• Ivica Profaca

Medieval Miniature Gem

There is one thing you need to know about Split. Wherever you look, or step, you will find something that deserve (or at least locals think it deserves it) being described with a sentence beginning with "the most..." And than goes "beautiful", "oldest", "famous", whichever epithet comes to mind.

In this race for greatness, however, the one can find somewhat strange extremes. Let's say, church of Saint Martin. It's a hidden gem, tiny church set inside the northern wall of the Diocletian's Palace, just above the main Palace's gate usually known as Golden Gate. It's a place even many locals don't know about. Inside the corridor once belonged to the Roman guardhouse there is a jewel only 1.64 meters wide and 10 meters long. It's hard even to notice it if you don't know about it. The only sign of this church looking from outside are miniature windows barely visible from the inner yard of the Golden Gate.

This church' importance exceeds its size. Saint Martin was built inside the guards' corridor in the fifth or sixth century, and it might be the oldest church built inside the Diocletian's Palace. Church was originally dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and pope Gregory. However, the most important art piece in Saint Martin's comes from some time later, the age of Croatian Duke Trpimir's rule in the 9th century. It's a 9th century architrave with carved names of Trpimir's chaplains Dominic and Martin.

Adjacent Dominican monastery was abandoned after the medieval Black Death epidemic, and this church was forgotten for centuries. Only in the late 1800s archaeologist and priest father Frane Bulić rediscovered it and started its complete reconstruction. During excavations he even discovered a grave of Saint Martin's builder, chaplain Dominic.

There is another Saint Martin's feature I love a lot. When you are standing inside, a peek through small windows gives you completely new prospective of the nearby monument of Gregory of Nin. Same goes with the cathedral's bell tower when you look south. Two beautiful and completely different view, and all you need are to turn on one side or another. Not to mention this is all happening within the walls of 1,700 years old Roman emperor's palace. Beat that, if you can.

How to visit Saint Martin's? You can enter it from the Majstora Jurja Street, through the Dominican nuns' monastery. In the summer, church is open in the morning and in the afternoon, admission is 10 kunas. You can find entrance on the map here, just climb up these stairs.

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