Monthly Archives: April 2013
This Week In Travel – Episode 136
Regular hosts Gary Arndt, Jen Leo and Chris Christensen are joined by this week’s guest Robert Reid from ReidOnTravel.com (recently retired from Lonely Planet). I was on a shoddy internet connection in Croatia so I wasn’t as fully engaged.
UNESCO World Heritage Site #233: Historic City of Trogir
From the World Heritage inscription:
Trogir is an excellent example of a medieval town built on and conforming with the layout of a Hellenistic and Roman city that has conserved its urban fabric to an exceptional degree and with the minimum of modern interventions, in which the trajectory of social and cultural development is clearly visible in every aspect of the townscape.
Trogir is a remarkable example of urban continuity. The orthogonal street plan of this island settlement dates back to the Hellenistic period and it was embellished by successive rulers with many fine public and domestic buildings and fortifications. Its beautiful Romanesque churches are complemented by the outstanding Renaissance and Baroque buildings from the Venetian period.
The ancient town of Tragurion (island of goats) was founded as a trading settlement by Greek colonists from the island of Vis in the 3rd century BC on an islet at the western end of the bay of Manios, in a strait between the mainland and one of the Adriatic islands, where there was already a small settlement. The Hellenistic town was enclosed by megalithic walls and its streets were laid out on a Hippodamian grid plan: the line of the ancient cardo maximus is that of the modern main street. The town flourished in the Roman period as an oppidum civium romanorum ; during the late Roman period it was extended and refortified. Extensive Roman cemeteries have been discovered, and a basilica was erected in one of these.
The plan of contemporary Trogir reflects the Hellenistic layout in the location, dimensions, and shapes of its residential blocks. The two ancient main streets, the cardo and the decumanus, are still in use, and paving of the forum has been located by excavation at their intersection. Ancient Tragurion lies at the eastern end of the islet; this spread out in the earlier medieval period. The medieval suburb of Pasike developed to the west on a different alignment, and was enclosed by the later fortifications. The port was located on the south side. Finally, the massive Venetian fortifications incorporated the Genoese fortress known as the Camerlengo. Construction of the Cathedral of St Lawrence, built on the site of an earlier basilica and dominating the main square, began around 1200 and was added in the late 16th century. This relatively protracted period of construction has meant that successive architectural styles – Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance – are all represented. It is a three-aisled basilica, each of the aisles terminating in an apse. Inside the porch at the west end is the baptistry. Of the numerous aristocratic palaces the Cipico Palace, facing the west end of the cathedral, is the most outstanding: it consists of a complex of structures covering an entire town block. Most of it dates back to the 13th century, but some elements of buildings from the late Roman period are incorporated in it. During the 15th century the owner brought in the three most celebrated artists of the period to embellish its facade and interior. Throughout the town, and in particular round the ramparts, are the palaces of other leading families. Many of these rise directly from the foundations of late classical or Romanesque structures and are in all styles from Gothic to Baroque.
Trogir is a very charming city situated on a small island about 30 minutes up the coast from the city of Split. It falls under the category of European ‘old cities’ that would be worth visiting even if they were not world heritage sites.
While founded as a Greek colony, there is nothing left of the original Greek city save for the layout of the town. Today the remaining buildings are of a medieval or renaissance origin.
Trogir is a worthwhile stop on any trip to the Dalmatian coast. It is also a 30 minute drive from Croatia’s second biggest city, Split.
UNESCO World Heritage Site #232: The Cathedral of St James in Šibenik
From the World Heritage inscription:
The Cathedral of Šibenik is the fruitful outcome of considerable interchanges of influences between the three culturally different regions of northern Italy, Dalmatia and Tuscany in the 15th and 16th centuries. These interchanges created the conditions for unique and outstanding solutions to the technical and structural problems of constructing the cathedral vaulting and dome. The structural characteristics of the cathedral make it a unique and outstanding building in which Gothic and Renaissance forms have been successfully blended.
Šibenik is a small town on the Dalmatian coast, opening out on a bay separated from the Adriatic by the Sveti Ante (St Anthony) channel and a multitude of tiny islands. The town was founded in the 10th century by the Subic family; it consists of a labyrinth of narrow streets and small squares climbing from the level of the cathedral to the fortress at the summit of the old town. Early in the 12th century it came under the sway of the kings of Hungary, who granted its independence. In 1116 and 1378 Šibenik suffered at the hands of the Venetians. They took the town in 1412, renaming it Sebenico and holding it until the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797. The cathedral of St James owes its present appearance to three successive periods of construction between 9 April 1431, when the first stone was laid, and 1535.
Georgius Mathei Dalmaticus built the cathedral, with the exception of the nave and the aisle walls, by assembling slabs of stone and the contiguous sections of pilaster and ribbing using a particular technique for the joints. The roofing of the aisles, as well as that of the apses and the dome, is made from stone ’tiles’. These roofing tiles are laid side by side with their horizontal edges overlapping, and the joints are made by the perfect fit. On the dome the tiles are held in place by stone wedges fitted with great precision and are inserted into the ribs as into a portcullis. This type of construction could well have taken its inspiration from shipbuilding, or from the experience of many artists whose first trade was the working of wood as joiners, cabinet-makers, or model makers. The solution adopted for the cathedral at Šibenik was made possible by the outstanding quality of the stone used, which came from the stone quarries of Veselje, on the island of Brac, which are still in operation to this day.
St. James’ Cathedral isn’t the grandest or most beautiful cathedral in Europe let alone Croatia. It’s inclusion on the world heritage list seems out of place compared to other great and historic cathedrals which have been listed.
The real reason I think St. James Cathedral is on the world heritage list is its method of construction. There was no mortar used in the walls. The stones were carefully cut and stacked without anything holding them together.
There are several great world heritage sites in Croatia. However, I don’t think St. James’ Cathedral is one of them. If you are in Šibenik or driving down the Dalmatian coast it is worth a visit (you can probably experience the whole in the 15 minutes) but only the hardcore world heritage site fan is probably going to find it of interest.