Church of Saint John the Baptist Aka Temple of Jupiter (Split)


Description of The Church of Saint John the Baptist Aka Temple of Jupiter

The Church of Saint John the Baptist was originally constructed as a pagan temple to Roman god Jupiter. In the fourth century the temple was converted to a Christian Church. Many bishops of the city were buried here. Statue of the patron saint of the church was made by Ivan Mestrovic.  It is located in the western part of Diocletian's Palace, close to Peristyle, the central square of the Imperial Complex. It was built at the end of the 3rd century, at the time of the building of the Emperor's palace, and probably already in the 6th century it was dedicated to the baptistery of St. John the Baptist. Just before the entrance to the temple there is one of the twelve sphinxes brought from Egypt under the orders of Emperor Diocletian.


The Temple of Jupiter is located in the western part of Diocletian's Palace near the Peristyle, the central square of the imperial complex, in the street Kraj sv. John 1.


The Temple of Jupiter was built from 295 to 305, as part of the palace of Emperor Diocletian. It was probably dedicated to the supreme Roman deity and Diocletian's divine father Jupiter. The temple is located west of the central part of the palace, which was a religious part, and which was reached by a ceremonial approach. Since the emperor unplannedly abdicated from the throne in 305 and arrived from Nicomedia to the palace, the final works on the construction of the palace were interrupted, so parts of the temple remained unfinished.

During late antiquity and the early Middle Ages, the temple was turned into a baptistery dedicated to St. John the Baptist, and the crypt is dedicated to St. Thomas.

In the 13th century, inside the baptistery there was a baptismal well made of parts of the altar partition from the 11th century, which was originally located in the cathedral. On one of the marble slabs is carved the oldest depiction of the Croatian king, Krešimir IV. or Zvonimir. In the interior, two sarcophagi have been preserved in which the archbishops of Split, Ivan II, are buried. (10th century) and Lovro († 1099). Inside is a large bronze statue of St. John the Baptist.

The barrel-shaped coffered vault of the temple influenced Dalmatian early Renaissance art with its shape, which is best illustrated by the example of Alešije's baptistery and the chapel of Blessed John in Trogir. An early Romanesque bell tower was built over the vault in the 11th century, similar to the one still in the church of Our Lady of the Bell Tower above the Iron Gate, which was removed around 1840 in accordance with classicist aspirations for the purification of ancient monuments and buildings.

In 1907, several houses on the west and south sides were removed, so that today the temple is free of outbuildings, except for the one on the northwest corner on which one house still leans. In those years, joints were filled and the surface was reconstructed with cement mortar.

A black granite sphinx was placed in front of the temple in 1928. In front of the façade stood a porch on six pillars, and the high pedestal of the temple hid the crypt which had been converted into the chapel of Sts. Tome. The roof above the vault was never constructed. The early Romanesque bell tower, erected in the 11th century, was removed around 1840. Inside is a baptismal font composed of marble pluteus of an 11th-century altar partition, originally from the cathedral. On one of the plaques is the earliest depiction of the Croatian king in stone sculpture.