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New Europe

Day Seven: Split

Diocletian's Palace, Split 
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Diocletian's Palace, Split. The peristyle is the heart of these massive Roman remains. The black granite sphinx is pre-Christian and the white bell-tower, begun in the thirteenth century, wasn't finished until 1908.
Michael Palin - New EuropeInside, in the high-vaulted undercroft where helmets, shields, armour and weapons would once have been unloaded, there is now a busy tourist market selling postcards, candles, carvings and religious icons (which, considering Diocletian ordered the beheading of Domnius, the patron saint of Split, is a nice irony).

The original layout of the palace, by which all streets lead to the peristyle, the central courtyard, hasn't changed and the square itself is powerful testimony to the skill of Diocletian's masons and builders.

The reign of Diocletian marked the high point of imperial power and the air of invincibility he wanted his mighty palace to project was increasingly tried by Goths, Huns, Avars and others spilling over the eastern borders of the empire. With the Romans gone, the local population used the palace as a refuge and began to build permanent homes inside it. And so it went on. Too big and strong to demolish, successive occupants merely adapted the space, turning it into one of the world's most thriving ruins.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: New Europe
  • Chapter: Day Seven: Split
  • Country/sea: Croatia
  • Place: Split
  • Book page no: 24

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