Disneyland, California – Fun for Kids, but What About Adults?

I’ll be honest. I didn’t expect to love my Disneyland adventure. This was my first experience with a Disney park. As a child, I had never gone, and as an adult I expected it to be fun for the children. While I expected my children to love the trip, I didn’t expect that I would treasure my time there. I did expect to have fun, but I thought there would be parts of the trip I had to endure.

I was wrong.

I could not have been more wrong.  As a parent, Disneyland was amazing – absolutely amazing.  It might actually be the happiest place on earth, for children and adults alike. My smile was anything but forced, and I was sad to say goodbye when we left. The rides were fun, the cast members (what they call all their employees) were beyond helpful and kind, and even the food was fantastic. I loved the detail and thought they clearly put into every moment of our experience. Each minute I was there, I felt like I was experiencing the work of master artists.
Disneyland, California – Fun for Kids, but What About Adults?Disneyland, California – Fun for Kids, but What About Adults?Disneyland, California – Fun for Kids, but What About Adults?

Disney California adventure goofy
Goofy’s Silly Symphony combined classical music, water, and humor.

When to Go

happy holidays it's a small world rideWe went in early December. This was clearly the off-season which worked to our advantage. The lines to many lines were nonexistent. The times we did have to wait, our wait was minimal. There were some rides we were able to ride multiple times in a row.

One of our children is in preschool, the other is homeschooled so going to Disneyland during the school year was not a problem. However, if our children were in school I would not hesitate to pull them out for a week to take them to Disneyland. The school might call that “unexcused” but I would call it valuable family time. I think that family time should occasionally trump school, especially when assignments can be made up.

Christmas at Disneyland

Disneyland at Christmas time is incredible. Everywhere you turn is festivity! They even redo the “It’s a Small World” ride to incorporate Christmas decorations. Santa Claus was on hand, and there was no mall visit required! While there was an official photographer there, and with the characters, we were encouraged to take our own photos as well.

The days were a tad chilly for Southern California, but we popped on our windbreakers and were very comfortable. Two of our days there we had beautiful clear skies. The third day was overcast and threatened to be a rare day of showers, but it never did more than a sprinkle.

I would definitely suggest this time if you can swing it! We felt the combination of off-season and Christmas time made for the best experience possible. However, having not visited Disneyland previously we are only going with my husband’s experiences visiting Disney World in the summer and second-hand reports of long lines at the rides during peak season.

Things at Which Disneyland Excels

Four year old Luke was able to do/ride everything he wanted!

One thing is catering to the smaller child. In many of the places, we’ve visited, the height requirements for most of the rides preclude my 42″ inch average sized four and a half year old from riding them.

But Disneyland clearly had kids his age in mind. The majority of rides and activities were open to him at his size. He got his first real experiences with roller coasters at Disneyland, and he absolutely loved them. It was one of the sweetest bonding experiences I’ve ever seen between him and my husband. A mutual love of roller coasters realized at a young age! I know this will shape their relationship and they are already talking about their next trip to an amusement park.

Princess Brave at Disneyland signing autographsWe also found out that my daughter is not a fan of roller coasters. After the first one we tried, my son was jumping up and down jabbering out words that would be roughly translated as “again, let’s do that again!” My daughter looked me in the eye and emphatically said: “I am NOT okay.” There were even hand gestures to further drive her point home. That was not a problem! While dad and Luke ran off to fulfill a need for speed, Claire and I rode the milder rides and had a blast. Disney covered everyone.

Disneyland also has the most consistently great customer service I’ve ever encountered. The cast members got down to the kid’s level to talk to them, and never talked down to them. They were kind and respectful when we dealt with them, and they went above and beyond in each exchange we had.

How to Keep the Expense Down

For most vacation budgets, Disneyland is higher than average. It is easy to argue that a visit to Disneyland is worth the expense.  But even when you are sold on the merits of Disneyland, you are probably looking to find ways to keep the expenses down.  Unless you are a princess like these, of course!

We tend to cook our own food to help keep expenses down. If this is the plan, make sure and check what your hotel room offers. For instance, we had a minifridge but no microwave. We found the breakfast offerings in the park to be limited. A good way to save would be having breakfast in your room before hitting the parks.

There are also lots of places for children to spy cool toys they want to take home with them. We flew, so despite having a budget to think of, we also needed to make sure everything could fit in the suitcases. I made a deal with the kids. I would buy them an autograph book, and they could choose one toy to get. That cut down a lot on the begging. Claire chose a Brave Doll. Luke really wanted Hulk Hands (yes.. they are green foam hands that look like Hulk’s). We couldn’t figure out how to get them in our luggage due to the size, and having him wear them on a plane ride didn’t seem prudent. I mean, how many passengers want to sit by a kid saying “Hulk Smash!” and banging on things? So he asked Santa for the Hulk Hands (and he delivered!).  For his one item, he settled on a Mickey Mouse Sorcerer hat. He loves that hat and wears frequently.

Luke enjoying another set of Hulk Hands at the Lego store in Downtown Disney.

Where to Splurge

Disneyland Hotel CaliforniaStaying at one of the three Disneyland hotels on property. One of the largest benefits is accessibility. You walk out the door of the hotel and you are in Downtown Disney, mere steps from both Disneyland and California Adventure. This enhances everyone’s experience, and it keeps you from wasting time commuting from an offsite partner hotel.

We also had a fantastic view of the fireworks from our hotel room at the Disneyland Hotel. One thing I will remember always was getting the kids back to the room, getting on their pajamas and laying down on the floor and watching the fireworks at night. We didn’t have to worry about missing them even though our little ones were tired out!

Staying at Disneyland hotels on property also affords you the luxury of Magic Hour. Each day, one of the parks opens an hour early for the hotel guests. This was AWESOME! We were able to rush to the rides that usually had notoriously long lines and ride them first. Our wait time was minimized, and we could experience more rides during the day. At Disneyland, we headed directly towards Fantasyland and at California Adventure we made a bee-line towards the new Cars Land.

A character meal, if your child has a favorite, might be a place to splurge. This is my one Disneyland regret. My daughter missed seeing Ariel at Disneyland, and she was heartbroken. Ariel is definitely her favorite. We should have splurged for a character dinner at Ariel’s Grotto at California Adventure to make sure it happened. I think she’ll remember this disappointment, and I wish I would have chosen differently with this expense.

Just a portion of our 180 degree view at the historic Disneyland Hotel.

Bottom Line on Disneyland

It was a trip that will remain vivid in our minds for our lifetimes. It was a great experience as a family, and the time we spent together at Disneyland helped our family become closer. We found that we liked California Adventure slightly better than Disneyland, but both were experiences we will treasure. I think we will return to either Disneyland or try out Disney World at some point in the future. We highly recommend a trip to Disneyland with your children during their childhood.  You’ll all have fun, I promise!

Disclosure: We were a guest of Disney during our visit to Disneyland, Disneyland Hotel, and Disney California Adventure.  Despite their hospitality, my views are my own and I make all editorial decisions on this and all other articles on this site.

Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian

Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian UNESCO World Heritage Site

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.

Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian

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.

Overview

Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian

The Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian is a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site in Croatia inscribed in 1979. It is recognized as both an urban and archaeological monument in Croatia. This site comprises structures and buildings that were used mostly during the times of the Romans in Croatia. In fact, the history of the site dates back to the 3rd century AD. It was during this time when Roman Emperor Diocletian built his palace in Split. He spent the rest of the years of his life living in this palace after he abdicated it in 305.

Today, the Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian forms half of the town of Split. It is also commonly referred to as “the palace” among locals and tourists alike. It is also a popular tourist destination among the visitors to Split.

About the Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian

Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian

The Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian is at the heart of a city’s remarkable history. Since it was named a World Heritage Site in 1979, it has been under the protection of UNESCO in an effort to preserve the historical and cultural heritage of the city of Split.

Split is considered as the unofficial capital of Dalmatia. Despite its beautiful townscape, it has had a turbulent history. This history and the structures that were formed for several centuries are one of the highlights that attracted millions of visitors. However, the Diocletian’s Palace is the heart of this city and the main feature of this UNESCO site.

Diocletian’s Palace

Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian

As mentioned earlier, the Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian features the ancient palace at the heart of it. This ancient palace was built in the 4th century AD by the Roman Emperor Diocletian. This palace covered a total land area of about 30,000 square meters. It featured a rectangular plan and is surrounded by thick, towering walls. In fact, it covers about half of the old town of Split.

Even though it is commonly referred to as the “palace” and was used by the Emperor as the retirement residence, it is actually more of a fortress. About half of the palace is used for personal purposes while the other half served as a military garrison. When the Romans abandoned the palace, it sat empty for several centuries.

During the 7th century, the abandoned palace became the refuge for the residents that fled the invading Croats. Since then, the residents continued to flock to the area near and within the palace itself. They have built homes and businesses in the region. In fact, you will still find some of these homes, shops, and other structures near the palace and within its walls. It remains as historically one of the most important buildings in Split. It is also a dominant architectural and cultural feature along the Adriatic Coast. In fact, it is the most complete remain from a Roman palace anywhere in the world.


View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Croatia.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Ignorance, Fear and Travel

This is NOT Chechnya
This is NOT Chechnya
As I travel around the world I get to talk to a wide range of people. As you would expect, many of them have some affiliation with the travel and tourism industry. I speak to tour guides, representatives of national tour boards, waitresses, hotel managers and even the cleaning staff.

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.

Continue reading “Ignorance, Fear and Travel”

Stari Grad Plain

Stari Grad Plain UNESCO World Heritage Site, Croatia

From the World Heritage inscription:

Stari Grad Plain represents a comprehensive system of land use and agricultural colonization by the Greeks, in the 4th century BC. Its land organization 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 colonizers 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 organization is that of the Greek colonization.

The Greek cadastral system has been fully respected during the continued 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.

Stari Grad Plain

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 outbuildings 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.

Overview

Stari Grad Plain

Stari Grad Plain is a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site in Croatia. It was inscribed in 2008 and is located within the Split-Dalmatica County. This UNESCO site is an agricultural landscape on the island of Hvar. It was developed during the 4th century BC by the ancient Greek colonists. To this day, this agricultural landscape is still in use.

It was the 7th location from Croatia to be named into the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list. Its original form is generally still. The ancient layout of the agricultural landscape is preserved to this day. For these reasons, it is considered of significant cultural value by UNESCO.

About Stari Grad Plain

Stari Grad Plain

The Stari Grad Plain in Croatia exhibits how the ancient Greeks conducted their agricultural activity during the ancient time. Given that archaeologists trace back the history of this agricultural landscape to the 4th century BC, it provides an important glimpse into the agricultural system used during that time.

The installation of stone walls around the Stari Grad Plain can be attributed to the excellent level of preservation of the site. These walls have been around for 24 centuries. There are also stone shelters built near or around the Stari Grad Plain and they are known as trims. The water collection system of the agricultural site is also notable for being advanced for its time. This water collection system is equipped with a rainwater recovery system that uses gutters and storage cisterns in order to collect water that can later be used for the site’s irrigation system. This is one of the most unique sites to exhibit the ancient Greek system of agriculture.

Stari Grad Plain

The fields of Stari Grad Plain continue to produce a wide range of crops such as grapes and olives. This explains why the site was also named as a natural reserve in order to continue its ability to grow these crops. Hence, what you will find today at this UNESCO site is a continuation of the agricultural system that was used at this same site for many centuries ago.

For this reason, the Stari Grad Plain is also known as a Cultural Good of Croatia.


View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Croatia.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Photo Adventure : Wupatki National Monument, Arizona

When I was in Europe, it was amazing to me how much history was in every turn.  Churches were centuries old and some homes had been used for generations upon generations.  That is a very different experience than I have in America.  We’re a young country, and our history is young history.  Of course, our nation’s history doesn’t begin with the Europeans.  The Native Americans were here first, and have rich traditions as old as the ones I observed in Europe.  However, a lot of their buildings were created to be temporary and easily moved to fit tribes’ lifestyles.

The exceptions are the cliff dwellers and pueblo builders of the Southwest.  We were able to see homes built by both, but by far my favorite stop was Wupatki National Monument.  Located somewhat near Flagstaff, it is a great stop between Sedona and the Grand Canyon.  It is really two National Park Service sites in one because it is right next door to Sunset Crater Volcano – which is historically significant.

Wupatki means “Tall House” in Hopi, and it really was.  The Sinagua pueblo was multi-story and had more than 100 rooms and was first inhabited around 500 AD.  After Sunset Crater erupted sometime between 1040 and 1100, the rich soil probably improved the growing potential of the desert soil, and an influx of people brought the number of inhabitants to about 100.  But by 1225, the site was completely abandoned – probably the result of another eruption of Sunset Crater.

Today, Wupatki National Monument takes care of several pueblos in the area of varying size and state of ruin.  It is amazing to me that these people with no visible water source were able to make a home in such an inhospitable environment.  It is a site I highly recommend for all travelers – including families with children.  While my kids haven’t started an in-depth study of Native American history, it was very beneficial for them to see a home very different from their own.

The largest pueblo site is the Wupatki ruins. They are located next to the visitor’s center.
The Wupatki pueblo also contains a ball court.
The construction was pretty impressive. Hard to imagine the ruins are so very old.
A lot of the surrounding sand is black and is volcanic in origin. Sunset Crater Volcano NM is right next door.
Looking beside the pueblo, it is easy to see where the construction materials came from.
wupatki national monument arizona
Overlooking the entire Wupatki pueblo site. It is more expansive than you expect.
wupatki national monument arizona
The other significant ruin is the Wukoki pueblo, a short drive from the main site.
wupatki national monument arizona
You can actually climb on the Wukoki Pueblo. I imagine the view hasn’t changed much over time.
wupatki national monument arizona
The pueblo looks tremendous in the golden light of near-sunset.
Wukoki Pueblo - Wupatki National Monument
We drove by the Wukoki pueblo a second time during our trip, this time with a storm approaching.
Wukoki Pueblo - Wupatki National Monument
Such a gorgeous historical site in the Arizona desert!

Historic City of Trogir

Historic City of Trogir UNESCO World Heritage Site Croatia

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.

Historic City of Trogir

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 to 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.

Overview

Historic City of Trogir

The Historic City of Trogir is a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site in Croatia. It is located within the Split-Dalmatia County and was inscribed in 1997 during the 21st session of UNESCO. Trogir is located on an island that is right between the mainland and the island of Ciovo. The historical core of the city is one of the reasons why it earned the recognition from UNESCO. When you walk around the historic town and its streets, it feels like you are stepping back into time.

Trogir is also a harbor town. It is located along the coast of the Adriatic Sea and has a population count of about 11,000 people. It is also a popular tourist attraction; in fact, tourism forms a large part of its economy. There are over 20,000 hotels, apartments, and accommodation in the city.

About the Historic City of Trogir

Historic City of Trogir

The Historic City of Trogir is filled with houses, structures, and buildings that have preserved its influences from the past. In the 3rd century BC, the town was under the rule of Greek colonists. It developed into a bustling port by the time of the Romans. From there, the city underwent a period of various rulers. All of these influences have embedded itself into the cultural identity of the city. Hence, exploring the Historic City of Trogir will give you a glimpse into these influences, which is most evident in the architectural and urban landscape of the city.

With over 2,300 years of history, the Historic City of Trogir features influences from ancient Greeks, Romans, and Venetians. It has a high level of concentration of important buildings such as palaces, towers, churches, and fortresses. It also features an octagonal street plan that is reminiscent of the settlement type during the Hellenistic period. Meanwhile, the buildings here feature Renaissance, Romanesque, and Baroque architecture.

Historic City of Trogir

The Historic City of Trogir is considered as the best preserved Romanesque-Gothic complex in Central Europe, not just within Croatia. In fact, its medieval core within the historic center still has the preserved castles, medieval walls, towers, and dwellings intact until today. The Church of St. Lawrence is the most notable structure within the Historic City of Trogir. Below are a few of the other notable sites and attractions within the city’s historical core:

  • Duke’s Palace (from the 13th century)
  • 17th century city gate
  • 15th century city walls
  • 13th Cathedral of St. Lawrence
  • 15th century city loggia
  • 15th century palaces Cipiko
  • 15th century Fortress Kamerlengo
  • Statue of St. John of Trogir

With its history, the Historic City of Trogir is therefore considered as the best example of urban continuity. It has absorbed all of the influences from its rulers to form a unique landscape that makes Trogir such an exciting tourist destination today. The fact that it is a fortified island town is partly responsible for its remarkable state of preservation for its cultural heritage.


Visit my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Croatia.

Visit my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The Cathedral of St James in Šibenik

The Cathedral of St James in Šibenik World Heritage Site

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.

The Cathedral of St James in Šibenik

St. James’ Cathedral isn’t the grandest or most beautiful cathedral in Europe let alone Croatia. Its 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.

Overview

The Cathedral of St James in Šibenik

The Cathedral of St James in Šibenik is a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site in Croatia. Inscribed in 2000, this Roman Catholic Church features Renaissance style architecture. It is the seat of the Diocese of Šibenik. The groundbreaking for the church took place in 1431 but it was completed in 1536.

Aside from being recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, The Cathedral of St James in Šibenik is the largest and most important structure from Dalmatia’s Gothic-Renaissance period. The cathedral was built to honor Saint James the Greater. It is also recognized as a Cultural Good of Croatia.

About The Cathedral of St James in Šibenik

The Cathedral of St James in Šibenik

The Cathedral of St James in Šibenik is notable as a UNESCO site because this Gothic-Renaissance church was built entirely out of stone. The church took over a century to complete from the time of its groundbreaking as it was built in three phases. During these three phases, there were also three architects who worked on building this church.

When The Cathedral of St James in Šibenik was first built, it followed the Venetian Gothic style. The master builder Juraj Dalmatinac was the one who initially started to work on the church. He had dedicated his life into the building and designing this church until he passed away in 1473. He started the basic monumental plan for The Cathedral of St James in Šibenik. He was responsible for designing the domes, transept, baptistery, and the sacristy.

But when two other architects stepped in – Georgius Mathei Dalmaticus and Niccola di Giovanni Fiorentino – they incorporated purely Renaissance architectural details into it. The characteristic sculptures were also added to the building. The slabs of stones that were used for constructing The Cathedral of St James in Šibenik were taken from the island of Brac. The same set of stones was also used for making the dome of the church.

The key features of The Cathedral of St James in Šibenik on the exterior side include the western façade. It is richly decorated with Gothic elements, particularly the two rose windows. The structure of the roof complements the elegant façade beautifully. The nave and lateral aisles also feature a barrel roof. Another notable feature on the exterior side is the Lion’s Portal. The church’s long north façade features two flanking columns that are supported by lions. The columns also depict the figures of Adam and Eve. Finally, the church’s exterior feature 71 life-sized sculpted heads. They depict a wide range of subjects like soldiers, fishermen, peasants, and old men, to name a few.

Within the cathedral, there are several notable features as well such as the decorative frieze, 15th-century wooden crucifix, the baptistery, and the elegant balustrade. When you explore the domed vault as well, you will find several Gothic-Renaissance stone ornaments.

During the Second World War, The Cathedral of St James in Šibenik experienced massive damage. The fighting in 1991 also caused significant damage to the church. There have been numerous repair and reconstruction works done on the church over the years. The goal of these reconstructions is to carry out the original model and techniques of the church.


View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Croatia.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.