Cathedral of Saint James (Sibenik)

Cathedral of Saint James (Sibenik)




Trg Republike Hrvaste 1

Tel. (022) 214 418

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Description of Cathedral of Saint James

Cathedral of Saint James is the most famous structure in Sibenik as it is on a UNESCO World Heritage list. Original Cathedral of Saint James dates back to 1298, but growing population of Sibenik raised a necessity of construction a larger church to house all the residents. Church was constructed started in 1431 and lasted for over a century. Cathedral of Saint James was finally finished in 1536 in a splendid Italian Renaissance architectural styles. Its dome reached a height of 32 meters on the inside.
Cathedral of Saint James design and construction was performed under supervision of several Croatian and Italian architects including Francesco di Giacomo, Lorenzo Pincino, Pier Paolo Bussato, Bonino da Milano, Giorgio da Sebenico, Andrija Budcic and Grubis Slafcic. Due to the length of its construction and several generations of different architects the main church of Sibenik acquired both Gothic and Renaissance styles. Cathedral of Saint James was finally consecrated in 1555. It underwent some minor renovation projects between 1850 and 1860.
During recent Balkan wars Cathedral of Saint James got some minor damages in 1991, but it was repaired since then.


The construction of the new cathedral was symbolically the culmination of the city's centuries-long aspiration to separate from the Trogir diocese and to gain communal autonomy in addition to its own church. It was built on the south side of the central old town square, on the site of the Romanesque church of St. Jacob.

The idea of ​​building a large cathedral dates back to 1298, when Šibenik received its own diocese and the title of city. The decision on the construction and the beginning of the preparatory works was made in 1402. Construction, however, began only in 1431 and lasted intermittently until 1536. For the first decade, Venetian Gothic builders and Šibenik stonemasons Andrija Budčić and Budiša Statčić worked on its construction. During this time, the southern and northern walls, the lower, Gothic part of the façade and both portals of the church were built. Juraj Dalmatinac, Radivoj Bogosalić, Radonja Grubačević and Nikola Marković worked at the cathedral.

During the founding of the diocese in 1298, the existing church of St. St. James in the main town square was promoted to a cathedral, but as it was small and inappropriate it was decided on the same occasion that the bishop and the city provide funds for the construction of a new cathedral. At the end of the 14th century, after the Venetian invasion, the old cathedral of St. Jakov damaged, it was decided to build a new one and in 1402, with the efforts of Bishop Bogdan Pulšić, a fund for its construction was established. Due to unfavorable political circumstances, and then various other misfortunes that befell Šibenik (plagues and fires), the construction of the new cathedral began only three decades later with the laying of the foundation stone in 1431. The cathedral was completed in 1536, and in 1555 it was consecrated by Bishop Ivan Lucije Štafilić. After a thorough renovation in the 19th century, the cathedral was rededicated in 1860.

Developmental stages and stylistic features
The creation of the cathedral includes three different stylistic and developmental phases, the first of which is named after Bishop Bogan Pulšić (1402-1437) who began its construction, while the remaining two are named after two of the most important architects who defined its current character - Juraj Matijev. Dalmatian and Nikola Ivanov Florentine. During the century-long period of construction, the cathedral was created by successive changes of three different architectural conceptions, changing three different styles: the first Gothic, the second mixed Gothic-Renaissance and the third Renaissance.

The first period of construction (1431 - 1441), the so-called "Pulšić Cathedral"
It begins in 1428 with the decision of the city council that a new cathedral should be erected in a more convenient place in the northern part of the city. Bonino da Milano as the "primus magister ecclesie Sancti Jacobi" (1428-1429) made the first project of the cathedral to be erected on the site of the church of St. Trinity (today St. John), but due to his death he managed to only partially complete some sculptural parts of the main portal (today they are located on the existing two portals of the cathedral. Giacomoiz of Venice (1430-1431) modified his project and adapted it for construction on the existing site where the old cathedral was still located.By laying the foundations on the northwest corner of the façade (April 9, 1431), construction began on a new cathedral. expired one-year contract, come Antonio di Pierpaolo Busato and Lorenzo Pincino, Venetian masters who work on the cathedral for the next ten years.Due to difficulties in laying the foundations and the realization of the sanctuary extended across the street, construction stopped in the early 1940s In 1441 he concluded a contract with Juraj Matejev from Zadar pro prohtomagistro fabrice E cclesiae Cathedralis.

The second period of construction (1441-1473), the so-called "St. George's Cathedral"
It takes place in two separate stages, among which is a longer, five-year period of interruption. In the initial phase of work on the cathedral (1441-1455), Juraj Dalmatinac (Georgius Mathei Dalmaticus) is a new three-passive sanctuary that still includes a baptistery built into the foundations of the southern apse (1443-44), and an adjoining sacristy with a treasury on the first floor ( 1450-54). At the same time, the longitudinal walls of the church were completed to the height of the hanging arches, while in the interior, according to the new project of master George, together with the vaulted chapels of the side naves, the arcades of the main nave were raised to the same height. At the time of the cessation of works in 1455, high substructures of the polygonal sanctuary were built up to the level of the wreath with heads, ie to the level of the floor of the presbytery in the interior. The initial phase of construction of the cathedral is marked by spatial-functional adaptation and modernization of the previous project, and a series of inventive, primarily architectural and decorative solutions used in the construction of the sanctuary ("assembly technique" of building large stone blocks and wreaths of individualized life-size heads).


In the second phase of work on the cathedral (1461-1473), the works were concentrated only on the erection of the polygonal walls of the sanctuary, whereby two consecutive stages can be distinguished. The first stage (1461-1465) is marked by the appearance of a new, early Renaissance decorative repertoire of a predominantly painterly character originating from painters from the circle of F. Squarcione and the Donatella workshop in Padua. they play and dance, the so-called "Malipier's party"). The second stage appears after George's stay in Dubrovnik (1465-1473), and is marked by the appearance of structurally more mature compositions and stylistically cleaner motifs of Tuscan origin (windows of the main apse) created under the influence of Florentine masters from the circle of Michelloz di Bartolomeo employed in Dubrovnik before George's arrival. In the final period of work on the cathedral, Juraj Dalmatinac placed a relief of St. John the Baptist on the north wall of the sanctuary chapel, under the archivolt with the coat of arms of Prince S. Malipier (1465-68). Jerome of the desert. Juraj Dalmatinac died on October 10, 1473.

The third period of construction (1475-1536), the so-called "Nikolina Cathedral"
It begins with the appointment of Nicolas Ivanov of Florence (Niccolo di Giovanni Fiorentino) as the new protomaster (1475). The Florentine finds the cathedral completed to the height of the perimeter walls of the sanctuary and the walls of the side naves, but mutually inconsistent and unconnected, and with numerous irregularities in the layout of the entire choir (thinned and broken walls of the sanctuary and transept in the interior). By 1477, Nikola Firentinac was preparing a project to complete the entire upper part of the cathedral and began to renovate the side chapels of the sanctuary. Changing the earlier conception of a three-nave open-roofed basilica into a barrel-vaulted church, Nikola first levels the sanctuary and the three-nave corpus of the church, and then, with a strong, all 'antique wreath, clearly separates the previously built parts from its new upper part.

By adapting George's "assembly technique" of construction, Nikola Firentinac erected short barrel vaults over the side chapels of the sanctuary, composed of long stone slabs stacked (completed by 1479). Preparing a proper and solid building substructure for the equally conceived large vaults of the church, Nikola straightens and strengthens the walls of the choir, and very quickly (until 1483) raises them to the level of the vault. In doing so, it applies complex engineering solutions - hidden in the thickness of the wall metal clamps, and cantilevered "flat arch" (piattabanda). Barrel vaults and a cross with an octagonal tambour-lantern and a dome were built until 1499. That year, Nikola stopped performing the duty of protomaster and, under his own direction, signed a contract for the production of stone furniture in the sanctuary. In addition to the dome, at the time of his death (1506/1507), two more barrel vaults were erected above the main nave, and in the plane with them, the square-vaulted vaults above the side naves. Although the cathedral was built for another three decades after his death, it was completely completed according to his project. After Nicholas of Florence, two other architects held the position of protomaster - Bartolomeo of Mestre (from 1520), and then his son Jacob. By the time the construction work was completed, they had vaulted the remaining four aisles of the main and side naves, and erected the upper "three-leafed" part of the west façade.

Renovations and restorations
Since the 16th century, the cathedral has undergone numerous minor repairs, primarily due to water leaks. In the second half of the 19th century, with the efforts of the Šibenik architect Paolo Bioni and with the support of the Austrian government, a thorough and comprehensive restoration was carried out (1843-1860). After the Second World War, the sacristy was completely restored (1947-49), and the static restoration of the cathedral was carried out by changing the iron trusses (1961). Three grenades fired from a former JNA ship on September 18, 1991, pierced the cathedral's dome. Dome damage was repaired from August 23, 1996 to March 14, 1997, and the maintenance (cleaning) and monitoring program continues.