(My apologies to everyone for the longish break in posting here. Our holiday season was hectic, but fun, with extended family and no free time!)
Split: A wonderfully evocative space
In the north walls, not far from the Gold Gate is the Church of St Martin, tiny and not so well-known, but not to be missed. It’s a little church literally between the walls. I think it’s the smallest church we’ve ever seen, set in a passageway between the outer and inner walls. To get there, you need to climb up some steep narrow open steps.
Only a few people can be in there at one time. It’s still “manned” by a nun—we paid her 5kn per person to get closer, but you could just look and take a picture from the entrance. From the 14th century there was a Dominican convent next to the church.
That space, in the time of the emperor Diocletian (284-305AD) was a narrow corridor (10m x 1.64m) that was used as a guardhouse and sentries’ walkway. The guards used the small windows, which are still well-preserved, to survey anyone entering the palace.
The church originates from the 5th and 6th centuries but was remodeled many times. In the time of the Croatian Duke Trpimir in the 9th century, the Duke’s chaplain, the priest Dominic, renovated it into the first Christian church in Split dedicated to the Virgin Mary, to St Gregory the Pope, and to St Martin, the father of western monasticism.
It was used by the sisters from the Monastery of the Dominican Sisters of the Third Order, until around 1372 when all had to flee from the plague. It became a storage room until 1890, when archeologist Father Franc Bulic found it. He recommended its renovation, so they built a new altar and nave. Later in 1929, a tablet was discovered, which people think might be the gravestone of the priest Dominic, its builder.
This little church is important for the valuable Early Romanesque chancel screen of the 11th century preserved in situ. The inscription on the screen tells of the dedication of this church to the Virgin, to St Gregory the Pope and to St Martin.