Diocletian’s Palace in many ways belies its name; as a former military fortress, august imperial residence, and bustling town with serpentine streets laden with restaurants, shops, and people, it’s more of a town than a palace. It’s more of a home than a cultural monument.
Emperor Diocletian, who withdrew from the Roman throne and retired to Split around 300 A.D., built himself a lavish retirement home. See it for yourself on our Adventure of Split tour.
The historical complex of Diocletian’s Palace houses a wealth of architectural and historical remains alongside its boisterous population. The remains of Diocletian’s original palace are scattered throughout the city. Medieval fortifications, 12th-13th century Romanesque churches, 15th-century Gothic palaces, and palaces built in the Baroque and Renaissance style can also be found throughout the city. Some sites in Diocletian’s Palace are more popular than others; check out the three most visited sites below!
St. Duje (Domnius) Cathedral
The St. Duje Cathedral and its bell tower sits in Peristil’s central square. The octagonal cathedral was originally constructed as Diocletian’s mausoleum, and with its 24 encircling columns, rows of Corinthian columns trimming its vaulted interior, and frieze featuring Emperor Diocletian alongside his wife, it’s definitely a mausoleum fit for a former Roman emperor.
The cathedral also sports 13th century wooden doors at the entrance that depict scenes from the life of Christ as well as spectacularly carved altars and murals.
The Temple of Jupiter, considered to be one of the world’s best-preserved Roman temples, lies west of Peristil. Though rather small, the Temple of Jupiter houses a great deal in its rectangular frame. Blocks, each with unique motifs, form the vaulted ceiling trimmed with a frieze, and below the temple lies a crypt. A 12th century baptismal font, stone sarcophaguses, and statue of St. John were added to the temple when the temple was refashioned into St. John’s Baptistery in the Middle Ages. A headless granite sphinx imported from Luxor, Egypt guards the temple.
Grgur Ninski Statue
Grgur Ninski served as Split’s archbishop in the 10th century and has been remembered as the man who opposed the pope and delivered services in the Croatian language rather than Latin so that the populace could understand. Ivan Mestrovic crafted a statue honoring Ninski in 1929.
While the statue had previously been located in the Peristil’s central square, it was taken down in WWII, cut into three separate pieces, and buried underground in order to hide it from occupying troops. After, Ninski’s statue was erected outside of Diocletian’s Palace by the Eastern, “Golden Gate” entrance.
It is believed that touching Ninski’s toes bring luck. As years have passed, Ninski’s toes have been rubbed golden by visitors hoping to catch a bit of luck.