Looking for some interesting facts about Split Croatia? Split is the heart of Central Dalmatia and a unique case of a town that evolved around Emperor Diocletian’s Palace: one of today’s 10 UNESCO monuments of Croatia.
These 60 amazing facts about Split’s history, architecture, local lifestyle, and culture will convince you that Split is a place worth discovering!
1.A water well was found in 1959 in Emperor Diocletian’s Palace basements
You’re probably wondering: what’s the special thing about that? Well, it’s much older than the Palace itself: Conclusion? Someone was definitely here way before Diocletian moved to his retirement villa in 305 A.D. Scholars assume it might be the usual suspects of the era: the Greeks! But no real evidence has been found till now!
2.Tabula Peutingeriana is a 12-13th century copy of the original ancient map
displaying the complete network of Roman roads. But apart from studying Roman roads, it’s pretty cool to see the name Spalato on the map as well! This is how the Romans called Split back in the day!
3.Diocletian was by no means some noble aristocrat!
He was a son of an ex-slave of Illyrian origin, and before becoming Roman Emperor his name was Diocles: a typical Greek name from that era.
4.Diocletian issued an Edict that launched the beginning of the harshest
persecutions of Christianity the Roman Empire had ever seen. Thus, the name Great or Diocletianic Persecutions of 303 A.D.
5.During the same period, Diocletian orders a 9 km long aqueduct
to be erected, supplying his retirement Palace with fresh water from Jadro River. This ancient aqueduct is used to supply Split with running water even today!
6.The Palace of Split is literally built on top of natural hot Sulphur springs!
We are talking about a concentration of over 70 springs all found around the nearly 3 hectare area of the Palace! That’s why when strolling down the Riva waterfront you can sometimes mistake Sulphur scent for rotten egg smell!
7.It’s believed that during the early Middle Ages the locals smashed and
intentionally destroyed many of the ancient pagan Roman artifacts of the Palace, wanting to get rid of literally anything that reminded them of the Great Persecutions…. that’s why the Sphinx in front of the so called ‘’Small Temple’’ is… beheaded!
8.Speaking of Sphinxes!
The one at the Peristyle – the ancient main square of the Palace- surely catches everyone’s eye! But not everyone realizes, that she was brought to Split from Egypt as Diocletian’s war trophy back in 297 A.D., along with other 12 Sphinxes! The black granite Sphinx of the Peristyle is the only one left intact to this day!
9.It is said that the late antiquity Palace of Split was initially decorated with
over 300 colorful columns! They were made of super expensive materials like marbles and granites coming from all over the Empire!
10. At only 5 km distance northeast of Split there are some amazing Roman
ruins you should definitely consider visiting! It’s what’s left from Salona: the capital city of the Roman Province of Dalmatia!
11.Even after Diocletian’s death, intriguing things keep on happening in Split:
Someone is assassinated inside the Palace! But that someone is not just anyone: he is the last de jure western Roman Emperor Julius Nepos! He was most probably poisoned by his own soldiers in 480 A.D.
12.But that’s not all: Can you imagine the Palace being transformed
into a factory producing and dyeing textile? Well, some scholars claim that was the case around the 5th century A.D.!
13.Split is a unique case of a former Roman residential Palace that evolved into a proper town!
In summary what happened is: Salona was sacked by Slavic and Avar forces in 640 A.D.
People who survived established their new early medieval town-SPLIT inside the Palace! Since then, it expanded into the 2nd largest city of modern-day Croatia!
14. In Split you can drink the best coffee at Luxor Café at the Peristyle
while chatting with an original Egyptian Sphinx and gazing at the oldest Cathedral in the World!
It’s considered to be among the oldest because it was built inside the ancient Roman Mausoleum of Emperor Diocletian from the late 3rd-early 4th century A.D.
15.The Bishop of Salona, St. Duje (St. Dujam)
who died as a victim of Diocletianic persecutions of 304 A.D., is the patron saint of Split .Quite an ironic twist of history, isn’t it?
16.And now an old time favorite urban legend all the way from Split:
Rubbing the toe of the giant sculpture of Grgur Ninski located in front of the Golden Gate will bring you 10 years of good luck! (although some claim it will work even for up to 20 years!)
The sculpture was made by the best Croatian artist of all times Ivan Mestrovic. You can visit his art gallery where? You’ve guessed it! In Split of course!
17.Between the 9th – 20th century 6 different foreign powers ruled Split:
Byzantium, Franks, Hungarians, Venetians, French, Austrians
18.The last Croatian King Stjepan II
the last member of Trpimirovic Dynasty was buried in ‘’Sub pinis ‘’monastery of Sustipan Park in Split in 1091.
19.Split’s Cathedral Bell Tower
was first built during the first half of the 13th century only to be completed around the 16th century
As you see, they took their time! Now wonder, in Dalmatia the lifestyle motto is ‘’pomalo!’’ meaning take your time, take it easy!
20.In 1424 The Hungarian King Bela the 4th fled to Split
and Trogir seeking shelter from the Tatars who were chasing him!
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21.And by the way Split and Trogir did not fancy each other too much
back in the middle ages! Quarrelling over frontiers was their favorite hobby!
22.Split had its own ‘’constitution’ issued already in in 1312
called the first City Statute of Split! The document is kept in the City Museum of Split
23.And at this time Split would even issue its own nominal
called ‘’Spalatin’’ or ‘’Bagatin’’
24. Believe it or not: Split was sold to Venice in 1409!
For only 100,000 ducats!
25.Baroque Split of the 17th century must have looked quite impressing
with its star-shaped city walls system protecting it from all sides! Back in the day that was the latest fashion in military architecture!
26.One of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in Europe is located in Split!
It was built in 1573 and you can visit it when exploring the Marjan hill
27.In addition, the third oldest Jewish Synagogue in Europe
can also be found in Split! Still at the same location when it was initially established
back in the 16th century: next to Pjaca Square, at the north-western part of the Palace called Ghetto.
28.Throughout the 16th and the 17th centuries
Split became one of the most prominent maritime commerce centers of the Mediterranean!
All thanks to one man: Danijel Rodrigo of Sephardic Jewish origin who convinced Venice to open a transshipping center and a ‘’Lazaret’’- quarantine- in Split’s port!
29.The quarantine system although carefully planned,
was not always efficient in preventing plagues. As a result, in 1607 epidemic Split was left with only 1400 citizens.
30.Thanks to two best buddies and neighbors many of valuable ancient artifacts of Salona were saved:
Instead of going for a beer, Marko Marulić and Dmine Papalić would spend their time gathering ancient treasures and storing them in Dmine’s home- The Grand Papalić Palace, where today’s City Museum of Split is located.
No wonder! They were top humanists of the Renaissance era in Split!
31.One of them, Marko Marulić (1450-1524)
is considered to be the father of Croatian literature! He didn’t care about the trend of his times, which was writing books predominantly in Latin. He ignored the status quo, wrote the first work in national Croatian language titled ‘’Judith’’ in 1501….and sold out!
32.The tradition says that Marko Marulić was born
in a little Palace, right opposite the City Museum of Split.
33.Split became a popular destination for ‘’Grand Tours’’ of the long ago era!
In other words, it already was a bucket- list travel destination back in the 17-18th century.
34.Want to send a post card from Split back home?
Try to locate the remains of French Post hidden behind Pjaca Square Town Hall and just use a little bit of your imagination!
35.A pro pos! The general military commander August Marmont
was a huge fan of Split and Dalmatia. During his presence here between 1806-1813 schools were opened, roads were built, infrastructure was significantly enhanced with new city gardens and parks arranged. Napoleon personally complained to Marshal Marmont that he is spending way too much money on Dalmatia!
36.Today there is even Marmont Street in Split:
it’s the main commerce street right next to the heart of Split’s historical town.
37.In 1821 the Archeological Museum of Split was established
It is the oldest museum institution founded in the Balkans.
38.The Bell Tower of Split Cathedral received a full a face- lift
39.Recently the Peristyle and the Golden Gate
were cleaned with the latest and super precise laser technology! Thanks to that, the limestone from the Brač island, that was used to build the Palace regained its old glow and milky white color!
40.Ivan Mestrovic loved Split, and he donated 3 public statues to its people
Grgur Ninski at the Golden Gate, St. John the Baptist inside the former ‘’Small Temple’’, and the sculpture of Marko Marulić at the Fruit Square….especially the latter is believed to be the depiction of Mestrovic’s own face!
41.In 1920 electrical current is introduced to Split
Symbolizing the beginning of the modern era for Dalmatia.
42.In 1906 the first summer cinema is opened in Split!
It’s called Kino Karaman, and it’s still in function even today.
43.Split was bombed 3 times during the WW2
By the Italian forces in 1941, the German forces in 1943 and by the Allied forces in 1943-1944.
44.Marjan Hill was the main recreational area of Split already in Diocletian times!
But it received the status of a public park-forest during the 20th century.
45.The palm trees along the waterfront of Riva
are approximately 100 years old!
46.During the 1970’s the most comprehensive project of the reconstruction
of the ancient Peristyle and the basements of Emperor Diocletian’s Palace took place. The architects and history of art specialists from the USA University of Minnesota were actively involved in the process and shared their valuable expertise with their Croatian colleagues.
47.With 94 Olympic medalists coming from Split between 1952-2012
Split is proud to have ‘’produced’’ the globally largest number of Olympic medalists per capita! Is it the mild Dalmatian climate, or the positive state of mind of the locals that shaped so many successful athletes?
We don’t know…But when strolling down the extension of Riva promenade towards the western coast, you can read all the names of the local athletes that made their city proud. That’s ‘Split’s Sport walk of fame’!
48.Croatians are considered to be the 7th tallest nation in the world
according to 2021 stats! That’s especially the case for the young generations of Split and Central Dalmatia! So don’t be surprised to be feeling a bit short while strolling around the town!
49.Till the early 20th century Dalmatian women had to bring a dowry
in order to get married! Split was no exception!
50.The Palace of Split is full of ancient graffities!
Jewish menorahs, greek letters, early Christian symbols reveal the identities behind the first constructors and inhabitants of the Palace!
51.Split’s Vestibule is Roman Pantheon’s twin!
Although less known, it was built based on the same logic with an opening in its dome called oculus, which is even larger in diameter than its Roman counterpart!
52.Freud was in Split on holidays in 1898
and stayed in the stunning Neo-Moorish style house at the Riva promenade leading to Fruit Square. What was he doing here? This is a mystery even for the locals!
No one really knows what the father of contemporary psychology was doing in Split apart from enjoying its magnificent sunny weather!
53.Torcida is the oldest European organized football supporters club
in Europe established in 1950! No messing with these guys! So, the mystery of the omnipresent colorful graffities all around the town is solved!
These are literally love letters from Torcida fans to their beloved team Hajduk Split! (by the way: don’t mention Dinamo Zagreb when here!)
54.So which one is Jupiter’s Temple?
No one knows, not even the local archeologists are sure! This name was initially assigned to the Mausoleum, then to the modern-day Baptistry of St. John the Baptist.
But the latter was also referred to as Temple of: Mars, Janus, Asclepios… to be finally named simply ‘’The Small Temple’’ to avoid the confusion!
55.And next to the ‘’Small Temple’’ the smallest street in the world is located
called ‘’let me pass’’!
56.If you see a depiction of an Eagle around the Palace
that’s a symbol of the highest Roman State God: Jupiter!
57.The miniature depiction of the Palace at the Riva waterfront
is also written in Braille language!
58.In Split you’ll find a licensed local tour guide to show you around
in literally ANY language you fancy: including Chinese and Japanese!
59.A typical Dalmatian Brunch is called Marenda and traditionally includes:
a bit of cheese, pancetta, and wine in the inner land, and sardines and wine on the islands!
60.‘’Kava sa šlagom’’ is the ultimate must-try coffee when in Split!
There are hundreds of varieties to choose from, but we vote this one as our top-pick!
THE BEST EXPERIENCES YOU CANNOT MISS ON YOUR HOLIDAYS IN SPLIT!
PLITVICE LAKES TOUR FROM SPLIT
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