Our second day in Split we split, get it split (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) our time between the city’s amazing beaches and Diocletian’s Palace. I’d love to share photos of the gorgeous beach we had recommended to us by our host, but instead we took the day to just live in the moment swimming and snorkeling. Another reason we kept our cameras tucked away in our bag was that the only available sand was directly next to the nude beach divide, and to be respectful to them we skipped any photo ops. Truthfully, you probably wouldn’t want to see a photo of a 65yr old man bent over with his bum facing you to lay out his towel anyway….
After the beach and a quick shower we took off on foot again to see more of the remaining complex that was once Diocletian’s Palace. We knew that we wanted to go inside the St. Dominus Cathedral as this was originally built as the final resting spot for Diocletian, but later “repurposed” by the Christians as a Cathedral after they chucked his remains out like last week’s dinner. This is where that whole persecuting Christians thing came back around to bite him in the arse. A fascinating blend of 3rd Century Roman architecture with some of the original carvings still in place, including a likeness of Diocletian himself that you can see in the featured image, hang above the now highly religious Catholic paraphernalia below. Consecrated in the 7th century it is said to be the oldest Catholic Cathedral in the world that has been used consecutively without major renovation. As with all things you do have to pay to enter and you can include a climb to the top of the bell tower in with the cost of admission if you want a birds eye view of the city and harbor. Both tickets includes entrance into the Temple of Jupiter. Being rather tired from our morning of swimming we opted to skip the tower and just explore the Cathedral.
The interior of the Cathedral is small, which isn’t surprising given its age. More or less two rooms with a passage between them it feels almost claustrophobic when it is packed with tour groups. Which we came to realize it almost always is. During the 30mins we were inside we witnessed four tour groups pass through, and we even got pinned in by one group so we couldn’t exit the building. While I do recommend going inside, be aware that it is cramped. Small spaces aside it was absolutely beautiful and stunning to see the level of skill by the Romans. The carvings around the dome are so detailed and intricate it is hard to believe human hands made them. In addition to the adornments on the walls, you’ll also find no shortage of niches in the floor and lower reaches of the walls where Croatians of old now rest. My particular favorite was a knight in full armor carved into the wall niche.
Having had enough of the crowds we took off to the Temple of Jupiter, turned Baptismal of John. The Temple is another part of the Palace Complex that was built by Diocletian as he thought himself to be the son of the god Jupiter. As the Emperor is often viewed to be divine or a descendent of the gods it isn’t a surprise that Diocletian decided to link his lineage to Jupiter, the “shining father” who is the god of light and the sky, in addition to being protector of the state and its laws. Seeing as how Diocletian was crucial in revamping the state and laws of the Empire he chose fittingly. However we all know that pagan things had to go once the Romans converted to Christianity so the Temple was transitioned into a baptismal instead. Today you can see the mix of the two beautifully as Roman carvings stare down at you from the ceiling while a rather bizarre statue of John beckons you to enter the cross-shaped font inside. The statue is the newest addition to the place as it was created by Ivan Meštrović, a renowned Croatian sculptor of the 20th Century. The font alone is worth a look as it gives you a very clear picture of societal ranking back in the 11th Century when it was added to the Temple. Here the king and his bishops are literally on top of his subjects. Guess the peasantry really was the foundation of a kingdom. Outside the temple is another black onyx sphinx that you can actually touch, which as I’ve previously mentioned made me lose my shiz for a minute. For more photos check the Gallery.
After the Cathedral and Temple we decided to call it a day but not before stopping at the Get More Souvenir Store. Tucked back in a tiny side alley between the two is this unassuming little gift shop that is a great place to snag a little something to remember your time in Split. The pieces are all handmade by local Croatians and are absolutely whimsical. They have jewelry made from the local coral that washes up on the beaches, driftwood art pieces, metal workings, ceramics, and more. We talked with the owner for a bit as we looked around and learned that she made the driftwood stuff, and that she and her husband hand built all of the shelves inside the store. I loved it and couldn’t leave without a pair of the earrings. With that it was time to return to our apartment for the night as we had to leave early the next day to get the rental car back to Dubrovnik.