The cathedral of the Croatian city of Šibenik (Katedrala Sveti Jakova) is only a few dozen meters from the sea and welcomes both believers and tourists. This religious building, built in the 15th century, is unique because of the audacity of the construction techniques used. It’s a good example of the many exchanges between Italy, Tuscany and Dalmatia at the time. The cathedral is a Unesco World Heritage Site and is remarkably well preserved.
Three architects built the church, including George the Dalmatian. The dome and vaults are made entirely of stone and are unique for their time. Its construction without wood (for the frames) or mortar was an innovation. The stones, cut to size, were installed using guides and grooves and did not require any cement.
The best architects of the time had to work together to achieve such a technological feat. Made with stones from Croatian quarries, the famous Brač stones, the building took a little over 100 years to be fully built (1431 – 1536).
The 40- metre-high octagonal dome, can be seen from all over the city. Siberik has 15 churches and St. James is the most remarkable one. The church was named after the patron saint of the town. A surprising anecdote: the construction of the building was particularly expensive, so the bell tower never contained a bell. The sound of the bells that marks the hours of the day is in fact a recorded sound!
The front of the cathedral overlooks the sea and offers an unusual scenery at the exit of a religious building. The wooden door is impressive. There are other entrances to the building, such as a pretty door with two sculpted lions, with Adam and Eve on top, which is worth a look. Inside, the three naves are rather dark, which contrasts with the exterior, but there are rich decorations. You can appreciate the sculpted baptistery, the staircases and the two stained glass rosettes inside.
The church is decorated by a frieze with seventy-one portraits of local characters entirely sculpted around the building. It is a link between two eras: the Gothic and the Renaissance. The cathedral of Saint James can be considered one of the precursors of Renaissance art outside of Italy.
Besides the cathedral, the surrounding area is also very pleasant, especially the large square next to it. The more adventurous ones will really enjoy wandering through the narrow alleys.