Friday, August 17, 2018

The Cathedral of Saint Domnius in Split, Croatia (Part 1)

The cathedral of St Domnius in the Croatian city of Split is the oldest Catholic cathedral in the world still being used in its original structure. About half of the historical center of Split sits within the walls of an enormous palace which the Emperor Diocletian constructed at the end of the third century as the place of his eventual retirement; the octagonal structure seen below in the first photo was originally built as his mausoleum. It was consecrated as a church at the beginning of the seventh century, and has had numerous additions made to it since. The Romanesque bell-tower was added in the 12th century, and a large choir was built behind the very small main sanctuary in the 17th. Our thanks once again to Nicola for sharing these photos with us; there are too many beautiful pictures to fit them all into one post, so we will do a second part tomorrow.

The peristyle of Diocletian’s palace, an internal colonade, still encloses the cathedral, and runs through other parts of the city as well. On the lower right is seen a granite sphinx brought by the Romans from Egypt for the decoration of the palace.

A relief image of St Domnius on the bell-tower, with a local Saint named Anastasius on the left, St Peter on the right, and an acolyte between them. Domnius was bishop of the nearby city of Salona at the end of the third century, martyred in the persecution of Diocletian. Local tradition has made him one of the Seventy Disciples mentioned in the Luke 10, and states that he came to Rome with Peter, and from there was sent to evangelize the Dalmatian coast. Salona was destroyed by the invasion of the Avars and Slavs in the 7th century, and Split was founded by refugees from it settling within the walls of the palace. (Technically, the cathedral is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and the bell-tower to Domnius.)
Another relief on the bell-tower, of the Annunciation.
Strange as it may seem, this tiny space is the main sanctuary of the cathedral. In the 17th century, part of the wall behind it was knocked out and the choir built behind it.

The other side of the altar, seen from the choir.

The mausoleum of Diocletian, who is depicted with his wife several times in the frieze below the dome, is now the “nave”, so to speak, of the cathedral.

This inscription records a major restoration of the cathedral completed in 1885 in the reign of the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph.
The undecorated cupola of the mausoleum.

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