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The town of Split in Croatia - the cathedral Saint-Domnius

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The place of the cathedral of Split (author Office Split Tourism). Click to enlarge the image.The cathedral Saint-Domnius of Split. Click to enlarge the image in Adobe Stock (new tab).The cathedral Saint-Domnius (Katedrala Svetog Dujma) of Split is the seat of the archdiocese of Split-Makarska.

It is one of the smallest cathedrals in the world: the cathedral of Split was in the beginning the mausoleum of the Diocletian Roman Emperor; this mausoleum was converted into church only at the 7th century; later, as from the 12th century, a bell-tower was associated to him and, with 17th, the cathedral was increased by the construction of an apse where the chorus is.


The museum ethnographic and the cathedral of Split. Click to enlarge the image.The bell-tower of the cathedral of Split. Click to enlarge the image.The cathedral Saint-Domnius is inside the walls of the Palace of Diocletian on the side is Peristyle, close to the place where crossed the two main roads of the Palace, the cardo and the decumanus.

The place located opposite the cathedral Saint-Domnius in the old city of Split, which one names today the Peristyle (Peristil), named formerly Place Saint-Domnius (Pločata Svetog Dujma).


The cathedral Saint-Domnius of Split. Click to enlarge the image in Adobe Stock (new tab).The plan of the cathedral of Split by Ernest Hébrard. Click to enlarge the image.It is into 650 that the mausoleum of Diocletian was transformed into church by Jean de Ravenne (Johannes de Ravenna) come in Dalmatia to reorganize the Christian community taken refuge in the Palace of Diocletian with Spalatum after the fall of Salona into 614. The new church was initially devoted to Our Lady of the Assumption. With an aim of eliminating the pagan idols, the Jupiter temple, was transformed to him into baptistry.

John I of Ravenne (in Croatian Ivan Ravenjanin) was named archbishop of Split after an eleven years interregnum. Since Salone, it made transport in the church the relics of the holy martyrs of the inhabitants of Salone, holy Domnius (Sveti Dujam) and holy Anastase (Sveti Anastazije); soon the cathedral church was devoted to saint Domnius, patron saint of the city; the imperial sarcophagus of Diocletian was moved in one of the turns of the Palace. A kind of posthumous revenge against the ex-emperor who had been one of the wildest persecutors of the Christians and who had made decapitate Domnius in year 304. Jean de Ravenne died in Split towards 680.

The original shape of the mausoleum - an octagone surmounted of a dome and surrounded by an arcade of 24 Corinthian columns - was almost entirely preserved: however, the construction of a bell-tower as from the 12th century brought the destruction of the porch and, at the 17th century, a chorus was coupled east coast of the mausoleum.

The Gate
The gantry of the cathedral of Split. Click to enlarge the image.Lion of the porch of the cathedral of Split. Click to enlarge the image.One penetrates in the cathedral by an arch kept by two Romance lions; these lions carry on their back a heteroclite unit characters, of which Maria Lascaris, the wife of Greek origin of king de Hongrie Bela IV, which took refuge, in front of the invasion of Tatars, in a fortress located close to Klis.

The entry is especially remarkable by its door carries of wood of oak and drowning whose two carved leaves represent 28 scenes of the life of Christ, in a naive Byzantine style - near to the cartoons to today - comprehensible by the illiterate populations of the time. The 14 boxes of the casement of left illustrate the life of the Christ of its birth to the resurrection of Lazare; the 14 boxes of the casement of right-hand side cover Passion and the Rise. The boxes are separated by rich ornaments from wood. At the origin, the leaves were of red color and the gilded characters.

These low-reliefs are a work, gone back to 1214, of a sculptor and local painter, Andrija Buvina; they are regarded as one of the jewels of the Romance medieval sculpture, and are among the oldest works of the cathedral.

The sculptures are scraped and scraped in the low parts - who are protected by a pane - but are in very good state in the upper parts.

The Dome
Interior of the cathedral of Split (author Office Split Tourism). Click to enlarge the image.The interior - rather restricted - cathedral is of plan circular and capped with a dome resting on eight columns with Corinthian capitals. This dome, symbolizing the divine nature of the emperor, had at the origin being decorated with gilded mosaics.

The interior was purged of its pagan decoration, but always conceals low-reliefs of Diocletian and his Prisca wife on a plank located at the base of the dome. The remainder of decoration testifies to the succession of the styles through the centuries: a mixture of Romanesque art, Gothic sculptures and Rebirth and paintings baroques.

The Pulpit (Propovjedaonica)
The first work which one meets on the left - by traversing the interior of the cathedral clockwise - is a monumental richly decorated stone pulpit, carried out in the late Romance style (13th-14th century). It is a hexagonal pulpit closed by a formed blind arcade of double multicoloured marble columns with finely worked capitals. The pulpit rests on six columns hurled with the capitals mixing with the foliages, the snakes and the strange animals.
The Furnace bridge Saint-Domnius (Oltar Svetog Dujma)
While continuing clockwise around the church, the following monument is the furnace bridge of Domnius saint, located in the northern vault. It is a furnace bridge baroque carried out in 1766 and -1767 by the sculptor and the manufacturer of well-known furnace bridge of Venice, Giovanni Maria Morlaiter (1699-1781). The furnace bridge is composed of a sarcophagus and a reliquary supported by allegorical female figures of the Faith and Constancy. The antependium of the furnace bridge shows in low-relief the martyrdom of the first bishop of Salone, decapitated into 304. The ceiling of the chapel is occupied by a series of eight paintings of scenes of the life of the Virgin (Mr. Capogrosso, 17th century).
The Chapel Saint Anastasius (Kapela Svetog Staša)
Saint Anastase at the sides of Domnius saint - Cathedral of Split (author Damien Roué). Click to enlarge the image.The furnace bridge Saint Anastasius (Oltar Svetog Anastazija) is in the chapel of the North-East; it is devoted to saint Anastase (sveti Anastazije or sveti Staš), a contemporary Christian of Domnius, is martyrized like him by Diocletian and, like him, patron saint of Split. Anastase was a cloth merchant of Aquilée, close to current Venice, which had been established in Salone; it had painted a cross on the door of its shop, and, as Christianity was prohibited at that time, it was stopped and drowned, while being thrown in the Jadro river with a stone grinding stone around the neck.

The sarcophagus of saint Anastase, cathedral of Split (SpeedyGonsales author). Click to enlarge the image.The furnace bridge, placed under a platform in draped stone magnificiently carved, comprises a sarcophagus preserving the bones of the saint. On the front, the sarcophagus carries a cruelly realistic low-relief, the “Scourging of Christ”, showing Jesus whipped and maltreated by persecutors particularly louts; above, the lying one of Anastase saint keeps close to him a stone grinding stone appearing its martyrdom.

The furnace bridge of Anastase saint was carried out by the Master Georges the Dalmatian one (Juraj Matejev Dalmatinac) in 1448, that is to say some twenty years after the furnace bridge of Domnius saint carried out by Bonino; Georges the Dalmatian one preserved the concept and the shape of the work of Bonino. For the exceptional quality of the sculpture, in balance with the decorative elements, and the artistic skill of Juraj Dalmatinac, the low-relief of the “Scourging of Christ” is regarded as one of most beautiful sculptural works of late Gothic style and Rebirth of its time, and one of the tops of Croatian art.

The Chapel Saint-Domnius (Kapela Svetog Dujma)
While continuing clockwise, one meets, after having passed the high altar, the chapel Saint-Domnius located in the south-eastern angle of the cathedral.

This chapel shelters a second furnace bridge devoted to Domnius saint; this furnace bridge of the 15th century is composed of an old early Christian sarcophagus, which is used as a basis, surmounted of a second sarcophagus who formerly preserved the bones of Domnius saint, initially buried in Salone, then transferred here to the 9th century; this second sarcophagus itself is surmounted by lying of the saint and martyr.

The old early Christian sarcophagus carries a low-relief representing a man with gun dogs. The second sarcophagus and the lying one are the work of the main Milanese sculptor Bonino, carried out in 1427 in the late Gothic style. Bonino da Milano, died with Šibenik in 1429, is also the author of the gate of the cathedral Saint-Jacob de Šibenik and the column of Roland to Dubrovnik.

The chapel above the furnace bridge is decorated murals - of Gothic inspiration - of the local painter Dujam Marinov Vušković (15th century).

The High altar (Glavni Oltar)
The high altar of the cathedral of Split. Click to enlarge the image.The high altar of the cathedral of Split. Click to enlarge the image.The high altar is between the two Gothic vaults Saint-Anastase and Saint-Domnius, under an arch which leads to the chorus. This high altar of style baroque presents a pair of delicate angels gilded supporting what seems to be a carriage surmounted cherubs; this tank presents paintings, on each one of its faces, illustrating the lives of saint Jerome, holy François and holy Catherine of His.

The arch which surmounts the high altar has a rich coffered ceiling decorated with ten paintings on the topic of the Old Will, realized in 1639 by the Venetian Master of the time baroque, Matej Pončun (Matteo Ponzoni of its Italian name of origin, 1586-1663).

The cathedral of Split, the night (author Office Split Tourism). Click to enlarge the image.The cathedral Saint-Domnius of Split. Click to enlarge the image.At the 17th century, a rectangular room was built on the east coast - behind the high altar - small cathedral Saint-Domnius to increase it and shelter the chorus there; the Eastern wall was demolished in order to join together the two rooms. This addition seems a late addition still today on the octagone with geometrical harmonious of the mausoleum of origin. To reach the chorus, one must thus pass on the sides of the high altar.

This chorus baroque of the 17th century is furnished with stalls out of wooden much older: these stalls of Romance style were carved at the beginning of the 13th century; one there notices many details - geometrical interlacings or figurative reasons for animals and plants - which translate the influence of the Lombardic Romance style, but also of Byzantine and even Islamic decoration. These finely carved stalls are oldest of Dalmatia.

The Treasury of the Cathedral (Riznica)
The Treasury of the cathedral of Split is on the first floor of the sacristy, a building built in the south-east of the old mausoleum; one reaches it since the chorus by a flight of steps on the line.

The Treasury preserves, in silver bust-reliquaries, the relics of the three holy martyrs and owners of Split: large the reliquary of saint Domnius (sveti Duje) and those of saint Anastase (sveti Anastazije) and of saint Rainier or Arnerius (sveti Rajnerije or Arnir), an archbishop of Split which was lapidated with died in 1180 by the family of pirates of Neretva, Kačić.

The Treasury has also a collection of crowned objets d’art dating from the Early middle ages at the 19th century: liturgical objects, handwritten missals, invaluable church vestments as well as a table of Romance style of the 13th century “the Virgin and the Child”.

Among the manuscripts, the most invaluable parts are the évangéliaire of Split (Splitski Evanđelistar), an illuminated manuscript of the 6th century, the cartulaire of Supetar (Cartularium) of the 11th century, and a “Salonitaine History” (Historia Salonitana), history of the people of Salone and chronicle of the church of Split, a richly decorated manuscript writes at the 13th century by the archdeacon of Split, Thomas (Toma Arciđakon). Historia Salonitana is one of the most important historical sources of the Middle Ages for the study of the history of Split and the whole of Dalmatia.

The Crypt Saint Lucy (Kripta Svete Lucije)
The Saint Lucy crypt of the cathedral of Split (author Marcin Szala). Click to enlarge the image.The Saint Lucy crypt is located under the cathedral of Split and presents the same circular plan as the church. The crypt is dedicated to holy Lucie of Syracuse (sveta Lucija), one of the last victims of Christian persecutions under the reign of Diocletian, towards 304 after J. - C.

Holy Lucie, oil of Domenico Beccafumi, 1521. Click to enlarge the image.According to martyrologe, this young Christian woman, girl of noble and very rich family of Syracuse, would have dedicated her life with God, but his/her mother had promised it to an young man; this one learning its vow of chastity and seeing the dowry escaping to him, denounced Lucie with the Roman authorities whereas persecutions against the Christians raged. Lucie would have torn off the eyes of despair and would have sent them to its fiancé on a plate; after long tortures, the persecutors of the Christians would have inserted a sword in the throat to him (holy Lucie is sometimes called upon against the evils of throat…). By miracle, the Virgin Mary would have returned more beautiful eyes to him; this is why holy Lucie is protective blind men; she is celebrated on December 13th, dates to which the hour of the sunset starts again to increase, duration of the day continuing to decrease until December 25th.

It is also the reason for which the crypt - symbol of the darkness - old mausoleum of Diocletian - the persecutor of the Christians as holy Lucie - was devoted to this holy. In the crypt, a miraculous source is supposed to return the sight; on December 13th is an important festival in the local Christian tradition: the crypt is opened with the public, a mass is said, the source of water is blessed, and each one can carry a little holy water.

The Bell-tower (Zvonik)
The bell-tower of the cathedral of Split. Click to enlarge the image.The bell-tower of the cathedral - emblem of the town of Split - is located between the church and the Peristyle: its construction, started at the 13th century, required the demolition of the porch of origin of the mausoleum of Diocletian. This construction of six stages, at the origin of late Romance style, lasted more than 300 years and was not completed before the 16th century; the upper floors, additions later, were in style gothico-Rebirth.

Interior of the bell-tower of the cathedral of Split. Click to enlarge the image.Unfortunately, the bell-tower crumbled towards the end of the 19th century and had to be rebuilt between 1890 and 1906. The upper floors were rebuilt in style néoroman. Most original Romance sculptures disappeared; however one can still admire - on the first level, on both sides - the low-reliefs of the Annunciation and the Nativity, with the Virgin sheltered by a curtain; they date from the construction of origin at the 13th century and are allotted to the Radovan Master who worked in Trogir at that time.

The less refined low-reliefs holy representative Anastase, holy Domnius and holy Pierre, carry the signature of Master Otto, a Scandinavian sculptor of origin; the scene of hunting in the arch of the chapel of the bell-tower is also allotted to this sculptor.

The bell-tower of the cathedral of Split. Click to enlarge the image in Adobe Stock (new tab).The bell-tower of the cathedral of Split. Click to enlarge the image.The bell-tower of the cathedral of Split. Click to enlarge the image in Adobe Stock (new tab).
The height of the bell-tower is of 60 meters; since the top one can benefit from a panoramic sight on Split and, well beyond, the islands of Šolta and Brač, the hill of Marjan, the solid mass of Mosor in the east, and that of Kozjak in the west. One can even try to distinguish the perimeter and the Roman plan of the palace of Diocletian among the tumble of later constructions.
Interior of the bell-tower of the cathedral of Split. Click to enlarge the image.Interior of the bell-tower of the cathedral of Split. Click to enlarge the image.
The Chapel Saint Roch (Crkvica Svetog Roka)
North of peristyle is a small Renaissance vault, built starting from 1516, the chapel Saint Roch (Crkvica Svetog Roka); it lodges the tourist Information center nowadays.
The Baptistry (Krstionica)
The barrel chapel of the baptistry of the cathedral of Split (author ISAWNYU). Click to enlarge the image in Flickr (new tab).The baptistry of the cathedral of Split is - compared to the church - on the other side of the Peristyle. It is the old Jupiter Temple of the Palace of Diocletian; the Roman temple was transformed into baptistry around the 7th century, after the arrival of the taken refuge Christians of Salone. The crypt located under the floor of the temple (podium) was transformed into a tiny chapel dedicated to saint Thomas.

The Saint John baptistry did not preserve the porch of the temple of origin, but the body preserved some (concealed) and, in particular, its remarkable barrel chapel with boxes. At the 11th century, this chapel had been surmounted by a Romance bell-tower, including three stages, but this bell-tower was demolished around 1840 following the neo-classic tendency of the time. At the beginning of the 20th century, in 1907, one cut down some houses, located on the west coasts and south, in order to give off the building; however there remains the constructions supported against the temple in the north-western angle.

The low-relief of king Zvonimir. Click to enlarge the image.A flagstone of the baptismal font of the cathedral of Split (author Ratomir Wilkowski). Click to enlarge the image.Inside, new baptismal font was built at the 12th century; this baptismal font has the shape of a cross and an imposing size, because, to the beginnings of Christianity, the baptism was given by total immersion. They were carried out with recovered marble flagstones of a balustrade of an older furnace bridge, the 11th century. These flagstones are carved low-reliefs; one of the low-reliefs represents a surmounted pentagram of a braiding of wicker (pleter), but most interesting is that of the flagstone of front: it represents a medieval Croatian king sitted on a throne and trampling a character whom one thinks of representing a demon or a pagan enemy. The style of the low-relief suggests one period of execution which could correspond to king Dmitar Zvonimir.

Interesting detail: above two characters a known reason with volutes folded under the name of pluteus runs (plutej); it is a typical reason for the Croatian Romance time which was then adopted like national symbol: one can see this reason on the tapes of the caps of the Croatian police officers.

The statue of saint Jean-Baptiste of the baptistry of the cathedral of Split. Click to enlarge the image.A sarcophagus in the baptistry of the cathedral of Split (oneafrikan author). Click to enlarge the image in Flickr (new tab).Inside the baptistry two sarcophagi are preserved where were buried the archbishops of Split Jean de Ravenne (Ivan Ravenjanin, † 680), the founder of the diocese in the new city, and Lawrence the Dalmatian one (Lovro Dalmatinac) (1059-1099), adviser of king Zvonimir, who was in charge of the church of Split at the time of the Croatian national sovereigns. The sarcophagus of Jean de Ravenne is decorated with a flower of lily in relief.

Just behind the baptismal font a statue is representing a skinny saint Jean-Baptiste; this large bronze statue is a late work of Ivan Meštrović carried out in 1954.

History and traditionsHistory, literature, arts, traditions, legends, religions, myths, symbols…

Saint Domnius (Sveti Duje)
Low-relief of Domnius saint. Click to enlarge the image.Domnius was born in Antioche in Syria. Being established in Salone (Salona), the capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia, today close the town of Plaster filling in the suburbs of Split; Domnius there became priest and was named bishop into 384, the first bishop of the city.

Towards 303, fearing that the quasi divine power of the Roman Emperors was not sapped by the influence of the Christians - who refused to sacrifice to the worship of the pagan gods of the official religion - the Diocletian emperor started a persecution campaign against them. The Domnius bishop and seven other Christians were tortured, and decapitated Domnius, in the amphitheater of Salone, on April 10th, 304. Its body was buried in the northern cemetery of the city.

When the inhabitants of Salone last fled their city, in 614, in front of the invasion of Avars and of Slavic, they settled in Split and proclaimed Domnius patron saint of the city (Sveti Duje or Sveti Dujam). The cathedral was devoted to him. On May 7th is the day of its festival and causes the greatest celebration of the city, with mass in the open air and processions.

InformationPractical information

General information
Visiting timesVisiting times
Schedules of visit of the cathedral: in July and in August, the every day of 8:00 to 20:00; from September to June, 8:00 at 12:00 and 16:30 at 19:00 Tariff of entry: 5 kunas; treasure of the cathedral: 5 kunas. Correct behavior required…

Schedules of visit of the bell-tower: from May to September, 9:00 at 19:00; from October to April, 9:00 at 12:00 Tariff: 5 kunas.

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Interactive map of the town of Split in Croatia
The town of Split in Croatia - the Diocletian palace
The town of Split in Croatia - the cathedral Saint-Domnius
The town of Split in Croatia - the old city
The town of Split in Croatia - peninsula of Marjan
The town of Split in Croatia - the ethnographic museum
Interactive map of the old city of Split in Croatia
The town of Split in Croatia - the museum of the Navy
The town of Split in Croatia - Booklet Services (pdf)
The town of Split in Croatia - Booklet Chart Pass key (pdf)
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The county of Split-Dalmatie in Croatia - Booklet Dalmatian Zagora (pdf)
The county of Split-Dalmatia in Croatia - Booklet Dalmatian Zagora (pdf)
The county of Split-Dalmatia in Croatia - Booklet Islands (pdf)
The town of Split in Croatia
The Cetina river in Croatia
The town of Omiš in Croatia
The riviera of Makarska in Croatia
The natural park of Biokovo in Croatia
The island of Brač in Croatia
The island of Hvar in Croatia
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