Sunday, March 16, 2014

104. Emperor Diocletian's Palace

Diocletian's Palace was built by the roman Emperor Diocletian at the turn of the fourth century AD, and today forms the historic core of the city of Split. Diocletian built the massive palace in preparation for his retirement on 1 May 305 AD. 

The Palace as it may have looked in 305AD

As the area is today - what remains of the palace walls 
can be seen as a rough square in the centre of the image ...
... ( both images from Wikipedia ) ...

After 20 years serving the Roman Empire as a tetrarchy emperor ( he shared the title and the duties with two other emperors - his life is an interesting read - look him up on Wikipedia ... ) Diocletian resigned as emperor and retired to his massive palace. He lived here for three more years, spending his days tending his palace gardens. He saw his tetrarchic system fail, torn by the selfish ambitions of his successors, and deep in despair and illness, Diocletian may have committed suicide - he died on 3 December in the year 311 AD.

The Palace is built of white local limestone and marble of high quality, and was decorated with numerous 3500 year old granite sphinxes - originating from the site of Egyptian Pharaoh Thutmose II. Only three have survived the centuries. One is still located on the Peristyle, the second sits headless in front of Jupiter's temple, and a third is in the city museum.

The four walls of the original complex have - over the centuries - pretty much disappeared with the construction of houses and businesses. Each wall originally had a massive gate giving entry into the complex, and here I have photo-navigated the perimeter ...

The South Wall ...
facing the bay 

South-east corner ...

Riva ( boardwalk ) - now the haunt of locals and tourists

the Brass Gate

South-west corner ...

After the Romans abandoned the site, the Palace remained empty for several centuries. In the 7th century, nearby residents fled to the walled palace in an effort to escape invading Slavs. Since then the palace has been occupied, with residents making their homes and businesses within the palace basement and directly in its walls. 

The West Wall ...



The Iron Gate



After the Middle Ages the palace was virtually unknown in the West until the Scottish architect Robert Adam had the ruins surveyed and published Ruins of the Palace of the Emperor Diocletian at Spalatro in Dalmatia (London, 1764). 

The North Wall ...

North-west corner



The Golden Gate


North-east corner

The palace is today - together with all the most important historical buildings - in the centre of the old city of Split. Here the tourists and the locals wander the limestone paved narrow laneways that weave thier way in and out of the the residential buildings, boutique hotels, cafes, up-market shops and museums.

The East Wall ...

 

The Silver Gate ...


The Palace is one of the most famous and complete architectural and cultural features on the Croatian Adriatic coast, and one of the world's most complete remains of a Roman palace. In November 1979 UNESCO, in line with the international convention on cultural and natural heritage, adopted a proposal that the historic city of Split built around the Palace should be included in the register of World Cultural Heritage. 

... and inside those four walls 
is a maze of laneways and open squares ...


Diocletian's Mausoleum - 
now the Cathedral of St Domnius  





The ground plan of the palace is an irregular rectangle (approximately 160 meters x 190 meters) with towers projecting from the western, northern, and eastern facades. It combines qualities of a luxurious villa with those of a military camp, with its huge gates and watchtowers. The palace is enclosed by walls, and at times, it housed over 9000 people.




In November 2006 the City Council decided to permit over twenty new buildings within the palace (including a shopping and underground garage complex), despite the fact that the palace had been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Monument. It is said that this decision was politically motivated and largely due to lobbying by local property developers. Once the public in 2007 came aware of the project, they petitioned against the decision and won. No development took place within the ancient walls ...





The World Monuments Fund has been working on a conservation project at the palace, including surveying structural integrity and cleaning and restoring the stone and plaster-work. On my wanderings I came across a group of students painstakingly removing centuries of concrete and rubble to bring to life an ancient Roman mosaic ...



the narrowest lane in the Palace ...

washday !!! ...



It was fun documenting the walls - and I hope I have been correct in my description and layout !!! The laneways were fairly busy with people on this weekday as I paced the pavements trying to avoid flashing my camera in the faces of other pedestrians - I can just imagine how crowded they must become during the summer tourist invasion ...