Monuments of Split

Grgur Ninski

People's  Square (Narodni   trg)

            West of the Palace complex lies the People's Square which has been the city's central square ever since the late Middle Ages. The square originally began to form around the early-Romanesque church of St. Lawrence (Sv. Lovre), whose name it carried for a long time. In later periods it was also known as the Arms Square or the Economy Square. It obtained its full function during the 14th and the 15th century with the construction of a complex of municipal buildings, which were completed in the style of floral Gothic. The complex included the Duke’s Palace and the Municipality building with a ground floor that represented the City Loggia.   The appearance of the Square changed significantly over the centuries, and the only building which has been preserved is the city loggia with the former Town Hall. The southern façade holds the medieval coat of arms of Split from the 14th century, depicting the façade of the Diocletian’s palace and the bell-tower of the Split cathedral. The present-day Municipality building has preserved its original appearance only on the ground-floor level where three strong Gothic pillars centrally lean onto two columns with capitals, thus creating the area of the City Loggia. The Ethnographic Museum was founded in 1910 and displays a collection of important ethnographic artefacts (folk costumes etc.) from the entire territory of Dalmatia.

On the eastern side of the Square, north of the Western Gate of the Diocletian's Palace, stands an interesting Romanesque tower-like house with Romanesque openings on the first floor, above which the town clock was placed in the 15th century. The tower-house ends with a small bell-tower which was built on its top in the 15th century. Opposite of the Romanesque tower-house stands the late Romanesque Cipriano Palace from 1394.

            On the south side of the People's Square lies the Renaissance Pavlović Palace. Features of Romanesque windows can also be seen on the building of the Hotel Central right next to the Pavlović Palace.

            The west side of the Square is closed by the Nakić house, designed in 1902 by the local architect Špiro Nakić. The house was built in the style of the Vienna Secession.


Radić  Brothers'  Square (Trg   braće   Radić)

            South of the People's Square, almost at the very shore, lies the Radić Brothers' Square, which was formed on a part of a filled in cove. Its southern side is closed by the towers of the town citadel (i.e. military castle) built in 1435 for the needs of the Venetian garrison which was supposed to defend the city from enemy attacks. Two towers and the gate between them have been preserved to date. The northern side of the Square is closed by the Baroque Palace Milesi from the 18thcentury. Although built in the Baroque period, the harmony of its features is reminiscent of the Renaissance order. The large bronze statue which today stands in front of the palace is a famous work by Ivan Meštrović representing Marko Marulić, the first Croatian poet to write in the native language.



            On the west side of the Marmont Street lies the large architectonic complex of Prokurative, obviously built according to a well-known Italian model. The complex was constructed on the territory of a former park thanks to the efforts of the Split mayor Bajamonti. The complex of Prokurative consists of three building units, all of them designed in neo-Renaissance style with ground-floor porches and arcades on their side wings. The oldest northern part of the building used to be a theatre which was completed in 1859, while the west wing was built from 1864 until 1865. The east wing was not built before the year 1928. At the shore in front of the Prokurative complex once stood the famous “Bajamontuša” ( i.e. Bajamonti fountain) which was built in 1880 and pulled down in 1948. Today it is replaced by a smaller and less elaborate drinking fountain. West of the fountain the impressive Bajamonti Palace was erected (later the Dešković palace) with a harmonious neo-Renaissance façade.

            On the east side of the Marmont Street stands the building of the so called Sulphur Baths, designed in 1903 by the local architect Kamilo Tončić and constructed in the style of the Vienna Secession.

            On the northern end of the Marmont Street stand the remains of a pentagonal defence tower, the so called Baščun, which used to be a part of the city’s 17th century fortifications.


Croatian National Theatre (Hrvatsko narodno kazalište)

            The building of the Croatian National Theatre was constructed from 1891 until 1893 in neo-Renaissance style. It was gutted by fire in 1971 but reconstructed by 1979. North of the theatre stands the church and convent of Our Lady of Health. The convent complex dates back to the 17th century and the only element of the original building to have been preserved is the bell-tower of the church. A new church was erected in 1936 on the location of the old one, based on the designs of architect Lavoslav Horvat.


Church of St. Francis (Crkva sv. Franje)

            In the southern part of the city district of Veli Varoš stands the Franciscan monastery and church of St. Francis, in which one can find graves of many famous citizens of Split : Thomas the Archdeacon (1200-1268), writer and poet Marko Marulić (1450-1524), composer Ivan Lukačić (1587-1648), poet Jerolim Kavanjin (1643-1714) and politician Ante Trumbić (1864-1938).



            At the southwest part of the Split port lies Sustipan, a town quarter that got its name after the monastery of St. Steven (sv. Stjepan) . In the 19th century a small church was built in the place of the original 13th century basilica. At the beginning of the 19th century the first city cemetery was located here. In the period from 1958 until 1962 the cemetery was moved to its present location in the city quarter of Lovrinac.


Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments (Muzej hrvatskih arheoloških spomenika)

            In the residential area of Meje, on the southern slopes of Marjan stands the Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments, one of the most significant cultural institutions in Croatia. It was built in 1975, and its preservation and survival are largely owed to academic Stjepan Gunjača.

Especially important among its exhibits are stone monuments of Croatian national rulers, most notably the famous baptismal font of Prince Višeslav (dating back to around 800 AD).


Meštrović Gallery (Galerija Meštrović)

Close by lies the Meštrović Gallery , built as a summer residence of the Meštrović family in the period between 1936 and 1939. Ivan Meštrović was the most significant Croatian artist of the 20th century. He was born in the Dalmatian hinterland (in the village Otavice near the town of Drniš). He was a friend of the great Rodin, among others. He achieved great success in Paris, Rome and London. Based on the foundations of secessionist art he developed his own “heroic style”.

The building of the Meštrović villa was inspired by classical architecture. It consists of two symmetrical wings connected by a porch with high Ionic columns. On display in the villa is a great number of his sculptures and reliefs in marble, wood and bronze. The Meštrović Gallery is one of the most popular museums in Split.



            Not far from the Meštrović Gallery lies the Kaštelet which used to be a property of the Capogrosso-Kavanjin family. In 1939 it was bought by Ivan Meštrović who converted it into an exhibition area for his collection of works. For this purpose he also designed the Holy Cross Chapel. On the side walls of the chapel he displayed his famous bas-relief wood carvings with scenes from the life of Jesus, whereas in the chapel's apse he exhibited one of his best and most mature works – a large wooden statue of the crucified Christ. In the atrium of the Kaštelet one can also see the expressive stone sculpture of St. John, writer of the Apocalypse.



Areaaround Marjan  

            The area around the hill of Marjan abounds in churches and chapels dating back to different periods: the church of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows (15th century), the early-Romanesque church of St. George (Sv. Jure, 9th century), the chapel of St. Jerome (15th century work of the sculptor Andrija Aleši), the church of Betlem (14th century), the church of Our Lady of Spinut.

At the tip of the Marjan Peninsula lies the Institute for Oceanography which was built in 1933 based on the project of the local architect Fabijan Kaliterna.


The Franciscan Monastery in Poljud

            It was built in the 15th area on a former swamp area. The monastery cloister with its Renaissance pillars supporting the porch has been preserved to date. On the west side of the cloister a high rectangular tower was erected with a cantilevered top floor. The church itself is quite simple in plan. The rectangular apse holds an altar with a valuable panel painting (polypthych) by the 16th century Venetian painter Girolamo da Santacroce, among others representing St. Domnius, the patron saint of Split. The Monastery also houses a rich collection of art - out of which one must mention the portrait of bishop Toma Nigris made by the famous Venetian High Renaissance painter Lorenzo Lotto.


Archaeological Museum (Arheološki muzej)

            It is the oldest museum building in this part of Europe. The museum was founded in 1820 at the initiative of Emperor Francis II, who in 1818 visited his newly annexed Kingdom of Dalmatia. The emperor was impressed with the amount of ancient artefacts found in the area. Systematic excavations lead to the need for a new building to be built in the period from 1912 until 1914 and the museum's collection was finally completed and put on display in the new building in 1920. Much of the credit for this belongs to a famous archaeologist from Split, priest Frane Bulić. The Archaeological museum boasts a large collection of certain world-renowned ancient artefacts. Especially valuable are the numerous sarcophagi with figurative reliefs, testifying to the high quality of ancient sculpting. Among the early-Christian findings one must note the sarcophagi with the figure of the Good Shepard, as well as the relief representation of the Jewish crossing of the Red Sea from the 4th century. The lapidarium contains numerous stone monuments with important epigraphs, as well as a number of preserved and reconstructed mosaics from ancient Salona.


The Gallery of Art (Galerija umjetnina)

Closer to the city centre, in the area of Lovret, lies the Split Gallery of Art. Founded in 1931, it today represents one of the most important institutions for the study of Croatian visual arts. On display in the Gallery one can find valuable pieces of Gothic painting from the 14th and the 15th century, a relief by the sculptor Andrija Aleši, works by the Mannerist painter Andrija Medulić from the 16th century, Baroque canvases by Frederik Benković from the 17th century etc. It also features more recent works by 19th century Dalmatian sculptors, painters Vlaho Bukovac, Celestin Medonić and Emanuel Vidović as well as sculptors Ivan Rendić, Ivan Meštrović and Branislav Dešković. Among the works from the period between the two world wars one must mention the pieces by Marin Tartaglia, Emanuel Vidović, Juraj Plančić, Ignjat Job, Vjekoslav Parać and others. The Gallery also boasts a monumental collection of works by the most famous Croatian contemporary painters, sculptors and graphic artists.


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