The Ceramic Vessels of Trg: Acoustic Wall Construction in a Medieval Serbian Church | Zorana Đorđević, Dragan Novković, & Filip Pantelić
The earliest known reference to the technology of acoustic vessels is found in Marcus Vitruvius Pollio’s fifth book of the Ten Books on Architecture, in the section that considers open-air theaters. He describes these inclusions as “sounding vessels” made of bronze and distributed according to “mathematical theory” and “musical laws” but recommended this acoustic technology only for open-air theaters “built of solid materials like masonry, stone, or marble, which cannot be resonant.” Further on, Vitruvius suggests that if bronze was not available, “large jars made of clay” could be “similarly resonant” and placed in niches constructed between the seats of the theater.1 The acknowledgment that ceramic vessels are equally acoustically efficient as bronze ones is an elusive link to the later acoustic practice found in medieval Europe, where rather than placed in niches, ceramic vessels were embedded in wall construction of sacred edifices to enhance the acoustics. It is not clear how the tradition of embedding acoustic vessels in wall construction was initiated and perpetuated,2 but its use has been verified in numerous medieval sacred buildings throughout Europe.3 The use of acoustic vessels in this manner presents two main questions: (1) What was the acoustic intention of the original builders when they included these vessels; and (2) what were the effects of the vessels on overall church acoustics? In pursuit of these questions, we examine the acoustic effects of ceramic vessels found in the medieval church in the village of Trg, in eastern Serbia. Better understanding the acoustic effects allows us to outline some ideas about the original intentions behind their inclusion in the architecture.
The Trg church is a highly valued cultural monument in the Republic of Serbia. Archaeological research carried out over the last decades of the twentieth century led to substantial restoration work that brought the church’s appearance back to its medieval origins. During this work, ceramic vessels embedded in the church walls were revealed and removed. They had been identified as “acoustic vessels” in the past, but our study marks the first time their acoustic purpose has ever been examined.
To understand the existing acoustic conditions of the church interior, we measured impulse responses in situ…
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