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Croatia  Split  Sights and History

Split: History

The first inhabitant of Split Croatia was the Roman emperor Diocletian who started to build his palace in this friendly bay around 293 AD. After his abdication he withdrew to this luxurious palace of about 30 thousand square meters.
The following turbulent centuries made the palace into a town first populated by the citizens of the nearby Salona, fleeing before Avars and Slavs. The town overgrew the walls of the palace and its authorities kept changing - from Croatian kings in 10th century AD, Hungarian and Venetian administration, to French rulers and Austro-Hungarian monarchy.

Such past left its traces combined in the town everyday life. The city, however, went on remaining the centre of this part of the coast till our day. This mixture of historic layers brought some clumsiness and some things done too fast but today all that makes a part of its originality.
The big city today lives by the silent beats of history, lively spirit of the young and its particular Mediterranean charm.

Split: Sights

  • Palace of Diocletian | At the end of the third century AD, the Roman Emperor Diocletian built his palace on the bay of Aspalathos. Here, after abdicating on the first of May in A.D. 305, he spent the last years of his life. The bay is located on the south side of a short peninsula running out from the Dalmatian coast into the Adriatic, four miles from the site of Salona, the capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia. The terrain on which the palace was built slopes gently seaward. It is typical karst terrain, consisting of low limestone ridges running east to west with marl in the clefts between them.

    This palace is today the heart of the inner-city of Split where all the most important historical buildings can be found. The importance of Diocletian's Palace far transcends local significance because of its level of preservation and the buildings of succeeding historical periods, stretching from Roman times onwards, which form the very tissue of old Split. The Palace is one of the most famous and integral architectural and cultural constructs on the Croatian Adriatic coast and holds an outstanding place in the Mediterranean, European and world heritage.
    In November 1979 UNESCO, in line with the international convention concerning the cultural and natural heritage, adopted a proposal that the historic Split inner city, built around the Palace, should be included in the register of the World Cultural Heritage.

    The ground plan of the palace is an irregular rectangle with towers projecting from the western, northern, and eastern facades. It combines qualities of a luxurious villa with those of a military camp. Only the southern facade, which rose directly from, or very near to, the sea, was unfortified. The elaborate architectural composition of the arcaded gallery on its upper floor differs from the more severe treatment of the three shore facades. A monumental gate in the middle of each of these walls led to an enclosed courtyard. The southern Sea Gate was simpler in shape and dimensions than the other three. Perhaps it was originally intended as the emperor's private access to boats, or as a service entrance for supplies.

    The dual nature of the architectural scheme, derived from both villa and castrum types, is also evident in the arrangement of the interior. The transverse road (decumanus) linking the east and west gates divided the complex into two halves. In the southern half were the more luxurious structures; that is, the emperor's apartment, both public and private, and cult buildings. The emperor's apartment formed a block along the sea front. Because the sloping terrain created large differences in level, this block was situated above a substructure. Although for many centuries almost completely filled with refuse, most of the substructure is well preserved, giving us evidence as to the original shape and disposition of the rooms above. A monumental court, called the Perystile, formed the northern access to the imperial apartments. It also gave access to Diocletian's Mausoleum on the east, and to three temples on the west. The northern half of the palace, which was divided in two parts by the main longitudinal street (cardo) leading from the North Gate to the Perystile, is less well preserved. It is usually supposed that each of these parts formed a large residential complex, housing soldiers, servants, and possibly some other facilities. Both parts were apparently surrounded on all sides by streets. Leading to perimeter walls there were rectangular buildings, possibly storage magazines.

    The Palace is built of white local limestone of high quality, most of which was from quarries on the island of Brac; tuffa taken from the nearby river beds; and brick made in Salonitan and other workshops. Some material for decoration was imported: Egyptian granite columns and sphinxes, fine marble for revetments and some capitals produced in workshops in the Proconnesos.

    Water for the palace came from the Jadro river near Salona. Along the road from Split to Salona impressive remains of the original aqueduct can still be seen. They were extensively restored in the 19 th century.

  • Archaeological museum | The Archaeological Museum , founded 1in 1820 in Split is the oldest Museum in Croatia. It has a large stock of archaeological objects from prehistoric times, from the period of the Greek colonization of the Adriatic and from the Roman, Early Christian and early Medieval ages. Most of the monuments come from the region of central Dalmatia, to be more and especially from Salona (Solin). Very important are collections of stone epitaphs from Salona (about 6.000 of them), of Greek Hellenistic ceramics, of Roman glass, of clay lamps, of objects made out of bone and metal, and of gems.

    The Museum has a large collection of Antique and Medieval coins. The Museum also has a large library with about 30.000 books on archaeology and history as well as on Dalmatica (books, journals dealing with themes from the history of Dalmatia).
    Since 1878 the Museum has issued its own journal "Bulletin for Dalmatian Archaeology and History". The beginning of archeology in Croatia is connected with the Archaeological Museum. Its long-time director Frane Bulic, especially afterthe First lnternational Congress of Early Christian Archaeology was held in solin and Split in 1894, won it world renown.

    The building housing the Museum was built according to the project of the Viennese architects A. Kirstein and F. Ohmann from 1912 to 1914. The Museum exhibition was renewed in 1970 on the occasion of the 150 anniversary of its existence. Stone monuments (sculptures, epitaphs) are exibited in the portico of the lapidarium; the chronological succession of cultures from prehistory to the Early Middle Ages is displayed in the exhibition hall. There is a guide-book to the Museum in Croatian and English.
    Address:
    Zrinsko - Frankopanska 25

    Open Hours: every day except Monday from 09.00-13.00, Sundays from 10.00-12.00, in addition during Summer from 16.00-19.00.

  • The Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments | The Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments was founded in Knin in 1893. After WW II it was moved to Split and since 1976 it has been in the present building. The Museum has a rich collection of Early Medieval stone monuments and collections of weapons, tools, jewellery, coins and objects of everyday usage. Of special importance are the epigraphic monuments from the IXth to the XIIth century where we find engraved the names of Croatian kings and other eminent dignitaries. These represent an extraordinarily rich "archives in stone", rare in the Europe of the time. The preserved stone monuments are in mostly segments of altar partitions and of other furniture of the pre-Romanesque churches in Croatia.

    Numerous findings from old Croatian graves offer abundant material for research of the economic, cultural and political life of the Croatian people during the Early Middle Ages. Swords, spears, knives, arrows, axes and spurs have been found in graves of warriors, all of which, according to their make, belong to the Carolingian cultural circle. The most numerous grave findings are different froms of jewellery: earings, rings, necklaces, diadems, buttons and such-like. These can be sorted into a number of types encompassing a long span of time from the VIIth to the XVth century and are, for the most part, products made in local workshops and by native masters. Findings of gold Byzantine and other Medieval coins are also valuable. In the area around the Museum foundations of three basic types of pre-Romanesque churches from old Croatian times and a number of standing tomb-stones from the XIVth and XVth centuries are displayed recalling the appearance of a necropolis of that time.

    The Museum issues its own journal. There is a guide-book to the Museum in Croatian and English.

    Address: Setaliste Ivana Mestrovica bb

    Open hours every day except Monday from 09.00-15.00, Sundays from 10.00-12.00 and from 17.00-19.00 during Summer.

  • The City Museum | The City Museum of Split was founded in 1946. It is located in the north eastern part of Diocletian's palace, within the complex of Medieval buildinqs at whose centre is the Gothic palace of the Papalic family designed and built by the native master Juraj of Dalmatia and his stone carvers and builders circle. Beautifully executed are the courtyard with its richly decorated portal and loggia, the first floor hall with its lavish four-light, two-light and one-light windows and with the well preserved wooden ceiling. The Renaissance building with a fine window decoration completes the ensemble of the courtyard. Inside, the permanent museum exhibition relates a segment from the history of the city, the period when Split was an autonomous city commune (XIIth-XlVth centuries).

    The city statute, seal and coins and the Romanesque sculpture from the belfry of the cathedral stand out among the exhibits. Within the period of Venetian rule (XVth- XVlth centuries), a central place is given to the Marulic's literary circle. Mention should also be made of Libro d'Oro, Gothic-Renaissance coffers. In the armoury are exhibited the weapons from the XVth to the XVIIIth centuries, used for the defence of Split.


  • The Ethnographic Museum | It was founded in 1910. The ethnography of the whole of Dalmatia is on show. The most typical costumes of the region, some of which excel with their embroidery, are exhibited (the pieces from Ravni Kotari, Knin, Vrlika, Imotski, Poljica). Some feature a characteristic white embroidery (from Sinj, the Dalmatian hinterland) or lacework (from Primosten, Novigrad and Pag). Various trades are on display in the museum: pottery, knitting, handiwork (woodcarving, basketry, the making of footwear). The museum presents the basic froms of economic life. One can also see Various instruments, silver jewellery and types of weapons.

    From time to time the museum issues its own publications.
    Opening hours: Open from 08.00-13.00, on Thursdays also from 17.00-19.00, on Sundays and Holidays from 10.00-12.00.

  • Treasury of Split Cathedral | The treasury contains an exceptionally valuable and precious collection of sacral artworks. On display are objects from the qoldsmith trade from the XIIIth to the XIXth century, paintings on panel from the XIIIth century, mass vestments from the XIVth to the XIXth centuries and famous books from the period between the VIIth and XIth centuries. Of the latter, mention should be made of the Book of gospels (VIth century), the Supetar charater (XIth century) and the Hishria Salonitana by Thomas the Archdeacon from Split (XIIIth century). The Gallery has a guide catalogue.
    Address: Katedrala sv. Duje, Kraj sv Duje 5

    Opening hours: Open on Sundays from 11.00-12.00, in June and September from 10.00-12.00 and in July and August from 08.00-12.00 and from 16.00-19.00.

  • The Art Gallery | The Gallery was founded in 1931. There is a permanent exhibition of paintings and sculptures from the XIVth century to the present day. From time to time contemporary artists exhibit their works. Because of their artistic ex ellence one should mention the works by Andrija Alesi and Juraj Culinovic from the XVth century, by Andrija Medulic from the XVIth century, by Matej Poncun and Frederik Benkovic from the XVIIth century and the paintinqs of the Gothic Renaissance an Baroque Venetian masters. Valuable icons from the XVth to the XIXth century are on display. Of special importance are the icons from the period between the XVIIIth-XIXth century which were painted by masters from Boka Kotorska. The most numerous works are those of the Croatian artists Bukovac, Medovic, Deskovic, Mestrovic, Vidovic and Job.
    Address: Lovretska 11, Split

    Opening hours: Opened every day, from Monday to Saturday, from 09.00-12.00; in the summer from 17.00-19.00 and in the winter from 16.00-18.00.