St. Domnius Cathedral

Cathédrale Saint Domnius
The Cathedral of St. Domnius Bell Tower

St. Domnius Cathedral with its neo-Romanesque bell tower that towers over all the surrounding buildings (57 meters high), is easily spotted in the Split landscape. The cathedral is located only 100 meters from the port and can be reached through a maze of small streets along the palm-lined waterfront promenade. The cathedral has a long history and is actually a multi-faceted building.

The Cathedral of Split

Originally, the cathedral was the mausoleum of the Roman emperor Diocletian who also left a palace to the city. After his death in 311, a mausoleum was built for the soldier of humble origin who became emperor. 350 years later, the archbishop John of Ravenna turned the tomb into a Roman Catholic church. Over the centuries, a bell tower (12th century) and an apse in the choir (17th century) were added. In 1908, the bell tower was renovated and remodeled while most of the Romanesque sculptures were removed.

The building is located in the middle of the historic city, so there is little space and it is difficult to see the building from a good angle. You can only get a good view of the cathedral from the north by walking along the “Poljana Kraljice Jelene”. The surrounding cobblestone streets are framed by beautiful arcades with columns and other old facades.

saint-domnius, Split
The cathedral’s richly decorated interior

The cathedral’s features

The cathedral has the shape of an octagon, but inside, where the mausoleum is located, it is round. You can see the belfry with a square base on its western side. On its eastern side is an apse in a more traditional building with very small windows. Originally, 24 columns surrounded the building, some of which are still standing today. The front door’s walnut panels date from 1214 and depict 28 scenes from the life of Christ. The left-hand panel depicts the life of Christ, the right-hand panel depicts the events of the Passion and the Ascension. These wooden sculptures, true treasures of medieval Romanesque sculpture, are the work of Andrija Buvina, a local artist.

Black granite columns brought from Egypt by Diocletian are installed on two levels inside the building. The relics of St. Domnius and St. Anastasius are still kept in the cathedral. A very dark crypt dedicated to Saint Lucia of Syracuse with a spring that is supposed to give the blind back their sight, is also part of the cathedral.

The cathedral is made up of two parts. The first one, the church, is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The other, the bell tower and the belfry, is dedicated to Saint Domnius. The building was consecrated in the 7th century and is considered to be the oldest cathedral in the world that still has its original structure. Its size is also quite unusual, making it one of the smallest cathedrals in the world.

Visiting the Saint-Domnius Cathedral

  •  Visiting hours: from 8am to 8pm during the summer (shorter hours the rest of the year) for the cathedral and from 9am to 7pm for the belfry.
  • Price: 1 euro