Beautiful Dalmatia is not just crystal blue sea and paradise beaches. This is a region with a long, rich, and often turbulent history. To this day, numerous religious monuments have been preserved, which testify to the spiritual life of various inhabitants of this area. Those who want to add a spiritual element to their vacation in Dalmatia will absolutely enjoy it: from Roman temples and ancient Slavic shrines to medieval churches, relics and places of miraculous events.
In this guide, read about the most interesting religious places in Dalmatia.
1. Cathedral of St. Domnius in Split - Among European cathedrals, Split Cathedral is the oldest building - the mausoleum of the Roman emperor Diocletian. In it, at the end of the second millennium, history reconciles pagan ancient, Christian medieval and modern heritage. The mausoleum of the emperor, a persecutor of Christians became a cathedral in the middle of the 7th century, in which altars with relics of Saint Domnius and Saint Anastasius the Fuller, martyrs executed in nearby Solin, were placed in places of honor.
2. Temple of Jupiter in Split - This small temple was used in Roman times to celebrate the cult of Jupiter. It lies on an elevated podium, and in front of the temple stood a porch on six pillars. The transformation into the Baptistery took place in late antiquity, and a crypt dedicated to St. John the Baptist was built under the building. Today, the Baptistery is dominated by the Art Nouveau sculpture of St. John the Baptist, the work of Ivan Mestrovic. In front of the baptistery is one of the granite sphinxes that Diocletian brought from Egypt.
3. Cathedral of St. Jacob in Sibenik - Sibenik Cathedral of St. Jacob, which is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the architectural highlights of the Dalmatian coast. Begun in the early 15th century, this great cathedral took more than 100 years to complete under the initial guidance of the Venetian architect Antonio Dall, and the responsibility later passed to the sculptor Giorgio da Sebenico and then to Nicholas of Florence. Various styles were incorporated during construction, including the Gothic lower level and the Renaissance upper level. One of the most interesting features is the exquisite frieze on the outside of the apse with more than 70 unique faces representing ordinary people from the 15th century.
4. Perun Hill in Podstrana - In the names of various localities in Podstrana and surrounding places, unique traces of old Slavic beliefs have been preserved, which are the oldest evidence of the presence of Croats in today's Croatia. They provide an insight into the authentic culture and worldview of Croats before baptism. The most interesting is the hill Perun. On the top named Perunsko was the sanctuary of the supreme god of the Old Slavic pantheon - Perun. Perun was revered among all Slavic peoples until they converted to Christianity. As the god of thunder and lightning from his high throne on the hill, he dispenses justice and maintains order in the world. In Christianity, Perun was most often replaced by St. Elijah, and his son Jarilo by St. George. Thus, in Podstrana, on the site of the Perun cult, a church dedicated to St. George was later built.
5. Church of St. Donatus in Zadar - Church of St. Donatus in Zadar, a medieval monument from the 9th century, was built on the remains of the Roman Forum. In its beginnings, it was dedicated to the Holy Trinity, and later took the name of Bishop Donatus, who supervised the construction of the church. In its present form, the church is structured as a cylinder within a cylinder. The outer wall connects with the inner wall on the first floor which creates a gallery in the inner cylinder. The interior is finished with a conical roof supported by six pilasters and two pillars that were part of the original Roman forum. The theme of the Holy Trinity is reflected in the three apses and the three doors of the church. For centuries, the Church of St. Donatus has changed its purpose from secular to religious and vice versa. Due to its excellent acoustics, today it serves as the main place in Zadar for concerts and recitals and other cultural and artistic events.
6. Our Lady's Island in Solin - In the 10th century, on the site of today's church, Croatian Queen Jelena built two churches: the one of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the one of Saint Stephen, in which the tombstone of Queen Jelena and her sarcophagus were found. Both of Jelena's churches belong to the type of so-called double churches. According to medieval custom, kings were buried in the church where they were crowned, so it is assumed that the church of Our Lady of the Island was the coronation basilica. Today's church was built on the same site, approximately the same dimensions, where the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin is celebrated. In 1998, Pope John Paul II visited this shrine and held a mass for young people.
7. Church of St. Constantius in Jezera on the island of Murter - Church of St. Constantius in Jezera was built at the end of the 18th century. St. Constantius is a protector against malaria, a disease from which the inhabitants of Jezera often died. Legend has it that the stones for building the church were worn by malaria sufferers. In the third stage of malaria, the patient has a high fever. Thus, patients dressed in thick clothes would carry stones along the hill, during the summer heat. Sweating, they would reach the top and recover since the cause of malaria dies at a body temperature of 39-40°C. The church was badly damaged during World War II, but was rebuilt in 1994 at the initiative of the locals. From Perugia, a reliquary with the relics of St. Constantius was brought to the church. Every year on January 29, which is the day of St. Constantius, a Mass is celebrated.
8. Church of the Holy Cross in Nin - Church of the Holy Cross in Nin was built in the 9th century. It is the most valuable preserved monument of old Croatian religious architecture and is one of the symbols of the city of Nin. In the time of Croatian rulers, it served as the court chapel of the nearby duke's court. The church was built on the remains of ancient houses, and these remains are still visible today. Due to the specific position of the windows and the angle of incidence of light, this small church is a kind of calendar, so the exact position of the solstices and equinoxes can be determined by the sun's rays.
9. Roman Temple in Nin - In the center of Nin, on the site of the former Roman Forum, are the remains of a monumental Roman temple, the largest on the east coast of the Adriatic Sea. They date from the second half of the 1st century AD, from the reign of Emperor Vespasian (69-79 AD). His name is on an inscription carved on the frieze from the front of the temple.
10. The island of Visovac on the river Krka - The small island of Visovac on the river Krka was inhabited by Franciscan monks in 1445, who first built a monastery (later demolished and then rebuilt in the 18th century) and a church in 1576. The monastery contains many well-preserved artifacts and a library. Throughout its turbulent history, it has been and remains an island of peace and prayer, and the Franciscan monastery a fortress of spirituality and faith. Because of the centuries-old veneration of the Mother of God, it is called Our Lady's Island. Visovac has always attracted pilgrims, even to this day.