In one of our previous posts, we’ve talked about the city of Split,
which originated 1700 years ago from a palace of the Roman emperor
Diocletian. You can find a more detailed account of Diocletian and
his life in our Split post, but just to bring everyone up to speed,
he was a Roman emperor who was born in Salona, an important Roman
city very close to Split. He was the first and only Roman emperor in
the history of the empire to manage to retire, and he chose to come
back to his homeland and build a palace there. Some time after his
death, the people from the surrounding area slowly started to inhabit
the palace and later started building outside of its walls. Thus, the
city of Split was born!
Diocletian’s palace still exists and it’s the centre point of
Split, seamlessly integrating with the rest of the city around it and
is an unavoidable sight to visit. In fact, it’s one of the oldest
and most well-preserved examples of Roman architecture in the World.
Divided into 4 parts by two intersecting main streets, the Southern
part was envisioned as the emperor’s quarters, as well as for
preforming religious ceremonies, and the Northern section was
reserved for the emperor’s guards and servants. The palace is of a
rectangular shape with 4 entrances, and while the palace has
certainly changed since it was built, the main outline is still very
much visible. There are many secret nook and crannies to find and
explore, but let’s take a look at some the main parts of it. Read
on and we’ll see you there!
The four gates
above, the palace had 4 different entrances, each with their own
specifics and varying uses. These are: the Golden Gate, the Silver
Gate, the Iron Gate and the Brass Gate.
The Golden Gate:
this is the gate through which Diocletian’s stepped into the palace
for the first time on the 1st of June 305. They are built
in a rectangular shape with a double entrance way as part of a
defence strategy. The front of the gate is ornated with 4 niches
which once held the statues of Diocletian and his 3 co-rulers. This
gate was for use solely by the emperor and his family and it is
situated on the direct path to Salona. If you come visit this gate
today, you will find a statue of Grgur Ninski in front of it. Legend
has it that the statue will grant you a wish if you rub its golden
The Silver Gate:
found on the Eastern side of the palace, this was the entrance for
merchants, common folk, the army and everyone else who wanted to
visit the palace. They lead further into the palace, all the way to
the Iron gate, and the way from the Silver gate is paved with
original palace stones. Next to the gate are the remains of two
octagonal towers, which suggests a heavy guard surveillance.
The Iron Gate:
this gate is on the Western wall of the palace, directly across the
Silver Gate. When it was built it was adorned with a statue to Nike,
the Roman goddess of victory, but it was later torn down and replace
with and etching of a cross by the Christian population who first
inhabited the palace. In the medieval period, the space in between
the dual entranceway was used as a courtroom, and up until 50 years
ago, a small market found its home there. It is of note to mention
the fact that the clock built on top of the Iron gate later in
history has 24 numbers on it instead of 12.
The Brass Gate:
unlike the 3 other gates, the Brass Gate didn’t offer an entrance
to the palace from land. You see, the beloved promenade in Split
didn’t exist when the palace was built, it was added later in
history. Back then, the South side of the palace was directly over
sea. The Brass gate was used for small ships to come in and out of
the palace basements. The spiked gates are still the original,
surviving almost 2 millennia of water abrasion, albeit with some
one of the smaller cathedrals out there, the one in Split dedicated
to St. Duje, a beloved bishop killed in Solin by the order of
Diocletian, is certainly one of the oldest. It was originally
Dicoletian’s mausoleum where he was buried. When the first
Christians arrived to Split, they removed Diocletian’s remains and
replaced them with those of St. Duje. They then added a bell tower to
the building and turned it into the Cathedral.
itself is an octagon with an outside ring around it with 8 tombs on
each corner. The structure is supported by 8 Corinthian columns made
out of red granite with 8 smaller ones on the level above.
Of the Christian
additions, apart from the bell tower, the most prominent ones are the
walnut gates to the Cathedral, decorated by 14 images of Jesus
throughout his life.
A must do when
visiting Split is to climb the bell tower and enjoy a truly
spectacular view of Split, so make sure to add this to your list!