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.
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
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 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…
… 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)
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
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)
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
Looking west towards Trg Brace Radic (Fruit Square) and the lovely hilltop peak of Park šuma Marjan
The view north-east towards the Golden Gate and the statue of Gregory of Nin
The Silver Gate to the east
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).
From Roman Empire to Roman Catholic; sweet Christian revenge on Christian-slaying emperor Diocletian
Diocletian’s Palace: Croatia’s answer to Pompeii