Cathedral of St. Domnius (Split)

Split Cathedral of Saint Domnius


Description of The cathedral of Saint Domnius

The Split Cathedral is dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, popularly known as the Cathedral of St. Dujam (St. Duje). The cathedral is located in the complex of Diocletian's Palace in Split, on the Peristyle and was originally an imperial mausoleum, built in the early 4th century. Cathedral of St. Duje is the oldest cathedral in the world.


View from Cathedral of Saint Domnius

Split Cathedral of Saint Domnius


Today's Split Cathedral was built in the 4th century as the mausoleum of the Roman emperor Diocletian († 316). On the eve of the emperor's death, by the Edict of Milan in 313, Christians were given the freedom to practice their religion, so in Salona, ​​the administrative center of the province of Dalmatia, they built basilicas over the graves of Christian martyrs.

In the 7th century, the Avars and Slavs overthrew Salona. The surviving inhabitants fled to the islands, from where, after some time, some of them returned to the mainland and settled in an abandoned imperial palace. They turned the imperial mausoleum into a Christian church, removed pagan idols and the sarcophagus in which the emperor rested. From the ruined basilicas in Salona, ​​the bones of the holy martyrs that Diocletian had executed were transferred: Dujam, the first bishop of Salona, ​​and Anastasia, a worker, who were stored in the emperor's mausoleum dedicated to the metropolitan church. According to a tradition preserved by the Split chronicler Thomas the Archdeacon from the 13th century, the first archbishop of Split was Ivan Ravenjanin (7th century) who organized and arranged the Split Church.

The Split Cathedral is famous for its wooden doors made by the local master Andrija Buvina in 1214, who carved 28 scenes of Jesus' life in walnut. They are well preserved, except for the lowest parts damaged by the feet of passers-by, Buvina's doors are a rarity in European artistic heritage, because while the bronze Romanesque doors are relatively numerous, only a few doors remain of the wooden ones.

The bell tower was probably built in the 13th century. The term around which the possible beginning of the construction of the Split bell tower revolves is the missing inscription from 1257 which mentioned Kolafis (Golubica), the widow of the Split prince Ivan Krčki, as a donor of the bell tower, while the local tradition credited her with building a pulpit in the cathedral.

Description of the cathedral
The building is octagonal in shape on the outside and had a covered peripterum with twenty-four marble pillars with Corinthian capitals. The portal of the cathedral is also of ancient origin. The baroque stone slab with a tiara on top highlights the metropolitan and primacy status of the church that the archdiocese had until the papal bull Locum Beati Petri in 1828. At the top of the portal is a small sarcophagus in which the remains of Catherine and Margarita, the daughters of King Bela IV, who died in Klis during the Tatar invasion in the middle of the 13th century, are buried.

The cathedral is round in shape, vaulted with a dome with square and semicircular niches, in which statues of gods and emperors once stood. The interior is surrounded by eight granite pillars set on a base of white stone, with Corinthian capitals. These pillars were for purely decorative purposes. Above the richly decorated capitals is a wreath that forms the base for the second row of porphyry pillars. Above the other capitals is a small wreath and frieze with the figures of the genius, Mercury Psychopompos, and medallions with the figures of Emperor Diocletian and his wife, Empress Prisca.

At the entrance to the cathedral, on the left, there is a six-sided pulpit (pulpit) created in 1257 by the gift of Princess Kolafisa, the widow of the Split prince Ivan Frankopan. It was made by Master Mavro from precious red and green porphyry that probably originated from a destroyed imperial sarcophagus. The pulpit is erected on six marble pillars ending in various capitals of native stone.

In the 15th century, two stone altars with ciboriums were built, located in the niches of the mausoleum on the left and right sides of the main altar. The right altar dedicated to the main patron saint of the city, St. Domnius, was erected in 1427 by the Italian master Bonino da Milano († 1429), and was shaped like a sarcophagus with the reclining figure of St. Domnius in a vestment, resting his head on a halo above a decorated pillow. the three angels support the folded cloth like a tent. The interior of the canopy of the ciborium was painted with frescoes of the late Gothic style by the Split painter Dujam Vušković and Ivan Petrov from Milan.1429. years. In the second half of the 18th century, a new altar of St. Domnius was erected, so this one was then dedicated to St. Joseph. In 1958, during restoration work, the Baroque antependium was removed and an ancient sarcophagus with the image of the Good Shepherd (Pastor Bonus) was discovered. On the sarcophagus is an altar canteen with an inscription in rhythmic verse dating from the mid-13th century.


The left altar, dedicated to the city's co-patron Saint Anastasia, is the work of the artist Juraj Dalmatinac († 1473/75), who made it in 1448, also in the form of a sarcophagus with a giant. On the antependium of the altar there is a beautiful and realistic relief depicting the scourging of Christ, modeled on Donatello's drawing.

In the northern niche of the cathedral is a new altar of St. Dujam, the work of the Venetian sculptor Giovanni Maria Morlaiter (1699-1781) from 1767, in which the saint's powers were transferred in 1770. On the antependium of the altar there is a relief depiction of the decapitation of St. Domnius made in the Rococo style. Above the altar is a cycle of paintings with scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary, the work of the Venetian painter of Flemish origin, Pieter de Coster (c. 1615-1702).

The main altar of the Split Cathedral was built between 1685 and 1689. Above the altar is a carved coffered vault with oil paintings of the Eucharistic theme, the work of the Rab artist Matthias Ponzoni (1583- d. 1670) commissioned by Archbishop Sforza Ponzoni († 1640), the artist's brother.

The choir was added at the beginning of the 17th century on the initiative of the Archbishop of Split, Markantun de Dominis (1560-1624), by demolishing the eastern part of the mausoleum wall. This disrupted the peripterum, but significantly expanded the cathedral. The choir contains artistically valuable wooden choir benches and an archbishop's throne, as well as six large oil paintings from the life cycle of St. Domnius, the work of painter Pietro Ferrari and a wooden crucifix from the second half of the 14th century in the shape of the Greek letter Y.

The bell tower of the Split Cathedral
The bell tower of the Cathedral of St. Dujma is one of the most original church bell towers on the Adriatic coast. Construction of the bell tower began in the mid-13th century and lasted until about the middle of the 16th century. Due to the extremely long period of construction, it is a combination of Romanesque and Gothic architecture, but both styles are in excellent harmony. The Romanesque style predominates in the decorative elements, and the execution of architectural airiness belongs to the Gothic style of construction.

The bell tower is a distinctive architectural work, specific for its slenderness and transparency, for its gradual narrowing towards the top and fitting into the ancient architectural environment, because with the use of wreaths and capitals, in the format of openings and arches, it corresponds to the arcades of the Peristyle.

The original designer and builder of the Split bell tower is not known, but it is known that in the 15th century a certain Nikola Tvrdoje managed the continuation of construction. The donors of the construction of the monumental bell tower, apart from the citizens of Split, are probably the Hungarian-Croatian King Bela IV. and his wife Queen Maria and Prince Ivan Frankopan and his wife Kolafisa.

The bell tower was thoroughly and radically restored between 1890 and 1908. The top floor with hints of Renaissance style has been completely redesigned to be in stylistic harmony with the other floors of the bell tower. Numerous ancient exteriors and sculptures depicting griffins, lions, sphinxes and humans have been removed. Some fragments of the old bell tower are kept in the Museum of the City of Split or are built into the Tusculum building in Salona.

The crypt of the cathedral
Below the mausoleum is a crypt dedicated to St. Lucia, a virgin and a Christian martyr.

The treasury of the cathedral
In the cathedral treasury, located above the sacristy, is kept the Evangelist of St. Dujam from the second half of the 6th century, the oldest manuscript written on parchment preserved on Croatian soil. Among the treasury values ​​are valuable archival documents, medieval codices (Historia Salonitana), numerous reliquaries, a silver fall from the altar of St. Dujam from the first half of the 14th century, Mass vestments and utensils and the miraculous icon of Our Lady of the Bell Tower transferred from the church above the Iron Gate.