Visiting the Diocletian Palace in Split, Croatia
Listing all buildings that are among the most fascinating in the world, Diocletian Palace should be among them. Because of its great beauty and historical values, Palace was listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979.
According to its dimensions and level of preservation, the Palace represents the most valuable example of Roman architecture on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea.
Diocletian chose this place to build a palace because he was born in Salona. With almost rectangular walls (215m x 206m), the palace’s shape is somewhat like a military camp, so called castrum.
Two main streets, Cardo and Decumanus, dominate the interior structure and lead to many points of interest.
Though it was originally built as the Emperor’s residence, nobody, even the emperor himself, could not imagine how much life would remain inside the palace so many years (1.700) after his death.
The year of beginning of the Palace construction was not exactly established but it’s presumed that it could be around 295 AD , in preparation for his retirement in 305 AD.
The basic material for this retirement residence of Diocletian was the limestone and marble of high quality, most of which was from Brac marble quarries (the same used in White House construction) on the island of Brac and from Seget near Trogir.
Diocletian Palace Gates
There are four different gates or access points to enter Split’s historic core, all named after four different metals.
Bronze or Brass Gate
Probably the best starting point to enter the Palace will be from Bronze Gate. Originally this southern gate was facing the sea and the only gate suitable for sailing ships.
Today it’s the gate you enter from Riva promenade located somewhere in the middle palace’s southern walls. Bronze Gate leads to the palace basement, underground cellars, where you can stroll around exhibitions, craft or souvenirs stands.
Entering through this gate, the place cellars extend all the way to the steps from the Bronze Gate toward the steps that will lead you to the Peristyle, the palace’s main square.
Inside the palace basement, there is a map showing you a whole plan, not just the basement but the whole structure of the palace.
The Silver Gate can be accessed from the eastern walls of the palace. This is the busiest entrance to the palace.
This gate is the main passage that leads to/rom the Pazar (green market), the most popular Split city belly.
Silver gate is very close to Split ferry port and many tourist after doing some shopping, usually use the gate to enter the palace.
The Silver Gate leads directly to Decumanus street (today Kresimirova street), the original east-west street that intersects with Cardo, the original north-south artery, at the Peristyle square.
Entering the Silver gate you can walk all the way to the western gate, called Iron gate or more commonly ‘gate under the clock‘.
Entrance from the west to Diocletian Palace is possible only through the Iron Gate, usually called ‘entrance under the clock’.
Above the door was built the church of Our Lady of the belfry, whose bell tower from the 11th century is the oldest preserved bell tower on the Adriatic coast.
In the Middle Ages this gate were called “free port” because it was the only one that was not closed when the city expanded westward. Iron Gate leads to Pjaca (People’s Square), which is a favorite meeting place of the citizens and tourists.
In the 17th century existence, the Iron Gate is the only Diocletian palace gate that has been in function since its construction.
A special attraction is the city clock with 24 figures. Immediately next to the gate there is one of the most beautiful patrician palaces of the family Cipriani Benedetti, famous for two special six arched windows.
The Golden Gate is the northern entrance, the main entrance to Diocletian palace that led directly from Peristyle via Cardo street to Salona – the capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia.
The gate had been decorated with statues of the Emperor Diocletian and his co-regent Maximilian, in the upper row of the niches, and with sculpture of an eagle a symbol of Jupiter, between two statues.
Emperor Diocletian walked through this gate as he entered the Palace on the 1st of June 305 and used to be the gate only for the emperor and the members of his family.
Today exiting through this gate,you will face the nearby monument of the Bishop Gregius of Nin (Grgur Ninski), the work of a great Croatian sculptor Ivan Mestrovic, one of the favorite Split tourist spots.
Heart of Diocletian Palace
This 17 centuries old palace has been always considered as a city within a city. As every city it has its nucleus point; in case of this palace is the palace’s central piazza, called Peristil (Peristyle).
This is the core of the Diocletian’s palace framed by two colonnades with the sphinxes, vestibule, the imposing Cathedral of St. Domnius and Diocletian’s mausoleum.
- Vestibule – The entrance to Diocletian’s living quarters. Vestibule is a kind of anteroom for only purpose to prepare the visitors for meeting emperor.
- Prothyron – The frontal facade of Peristyle, the entrance into royal chambers led through Prothyron and then through the vestibule.
- Cathedral and Bell Tower of St. Domnius – To the east of Peristyle there is Cathedral of St.Domnius, the symbol of Split town. St Domnius (Sveti Duje, local name) was the first bishop of Salona, and in his honor was erected magnificent cathedral with a bell tower 60 meters high, built in the 13th century.
- Emperor Diocletian’s Sphinxes – While admiring the Peristyle square you’ll notice the black granite sphinx. Unfortunately, it’s the only one survived of twelve sphinxes Diocletian brought from Egypt.
- Temple of Jupiter and ‘Let me pass’ street – Diocletian palace used to have three temples, Jupiter, the temple of Venus and the temple of Cybele. The only one existing today is temple of Jupiter, located in western part of the palace, opposite to the Emperor’s Mausoleum.
- The narrowest street called ‘Let mi pass, please’ (in Croatian ‘pustime da prodjem’) that you can use from Peristyle Square to reach the temple of Jupiter.
- Palaces inside the Diocletian palace – During the rich and turbulent history of Split long more than 17 centuries, many noble families and distinguished citizens built their residencies inside and outside the Diocletian palace walls.
- St. Martin’s Church – There are some Split attractions that many tourist, will not even notice it. On of them is this tiny church of St.Martin (located above the Golden Gate), the smallest and one of the oldest churches in Split, only 1.64 m wide and 10 m long.
Diocletian palace – Video Walking tour