Monday, August 2, 2010

Diocletian’s Palace

Split’s most famous landmark is Diocletian’s Palace. It’s over 1,700 years old and was built in ten years as the retirement palace for the Roman Emperor Diocletian at the turn of the 4th century. The palace is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The palace is built of white limestone and marble from Brač with sphinxes and columns from Egypt. From east to west it measures 215m with 26m high walls. There are four gates to the palace. The bronze gate is on the south side near the water, the silver gate is on the east side near the market area, the gold gate is to the north where a park is and the iron gate leads to the fish market and newer parts of town.

After the Romans abandoned the site it remained empty for several centuries. During the 7th century, nearby residents took refuge in the walled palace in order to escape invading forces. The palace has been occupied with residents and businesses ever since.

Within the palace is the Cathedral of St Domnius which was built at the same time as the palace as a mausoleum for Diocletion. He died in 313 AD and his remains disappeared a few centuries later. In the 7th century the mausoleum was turned into a cathedral. The bones of a Bishop, Dominus, who Diocletian had executed, were placed here.

The palace’s substructure contains basement rooms and various artifacts such as a wine press and sewer system. It is interesting but has a terrible musty smell.

On the western side of the palace is Narodni trg, the people’s square, which is where the old town hall is, which was built in the 15th century.

Just outside of the palace’s gold gate is the statue of Grgur Ninski, Gregory of Nin. He was a 10th century bishop that opposed the Pope and introduced the Croatian language in to religious services in 926. Rubbing the big toe on the left foot of the statue is supposed to bring good luck.

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