Monday, October 11, 2010

Palace of Diocletian - Split

There is nothing like a visit to a pagan palace to counteract the effects of an intense, albeit brief experience in Medugorje. Our bus took us out of Bosnia-Herzegovina, into Croatia, and down a winding coastal road back to Split.

We had planned only an overnight stay in Split the first time, thinking the town would have little to offer us.
However, we knew of at least one site we wanted to visit before moving on: Diocletian's Palace.

For an accurate description, much better pictures, and more historical detail, I suggest you start at
and work your way up from there.

Here's my take:
That is Diocletian (245-313) in the middle of the collage.
He grew up in a town close to Split, and after 20 years as Roman emperor, an unusually long reign, he decided as many of us do that he needed a little retirement nest. Remembering the beauty of Split, he decided that would be just the place. After only eleven years and the death of over 2000 slaves, the little place was move-in ready.
Over 36,000 square feet!
Thinking he was a recreation of the god Jupiter, he was no slouch in the ego department. He had impeccable architectural and artistic taste. The surviving examples of architectural detail are stunning. The substructure, or basement, of the palace is an architectural wonder.

After the death of Diocletian, the palace was abandoned and fell into disrepair.

During the 7th century, locals looking for protection, moved in, filling the basement with garbage. As disrespectful as this might have been, it has provided archeologists with a wealth of material.

Then the Venetians took over. They remodeled extensively.

The church did a bit of re-purposing, too. They rearranged the mausoleum, threw out the emperor's bones and brought in the remains of some martyred saints, added a huge bell tower and created a cathedral - the smallest space to be used for this purpose in the world. Of course the emperor had created a temple to Jupiter within the walls and again the church rearranged the interior to create a baptistery.

The palace is under going continuous renovation work so there were parts we didn't get to see, but it was worth the return trip.

Aside from his glory days as emperor and his self-created role as Jupiter, he left a couple of other legacies.
1. This is the emperor who decided the Roman Empire was too big and wide-spread to be ruled by just one person. He divided it among four emperors - more efficient, but some say this decision played a vital part in the downfall of Rome.
2. The man hated Christians. He killed, tortured, and generally made life miserable for the struggling Christians under his control. So much so that upon his death, the Christians were overjoyed.
One of his targets was Euphemia, the virtuous daughter of a prosperous early fourth-century family near Istanbul. Euphemia used her family's wealth to help the poor. When she was 15 years old, she was arrested for refusing to worship the local pagan idol.This will be important information when you read about Rovinj later.