre-Romanesque fragments among the blocks of its western facade with the remains of royal inscriptions, four of them that can be interconnected.
In addition to four fragments with Latin text, two more decorated pieces without inscriptions were found. All the medieval material was made of Procones marble and was later built into the walls of the later Turkish mosque above the level of its floor, in such a way that the inscriptions and decorations were not visible.
In addition to the six mentioned fragments of the altar partition, during the works on the restoration of the church of St. Vid plate with a relief (46 x 24 x 11.5 cm) was also found, built with tiles as a building stone in the ring wall of the tambourine. This fragment of early medieval figural sculpture is also made of Procones marble and shows the motif of Christ in Glory (Latin: Maiestas Domini). Only a part of the composition has been preserved, the central figure of Christ in the mandorla and the angel on his right. Judging from its shape, the relief could belong to the lintel of the portal of an early medieval church. According to its sculptural characteristics, the Klis relief is similar to the early medieval reliefs with depictions of human figures from Solin and Split, on the basis of which it can be dated to the same period, the second half of the 11th or the beginning of the 12th century. This in turn implies that the pre-Romanesque church itself was not the product of one time, but developed artistically in several stages (9th–12th century).
The reconstruction of the fragmented text with a translation has so far been offered by R. Bužančić and N. Budak, both in publications published in 2011. Four fragments in a series (1–4) were numbered by Bužančić, focusing on the interpretation of the last three. According to Bužančić, it is completely clear that the middle one is part of a unique inscription that mentions the ruler woman. He further states that the text contains the royal title of the ruler’s wife and offers his own reading, making two arbitrary interventions (indicated by brackets): MEA DOM(N)A S(C)LAVA REGINA
Bužančić justifies his first intervention by trying to obtain the female ruler’s title “domna”, the counterpart to the male title “dominus”, known from several sources that talk about Croatian rulers of the 9th century. Bužančić’s insertion of the letter N into the clearly legible word DOMA was criticized by Budak, who described it as a methodological error, pointing out that such an insertion would only be permissible if there was a truncation sign above the letter M, but there is none. Budak adds that in the literature there are no known comparative examples of shortening MN with M above which there would be a horizontal line.
In the second intervention, Bužančić himself states that the reading S(C)LAVA is not so reliable because it can also be read as SLAVA, which is why it remains disputed whether it is the name or lineage of a noblewoman, or her title SCLAVA REGINA as a derivative from REGINA SCLAVORUM (Slavic Queen or Queen of the Slavs). Bužančić singles out analogous examples in this case as well, which include the Nin inscription about Branimir (SLCAUORUM or SCLAUORUM), the septum of the church of St. Bartula in Ždrapnje near Skradin with the same Branimir’s title (DUCE[m]CLAVITNORV[m]), Gottschalk’s text calling Trpimir rex Sclavorum, Pope Ivan VIII’s letter from 879 in which Zdeslav is addressed as “glorioso comiti Sclavorum”, and the title rex Sclavorum, which was again worn by Zvonimir in the second half of the 11th century. Budak also criticizes the insertion of the letter C with remarks that it is not preserved in the fragment and that it is an assumption that is not based on any material evidence or at least an indication, stating that the form of Sclava regina is disputed (which Bužančić also admits) because the correct read is “Sclavorum regina”.
Bužančić considers the most significant discovery to be the part of the text in which the ruler is undeniably called regina, from which it can be concluded that her husband is a ruler with the title “rex” (king). This means that this is the first inscription that directly mentions the title of the Croatian queen, who bears that title as the ruler’s wife. Bužančić concludes that the votive inscription could belong to a ruler from the first half of the 9th century, in all likelihood Trpimir , that is, that the unnamed queen is his wife. His additional argument is that the church of St. Vid can attribute the chapel of the long-sought Trpimir’s residence on Klis.
Historian N. Budak claims that Bužančić’s reading proposal is not acceptable, as is his dating and identification, due to the above-mentioned remarks. In his review, Budak omits the analysis of the architecture, describing it as undoubtedly important for dating, and focuses more on the full reconstruction of the inscription. The content of the first fragment with the text ORUM FILIUS shows that it is a male person, which is expected considering that there are currently no inscriptions that mention exclusively a woman as the person who ordered the construction or furnishing of the church. ORUM as a continuation of the genitive plural means that there was a word that did not determine the kingship relationship of the mentioned son, but was probably part of his ruler’s title (CROATORUM or SCLAVORUM). The person in question was therefore the ruler of the Croats or Slavs, and the text specified his origin in more detail by stating whose son he was. Although most of the inscription is missing, Budak assumes that the inscription read: EGO xy REX CROATORUM FILIUS xy or EGO xy REX SCLAVORUM FILIUS xy
For a comparative example, Budak states that Ž. Rapanić, following the decisions of Lj. Karaman, similarly reconstructed the text on the pediment of the altar partition from the church of St. Peter in Split ([CUM CONIU]GE MEA EDIFICAVI DOMUS DEI AD ONORE S(AN)C(T)I PETRI ET S(AN)C(T)I ANDREA), and that more analogous examples were recorded in Bijaći, Ždrapnje , Uzdolje, Donji Biljani and Novalja na Pag. The word MEA should be followed by the name of the woman in question, which begins, as the inscription confirms, with the letters DOMAS. Budak rejects the idea of Bužančić of inserting additional letters and reads the existing content as DOMASLAVA. This implies that the queen in question was called Domaslava.
Like Bužančić, Budak also tries to date the ruler’s lifetime on the basis of the title regina, the male counterpart rex, but not on the basis of Trpimir as an exception, but on continuous use. Namely, since Croatian rulers (as we know) began to be called kings only in the 10th century, Budak concludes that the inscription with the name of Queen Domaslava cannot be dated to the 9th but to the 10th century at the earliest. Accordingly, he points out that it is more likely that the unpreserved ruler’s title refers to Croats and not Slavs, given that in the 10th century the Croatian name appears more often than the Slavic one, which was not the case a century earlier. Budak states that one can only speculate about Domaslava’s exact family ties. Since Mihajlo Krešimir II’s wife is known from before (Jelena), the most likely possibility is that it is his mother, or the mother of one of his immediate predecessors. Budak finally concludes that Domaslava is most likely a Croatian queen from the first half of the 10th century, which in turn strengthens the claim that Croatian rulers have used the title rex since Tomislav, and in accordance with everything presented, he offers a proposal for a complete reconstruction of the inscription:
EGO xy REX CROATORUM FILIUS xy REGIS UNA CUM CONIUGE MEA DOMASLAVA REGINA (HOC OPUS) FIERI IUSSI.
“I … the king of the Croats, the son of the king …, together with my queen Domaslava, ordered this work to be done”
The shortcoming of Budak’s analysis, according to his own statement, is that the hypothetical name Domaslava is not known in Croatian early medieval onomastics, and not even in sources from later centuries. Nevertheless, the name is a common formation and the most closely related male name is Domagoj, and the fact that it is not preserved in the texts does not mean that it did not exist. As a comparative example, Budak cites the male name Domaslav from Czechia and Poland, where it has been used since the 13th century. Commenting on Budak’s proposed name, linguist and onomasticist D. Vidović emphasizes that it would be only the third recorded personal name of a Croatian ruler (along with Maruša and the two Jelenas). Until the appearance of systematic registry books in the middle of the 16th century, records of personal names were almost exclusively a male privilege, with the occasional widow, servant or slave. The name Domaslav(a) would belong to the name pool characteristic of the period up to the first half of the 10th century, when Croatian national rulers (and Croats in general) bore almost exclusively Croatian national names, most often two-part names, most of which contained the formant -mir or -slav…