Split … stunning panoramic views and a potentially perilous ascent; climbing the Croatian belfry amongst the remains of Diocletian’s Palace

Split’s Old Town belfry is the architectural equivalent of a cuckoo’s egg placed inside another bird’s nest; its height dwarfs everything around it, its girth scales down its immediate surroundings and although Romanesque in style, this bell tower post-dates its Roman foundations by a thousand years. Yet far from being an eyesore, the symbol of Croatia’s second largest city blends almost seamlessly into the preserved remains of the Roman palace of Diocletian around it.

Split Diocletian's Palace from harbour

No signs required: the belfry can easily be found through the maze of alleyways inside Split's Old Town

No signs required: the belfry can easily be found through the maze of alleyways inside Split’s Old Town

The Peristil: what is left of the two-thousand-year-old Roman courtyard by the entrance into Diocletian's Palace living quarters ahead, and the colossal belfry beside the colonnade to the left

The Peristil: what is left of the two-thousand-year-old Roman courtyard by the entrance into Diocletian’s Palace living quarters ahead, and the colossal belfry beside the colonnade to the left

From this angle the belfry appears to be on the same scale as everything else around it

One of two fifteenth century stone lions carrying figures of Adam (shown) and Eve, guarding the entrance to the belfry and the adjoining Cathedral of St Dominus

One of two fifteenth century stone lions carrying figures of Adam (shown) and Eve, guarding the entrance to the belfry and the adjoining Cathedral of St Dominus

The columns may appear to match but there is an age-gap of at least a millennium between those of the belfry and those around the palace

The columns may appear to match but there is an age-gap of at least a millennium between those of the belfry and those around the palace

The present belfry is a replica of the original Medieval bell tower that once stood here until it succumbed to the elements and collapsed in 1908. This replica built soon after 1908 is said to be a true representation of the original but I have my doubts…

There's no question that a lot of attention was put into the rebuilding of the belfry's exterior, but...

There’s no question that a lot of attention was put into the rebuilding of the belfry’s exterior, but…

... it appears the reconstruction of the belfry's interior was completely overlooked, which is a shame not least because the Romanesque interiors could have helped distract belfry visitors from the rust corroding the belfry stairway they were climbing up

… it appears the reconstruction of the belfry’s interior was completely overlooked, which is a shame not least because the Romanesque interiors could have helped distract belfry visitors from the rust corroding the belfry stairway they were climbing up

Ah, it's the Penrose Stairs (ignore the rust, ignore the rust)

Ah, it’s the Penrose Stairs (ignore the rust, ignore the rust)

At least the view down was more reassuring knowing that there were plenty of columns to grab onto should one fall

At least the view down was more reassuring knowing that there were plenty of columns to grab onto should one fall

Thankfully it was a calm day when I climbed the belfry so there was little chance of being blown over the side by wind howling through the vast, glass-less gapes on all sides of the building

Thankfully it was a calm day when I climbed the belfry so there was little chance of being blown over the side by wind howling through the vast, glass-less gapes on all sides of the building

Split, Diocletian Palace, Belfry, view half way up with stairway in corner

The sight of the bells suggested the climb was nearly over

The sight of the bells suggested the climb was nearly over

Like most of the belfry, the bells are not original but are sympathetic to the original (well, on the outside at least)

Like most of the belfry, the bells are not original but are sympathetic to the original (well, on the outside at least)

My efforts and suffering (Vertigo, popping ears, sunburn, windburn and the constant worry on the degree of corrosion on that stairway) were rewarded on finally reaching the top platform of the belfry; stunning panoramic views across the city and the Adriatic sea, beautifully framed by the restored arches and columns.

Beautiful views from the top of the belfry taking these tourists' minds off the realisation that they will soon have to risk walking down the same rusty stairway they came up on

Beautiful views from the top of the belfry taking these tourists’ minds off the realisation that they will soon have to risk walking down the same rusty stairway they came up on

Looking west towards Trg Brace Radic (Fruit Square) and the lovely hilltop peak of Park šuma Marjan

Looking west towards Trg Brace Radic (Fruit Square) and the lovely hilltop peak of Park šuma Marjan

Split Diocletian's Palace, Belfry, view of rooftops west through Belfry arched windows

The view north-east towards the Golden Gate and the statue of Gregory of Nin

The view north-east towards the Golden Gate and the statue of Gregory of Nin

Split Diocletian's Palace, Belfry, view south from top of Belfry out to sea with sunshine

The Silver Gate to the east

The Silver Gate to the east

Split Diocletian's Palace, Belfry detail column

Looking down at the Peristil and the narrow alleyway leading up towards the Temple of Jupiter

Looking down at the Peristil and the narrow alleyway leading up towards the Temple of Jupiter

Tickets for entry into the belfry cost a few Croatian kuna (around 1 Euro). They can be bought from the desk (and literally it is just a desk) on the steps leading up to the belfry through the Peristil colonnade (between the aforementioned stone lions). For a few kuna more a combined ticket for the belfry, the adjoining Cathedral of St Dominus and the Temple of Jupiter can be bought around the corner just inside the entrance to the cathedral (badly signposted).

TLT x

Split Diocletian's Palace, Belfry, top of tower seen from the Old Town


The beautiful altar seen from the Choir area looking towards the main hall of the Cathedral. The puerile side of me couldn't help but notice that the tabernacle on the altar looked rather like R2-D2 from Star Wars

From Roman Empire to Roman Catholic; sweet Christian revenge on Christian-slaying emperor Diocletian


Split Diocletian's Palace, Silver Gate inner side   Diocletian’s Palace: Croatia’s answer to Pompeii

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1 Response to Split … stunning panoramic views and a potentially perilous ascent; climbing the Croatian belfry amongst the remains of Diocletian’s Palace

  1. Anne Guy says:

    What a set of vertiginous photos! Thanks for these sunny images on a grey day!

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