Wednesday, 06 March 2013 16:23

Sites in Split: Peristil

Written by 
Peristil Peristil Image by globus.jutarnji.hr

In Roman architecture, a peristyle is an open colonnade surrounding a court; hence the name of the central court in Diocletian’s Palace is called Peristil. It is located at the intersection of the two main streets, cardo and decumanus .The nucleus of historical sites is found here, with the prothyron, sphinxes, vestibule, various palaces, and the imposing Cathedral of St. Domnius, and Diocletian’s mausoleum as surrounding this popular square.

The 27-meter long and 13,5-meter wide imperial square is framed by two colonnades to the east and west, a prothyron to the south leading to the vestibule and further to the imperial quarters. Most of the structure is made of white stone from the nearby island of Brač however; the columns are made of Italian marble and siennite from Egypt.

Actually, Emperor Diocletian was a great lover of Egypt, which is apparent as he acquired the Peristil columns and more than a dozen granite sphinxes (from 1500 BC) from Luxor. Three sphinxes remain today; one is still located onPeristil, the second sits headless in front of the Jupiter's temple, and the third is in the city museum.

Sphinx

Sphinx: Image by interyachtcharter.com

The head of Peristil, the prothyron, connecting the public square to the private quarters was the only place a commoner would see the emperor as he addressed his people. The prothyron has four columns, which support a triangular gable with an arch in the center. On either side of the prothyron you will find a little chapel stemming from far after the time of Diocletian; Our Lady of the Belt (1544) and Our Lady of Conception (1650).

Behind the prothyron, you will enter a vestibule, a foyer that leads you into the emperor’s residential quarters. Known as “Vestibul,” this circular room is topped by a cupola which was once covered in mosaics and marble. Today the center of the dome is no longer there, providing clear views to the skies above. The Vestibul provides great acoustics allowing klapa bands to perform traditional a-cappella songs there in the mornings.

Vestibul

Vestibul: Image by ezadar.hr 

To the east of Peristil is the Cathedral of St. Domnius (Katedrala Sv. Duje or Sv. Dujam), where Diocletian’s mausoleum is also located; quite an oxymoron as the emperor was a known prosecutor of Christians. The cathedral consists of the octagonal mausoleum and now main part of the church and the Romanesque belfy towering above the city (see section on Cathedral of St. Domnius for further information).

Cathedral

Cathedral: Image by neilmeyerhoff.com

At the end of the eastern colonnade is the Renaissance-style Chapel of St. Roch (Crkvica Svetog Roka) built in 1516. Today is houses the main tourist information office.

Much later, three palaces were built along the eastern colonnade of Peristil. Closest to the prothyron is the Skočibučić-Lukaris Palace showing characteristics of a few architectural eras; Romaneque elevations to allow access through the pillars, Renaissance windows and portal, a Baroque balcony, and a Classicist third floor. This palace will be the future home of the Museum of Ecclesiastical Arts. Next up is the Cipci Palace, where the popular Luxor café is partially housed, mixing Roman, Late Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque Styles. Inside the café, you will sit in a Roman loggia and you will notice a marble circle on the floor, stemming from the previous Temple of Venus. The last structure along the pillars is the stunning 13th century Grisogono Palace, which was later, renovated into a Gothic style. If you can pay a night in the luxury apartments here you will enjoy the magnificent UNESCO protected ceilings featuring elaborate Gothic frescoes. The Grisogono family is the oldest living family in Dalmatia.

Grisogono

 Ceiling of Grisogono Palace: Image from tripadvisor.com

Peristil is the host to various events through the year most notably the Split Summer Festival where the square converts into an open-air opera theatre.

Fun facts: The Statue of Grgur Ninski was originally erected on Peristil but was severed into three pieces and dug underground in order to hide it from occupying forces in the Second World War. After the war it was re-erected and today is stands at the exit of the Golden Gate. Two other copies of the statue exists; in Nin and Varaždin. Later, the entire floor of Peristil was illegally painted red on January 11,1968 by an activist group demonstrating against communism in the former Yugoslavia.

Grgur Ninski on Peristil

Grgur Ninski on Peristil: Image from croatia.ch

 

Last modified on Wednesday, 06 March 2013 16:34
Mila Hvilshoj

A passion for food, wine and the sea, combined with Croatian roots brought Mila to Split in September last year. With a Danish father, Croatian mother and a childhood in Dubai, Mila certainly has an international outlook, and one which she has developed in the food and wine business. A degree in International Hospitality Management led to a job in marketing for the prestigious Jumeirah Hotels and Resorts, as well as being part of the pre-opening team for Le Meridien Lav in Split. Mila's passion for wine also comes with some academic and business credentials, having worked in the wine import industry and being the owner of an advanced wine certification. Her volunteer writing for the Taste of Croatia team and research for Lonely Planet has led to an intimate knowledge of the Split culinary and tourism scene, while her sailing, kitesurfing and golfing interests will bring great variety to the Total Split site. She has been welcomed aboard with the FRAPA Women's Sailing Team where skipper Tihana Tadinac and the rest of the crew is teaching her to sail. Contact Mila on mila@hvilshoj.com with any Split events, insider news or wine invitations.

Login to post comments