A heritage of culture and history
Both culture and history were generous to these parts in providing inspiration to artists who from as far back as the antiquity created their art in the stone, walls and palaces of its towns and urban centres, in buildings made of stone that are one of the most memorable characteristics of central Dalmatia.
Today these towns and urban centres offer both peace and solitude and joyous, noisy nights rich with the spirit of the Mediterranean south. Works in stone, marble and wood created in central Dalmatia from the antiquity to the present day never remained only inside the churches and museums of the region, but are to this day found on the houses, facades and in the historical cores of the cities, mostly built in the Romanesque and Gothic styles – true masterpieces of urban culture. Nowhere can one, like in central Dalmatia, in a 30 km radius find two cities under UNESCO protection and listed in the register of World Culture Heritage: Diocletian's Palace and the historical core of the city of Trogir.
Spectacular works of art in stone have been left to posterity, like the portal of the Trogir cathedral, sculpted by the hand of Master Radovan in the year 1240. Bonino of Milan, Juraj Dalmatinac, Andrija Aleši and Nikola Firentinac all left their greatest works in stone here. The walnut-wood doorframe of the Split cathedral made by master Andrija Buvina in 1214 are a part of the history of European Romanesque wood sculpting. The Split cathedral itself is the oldest building housing a Catholic cathedral in the world, as one part of it emerged from the Mausoleum built by Emperor Diocletian. The wealth of tradition in the arts in this region, based on the work of those who came before and who found inspiration here for their most beautiful works of art, has spawned many a great name, like that of Emanuel Vidović, Croatia's best known painter at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. The pinnacle of sculpting was reached by Ivan Meštrović who hailed from Otavica near Drniš, his works grace museums and galleries around the world. In Split itself, besides a series of works at the Meštrović Gallery, there is his celebrated bronze monument to Bishop Grgur of Nin located at the north portal to Diocletian's palace. Legend has it that wishes are fulfilled if one touches the big toe of his foot. Within the former Imperial Palace, Split also has the smallest street in the world, called "Pusti me proći" (Let Me Pass) because only one person can move along it at a time.
A special experience is a visit to the city of Trogir, a city founded in the 3rd century and practically a museum in its entirety. Its centre is all of 750 paces wide! This was measured and recorded a few hundred years ago by the historian Pavao Andreis. Its present day appearance, that of a well-proportioned stone town with a rich history, preserves, in the thousand year old monastery of St. Nicholas, a 4th century BC relief sculpture of the god Kairos, the god of the happy moment, along with an entire series of some the most valuable works in art history and stone architecture.
Just fifteen kilometres further on is Salona, the largest site of antiquity-era monuments in Croatia that was back in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD a real cosmopolitan Dalmatian metropolis with 62 thousand inhabitants. Also here was the seat of the first Croatian kings. A not to be missed spot is the Klis fortress, built on a cliff it was from here that the "Uskoci" defended the pass from the Turkish advance – the Turkish army never passed the Klis fortress and legend says that this was thanks to the assistance of the miraculous Virgin Mary of Sinj whose shrine is located nearby.
Brač is the largest island in the Split archipelago and is, with the frequent and quick ferry lines' connecting the island and the mainland, gradually becoming a suburb of the city. Brač is home to the most celebrated tradition of white stone cutting, to this day "harvested" from the local quarries. The White House in Washington, the Parliament and New Palace in Vienna, the Parliament in Budapest, Diocletian's palace, the Trogir and Šibenik cathedrals were all built from this beautiful white stone…
Also located on this island is the fascinating recluse of Pustinja Blaca, built on the very stone itself in 1550 by the "popovi glagoljaši", priests who used the Croatian Glagolitic script and the Croatian language when celebrating Holy Mass, fleeing the Turks. The monastery to this day, with its telescope and concert piano delivered from Vienna, bears witness to medieval life on the island.
Sunny Hvar, as of recently on a select list of the world's ten most beautiful islands, is one of the most enchanting Dalmatian islands. Whether it is more the harmony of history and art that draws people's attention, or the beauty of nature and the enticing scent of lavender is unknown, but a visit to Petar Hektorović's Tvrdalj, a fortified villa, with its fish pond, is a must, as is a walk on the stone streets, worn smooth over the centuries, and the largest square on any of the Adriatic islands, located in the centre of the city of Hvar. Also to be seen are the Arsenal and the first municipal theatre in Europe, built back in 1612.
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