Diocletian’s Palace sights: the palace basement

Diocletian’s Palace Sights: 3 things to see

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We started our exploration of Diocletian’s Palace in Split, Croatia by wandering around the many exposed ruins, through ancient courtyards and past historic structures. For a more in-depth understanding of the Diocletian’s Palace sights, we used the SplitCard (70 kuna) to gain limited entry at the cathedral, a discount into the basement cellars and access to the Ethnographic Museum.

Diocletian’s Palace Sights: Cathedral of St. Dominus

Diocletian’s Palace sights: Cathedral and bell tower

For us, the most prominent of the Diocletian’s Palace sights is the Cathedral of St. Dominus. Originally built as Diocletian’s mausoleum, it sits in the center of the Palace on the main square, Peristil. It was converted to a church after the fall of Rome and the bell tower was added in the 13th century (and took 300 years to build). We got our first peek inside the church at Sunday Mass, which was one of the more beautiful masses we’ve attended. We stood in the back (arriving just as mass is starting isn’t advised if you want a seat in the tiny interior) and took in the magnificent scene and incredible choir.

Diocletian’s Palace sights: Cathedral altar

We used the SplitCard later in the week for a chance to be the sole visitors inside the church and focus more on the details of the architecture. The elaborate main altar is in the center of the room, where Diocletian’s Tomb once was. A few original columns are all that is left from the original interior. There are altars on both sides of the main altar; one dedicated to St. Dominus and the other to St. Anastasius.

Diocletian’s Palace sights: Cathedral side altar

For an extra fee ($2 each), we climbed the stairs to the top of the bell tower. The steep stairs had my legs shaking by the time we made it to the top, but the views over Split were amazing.

Diocletian’s Palace sights: view from the bell tower


Diocletian’s Palace Sights: Basement

Diocletian’s Palace sights: the palace basement

I was a bit skeptical about paying a fee (discounted with the SplitCard) to go into a ‘basement,’ but it was actually one of the more impressive of Diocletian’s Palace sights and included several informational plaques in English. Just within the past 50 years, archeologists have discovered the well-preserved basement of the palace and have started piecing together more of the past. The palace was built on land that sloped to the sea and the basement was built to support and level the upper floors of the palace. The cavernous rooms show an exact floor plan of the original residential area of the palace, which has been long gone.

Diocletian’s Palace sights: The palace basement is a replica of the upstairs floorplan

After the fall of Rome, the palace was left to ruins. It was again inhabited in 641 by citizens seeking protection from the Slavs. As the residents moved in, they tossed their rubbish in the basement. Recent excavations have found evidence of both temporary and permanent housing structures from the 6th and 7th centuries, as well as water wells and an olive oil press from early medieval times. Walking through the vast, moisture-rich rooms let us imagine what the decorated upstairs might have looked like.

Diocletian’s Palace sights: An old olive press in the basement of the palace


Diocletian’s Palace Sights: Ethnographic Museum

Diocletian’s Palace sights: The Ethnographic Museum displays typical furniture used

We’ve mentioned before that we usually skip museums, but entry was free with the SplitCard and we were interested to learn more about the history of the people of Split. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a great deal of information in English, but we spent some time looking at the traditional clothes, lacework, furniture, weapons and tools that were used by the early citizens.

Diocletian’s Palace sights: Ethnographic museum displays traditional clothes

The one gem was the Church of St. Andrew de Fenestris. Originally, it was an open room in the palace that was transformed into a church in the 7th century. Only fragments of the altar and stone work remain.

Diocletian’s Palace sights: Church of St. Andrew de Fenestris

We want to know: Have you visited these Diocletian’s Palace sights? What did you think of the historic structure? Tell us in the comments!

PIn it! 

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