Monthly Archives: April 2013
UNESCO World Heritage Site #235: Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian
From the World Heritage inscription:
The importance of Diocletian’s Palace far transcends local significance because of its level of preservation and the buildings of succeeding historical periods, starting in the Roman period, which form the very tissue of old Split. The palace is one of the most famous and integral architectural and cultural buildings on the Croatian Adriatic coast.
The ruins of Diocletian’s Palace, built between the late 3rd and the early 4th centuries AD, can be found throughout the city. The Roman Emperor Diocletian spent his declining years in an enormous palace that he had built near his birthplace, Aspalthos, in Dalmatia. The palace represents the most valuable example of Roman architecture on the eastern coast of the Adriatic. Its form and the arrangement of the buildings within the palace represent a transitional style of imperial villa, Hellenistic town and Roman camp.
On the eastern side of the palace lies the Porta Argentea (Silver Gate) with the church of St Dominic on the opposite side, it was reconstructed between 1932 and 1934. The Silver Gate gives access to the Plain of King Tomislav and thence to the Peristil (peristyle), the central open-air area of the palace. Its longitudinal sides are surrounded by an arched colonnade; the arches in the west are closed by Gothic and Renaissance houses. monumental port with four columns carrying a gable closes the Peristyle in the south.
The Mausoleum of Diocletian (today’s Cathedral of St Doimus dedicated to St Mary) lies in the eastern part of the peristyle. The mausoleum has almost completely preserved its original octagonal form, encircled by 24 columns which supported the roof; the interior is round, with two rows of Corinthian columns and a frieze. A dome, once covered with mosaics, roofs the mausoleum. The monumental wooden gateposts and the stone pulpit from the 13th century represent the oldest monuments in the cathedral. The choir, constructed in the 18th century, is furnished with Romanesque seating from the 13th century and ornamented with a painting representing the Mother of God with the saints and donors.
The palace of Diocletian is a very interesting site and unlike anything I’ve really seen before.
I’ve been visited many palaces and roman ruins before, but what I found in Split was totally different. The entire palace has been taken over by the city. By that I don’t mean the city was built on top of the ruins of the palace, as you might see in many other places, but rather it was built inside the palace.
You can literally see homes and businesses with original standing pillars embedded in their walls. The cathedral of Split is the mausoleum of Diocletian. (which is really ironic considering that Diocletian was responsible for one of the greatest persecution of Christians in history.) As it was never intended to be a church, it is also one of the smallest functioning cathedrals in the world.
The palace is located in the heart of Split and should be a part of any visit to the Dalmatian coast of Croatia.
Ignorance, Fear and Travel
One questions I always ask is how tourism is doing in their particular country or region. Some places are up, some are down and some are very dependent on visitors from another particular area. If the area where the toursits come from suffers economic problems, then the destination will suffer as well.
Back in 2010 I had a front row seat to major political protests in Bangkok, Thailand. During the protests many travel experts, including the legendary Arthur Frommer, were advising people to completely avoid Thailand. With the information I had on the ground, I could see for myself that other than a few square blocks in Bangkok, nothing was happening in Thailand. People who weren’t there were making judgements based on what they saw on television and then extrapolated that to the entire country.
UNESCO World Heritage Site #234: Stari Grad Plain
From the World Heritage inscription:
Stari Grad Plain represents a comprehensive system of land use and agricultural colonisation by the Greeks, in the 4th century BC. Its land organisation system, based on geometrical parcels with dry stone wall boundaries (chora), is exemplary. This system was completed from the very first by a rainwater recovery system involving the use of tanks and gutters. This testimony is of Outstanding Universal Value.
The land parcel system set up by the Greek colonisers has been respected over later periods. Agricultural activity in the chora has been uninterrupted for 24 centuries up to the present day, and is mainly based on grapes and olives.
The ensemble today constitutes the cultural landscape of a fertile cultivated plain whose territorial organisation is that of the Greek colonisation.
The Greek cadastral system has been fully respected during the continuous agricultural use of the plain, based on the same crops. This system is today perfectly identifiable, and has changed very little. Stari Grad Plain forms an agricultural and land use ensemble of great integrity. The authenticity of the Greek land division system known as chora is clearly in evidence throughout the plain. The built structures of the stone walls are authentic, with the same basic dry stone wall materials being used and reused since the foundation by the Greeks.
The setting up of the management plan and of the authority in charge of its application should enable the carrying out of a thorough programme of archaeological excavations, the fostering of sustainable agricultural development in the chora and the control of urban and tourism development in the vicinity of the property, with all due care being taken to ensure that its Outstanding Universal Value is respected.
I had a difficult time trying to figure out what to make of the Stari Grad Plain.
It is a large section of farm fields. That’s it. There are some small out buildings and stone walls, but that’s it. The reason given for its inscription is that it is an area which has been continuously used in the same way, in the same layout since colonization by the Greeks. Yet, I can’t help but think there are many places like this all over the Adriatic.
Maybe I’m wrong.
I’ve gone back and forth several times in my mind trying to determine if this is a unique world heritage property or just one of the many sites which probably should never have been listed in the first place.
Either way, visiting is very easy if you are going to the island of Hvar. The plain is only a 5-minute drive from the ferry terminal. There is no visitor or interpretative center but there are some signs located on the main road through the plain. Hvar itself is accessible by ferry from the city of Split, which is the second largest city in Croatia.