The Windows of Diocletian’s Palace – Split, Croatia

Windows of Diocletian's Palace - Split, Croatia Tricia A. Mitchell

Split, Croatia is the stuff of explorers’ dreams. Situated along the sparkling Adriatic Sea and crowned by the Palace of Roman Emperor Diocletian, its Old Town features maze-like passageways and weathered limestone buildings and lanes. In the Fourth Century AD, Roman Emperor Diocletian had his retirement palace built here.

Emperor Diocletian indeed recognized the good life. In 305 AD, he stepped away from the throne, opting to retire along the Dalmatian Coast in what was then known as Spalatum. He is the only Roman emperor to voluntarily resign. Roman senators would later approach Diocletian and ask him to return to public office. Diocletian, enamored with life in his seaside palace, refused to do so and remained in Spalatum until his death at the age of 66.

Eventually, residents from neighboring areas found shelter within the palace walls, building their own homes and businesses within the palace’s protective shell. Today one can explore these winding, cobbled lanes and spy the remnants of the Roman architecture mingled with a hodgepodge of architectural styles from the last few hundred years.

In the windows of the palace’s 1,700 year-old walls, you might also catch a glimpse of more ordinary sites:  flower pots brimming with colorful buds, dogs soaking up the sunshine, or a set of red Snoopy sweat pants drying in the breeze.

Where in the World?

Photography & text © by Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

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29 Comments on “The Windows of Diocletian’s Palace – Split, Croatia

    • You’d love it here then, Mark. There are so many layers of history, which are often quite visible. In the apartment in which we’re staying, one of the residents through the centuries decided to fill in an old doorway with authentic Roman bricks. He, like many other Split residents, didn’t go to a quarry for stone; instead, they just took bricks from Emperor Diocletian’s Palace structure.

  1. Love windows and doors – love YOUR windows and doors. The colours, the textues, the individuality one sees. Such a glorious change from cookie-cutter North America. XX V.

    • We say the same thing about the indistinguishable architecture in the U.S., Virginia. Of course there are some older buildings with whimsical details, but so much of the new construction lacks character. We’re spoiled – so happy to be here for much of the winter; I feel like a kid exploring all these nooks and crannies. Some history buffs we’ve met here have lamented that many locals take the 1,700 year-old palace remnants for granted, as they go about their business within the walled part of the old town. I suppose it’s easy to get used to this incredible architecture, but I suspect we won’t. :)

    • I thought that one was fun too, Madhu. There are two pooches there – one of the cartoon sort and a real, fluffy dog sunbathing and looking out at the Adriatic Sea. Lucky dog!

    • Split does have everything going for it – much history, dramatic natural scenery, manmade beauty, and friendly people. Wish you a wonderful start to the weekend, Deepak, and thanks for dropping by!

  2. Trying so hard to catch up this morning! Not easy at this time of year. Beautiful windows!
    Merry Christmas to you, Tricia :)

    • Thank you, Bespoke Traveler. I loved the contrast of those red, modern, cartoon-adorned pants surrounded by a 1,700 year-old structure too. An example of the great whimsy to be found here in Split! :)

      • Hi
        Sorry I have been such a dilatory blog reader lately. I amtrying to catch up now but using a very creaking wifi here in Yallingup, WA! You are making a very good case for Croatia. As always, a fascinating and beautiful blend of words and imagery.

      • Rachael, if I’m making a case for Croatia, you’re making one for Australia! Which brings me to one of my new year’s resolutions – to be more efficient at responding. :) Looking forward to catching up on your adventures.

  3. Beautiful images, Tricia, it seems like you are enjoying your time in this Split-splendid place you have nestled in. Since I was a child I was fascinated by doors and windows, it always seems to me like that there are some secrets behind them, some people life in between walls and I always wondered what that life would be. Enjoy the holidays! What is a typical Christmas celebration in Croatia?

    • Belated Weihnachten greetings to you, Cornelia! I can imagine what it must have been like for you and your siblings to explore this part of the world as children. So many nooks and crannies, doorways and windows once or twice filled in, only to create a new living space. It’s fascinating what stories these buildings could tell if only they could speak!

      In Croatia, we heard that dishes featuring cod and fritule (lightly-sweetened fritters or donuts) are common on Christmas Eve. Our ‘landlord’ and his wife were kind enough to give us a whole basket of fritule, and Shawn was lucky to be the one to solely devour them on Christmas Day. :)

      On Christmas Eve, we had sunny weather, and along with the locals, went outside to soak up the sunshine along the seaside promenade. There was a cod-cookoff, where locals were given fish to feast upon, as traditional klapa singers (somewhat like a cappella) serenaded attendees. We attended Christmas Eve midnight mass in the nearby cathedral, which was converted from Diocletian’s mausoleum into a church hundreds of years ago.

      We recently happened upon this vintage Pan Am video promoting the former Yugoslavia, and since you had traveled here as a child, I thought of you. Split, Dubrovnik, Trogir, Korcula, Kotor and, Perast, Lake Bled, and Sarajevo are all featured: http://youtu.be/5B6eBAuhvEY

      • Dear Tricia, thank you for sharing how your Christmas eve went, sounds very lovely the midnight mass in the cathedral. Love the cod-cook-off. It is really so interesting how different cultures celebrate Christmas. On the second day after Christmas I initiated a xMas with friends picnic at he beach, cheeses, baguettes, olives etc. and some red wine, were layed out on a while table cloth, I even brought a mini xmas tree and some red ornaments rolling around in the sand. We all had the guts to go swimming in the ocean, as this is very unusual at this time of the year, first moment it was Bbbbrrrrhhhh cold, but after a few seconds it felt so heavenly, water temperature was around 56 F……A magic day was finished with candle lights in the sand, moon and stars above us.
        I wanted to thank you for the youtubevideo about Croatia, that was really great to watch, thank you. Enjoy your days in Croatia and have a magic 2014

      • Belated greetings, Cornelia. Your Christmas celebrations sounded very eclectic – California beach living meets French picnic… How fun! Your mention of surviving a dip in the chilly ocean gives me encouragement that perhaps I could do the same here in Croatia. I have a feeling the water temperature might be about the same. I’ll keep you posted. :)

  4. Tricia, this is a fascinating and beautiful photo essay. I must admit that I’m particularly fond of the Snoopy sweat pants. :) It looks like you picked the perfect place to be for the holidays. Wishing you and Shawn Happy Holidays and a fabulous 2014. All the best, Terri & James

    • Terri & James, thank you for the holiday greetings – undoubtedly you two are enjoying the last days of 2013. Indeed, we’re excited to be here; just the other day we saw Santa and one of his elves riding a motorcycle on the seaside promenade. Split’s young pyrotechnic enthusiasts have also been giving residents a preview of things to come on New Year’s Eve – the firecrackers are routinely cracking! Until next time…

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