After traveling 61 kilometers down the road from Sibenik to Split, you will reach Trogir. This is one of the most typical small Mediterranean towns on the Adriatic, in addition to being one of the most rewarding destinations for visitors Trogir has rightly been declared a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site.
At the end of the 3rd century B.C., Greeks from Issa (Vis Island) founded a settlement here and called it Tragurion (Goat Island). After Roman and Byzantine interludes, the Middle Ages brought eventful times to Trogir. Conflicts broke out constantly between the locals and the feudal lords from the mainland, whether Croatian, Venetian or Ottoman. But feuding among the town’s patricians themselves was also permanently on the agenda. Still, the centuries before 1420, when Venice annexed the town, count as its best years.
You can see this even today, given that Trogir has kept its medieval appearance. The winding alleys, often roofed over, with their Gothic houses and Renaissance palaces, form an ensemble of special architectural value. The old town, on a small island, is connected to the mainland by a bridge and is constituted of two parts. The eastern part is the actual old town, while the western part, called Pasike, formed the town outskirts where land laborers lived. Both these areas, however, were protected by the former town walls.
The Kopnena vrata (Land Gate) was built in Renaissance style and is decorated by a statue of St. Lawrence. After walking through it, turn left, take the second right, and you will be on Torgir’sÂ main square, Trg Ivana Pavla II. The northern side of the square is taken up by Sveti Lovro Cathedral (St. Lawrence’s), a highlight of Dalmatian art history. The entrance under the spacious vestibule, with its ribbed cross vaulting, is decorated by a Romanesque portal built in 1240 by local master Radovan.
The stone masonry of the portal shows mainly biblical scenes, but there are also some aspects of everyday life in the Middle Ages depicted. Adam and Eve riding on lions flank the entrance; the arches are decorated by episodes from the life of Christ, with the Crucifixion in the center. The half-columns are decorated by scenes symbolizing the months of the year, showing the typical work of farmers, for example, grape harvesting in September. To the left of the vestibule is the baptismal chapel, its interior decorated fully in Renaissance style, with a paneled ceiling, cherubs and garlands. It is the work of the Albanian master, Andrija Alegi, who was a pupil of Juraj Dalmatinac.
The interior of the church is partitioned by two rows of four heavy columns into a three-naved basilica. In the center of the left aisle is the Orsini Chapel, a highlight of Dalmatian Renaissance work, built between 1468 and 1497 by Nikola Fiorentinac. The chapel is dedicated to the bishop of Trogir, John Orsinus, who in the 11th century was elevated to the position of the town’s second patron. The chapel’s ceiling is Fiorentinac’s masterpiece, given that it was the first time since antiquity that a vault was put together without supports or horizontal beams, but only out of stones cut in the shape of wedges along their edges. The panels are decorated with angels’ heads; in the middle you can see God the Father, with an orb in his hand representing the world. The niches show the figures of the Twelve Apostles and John the Baptist, and are the work of local artists. The main altar in the chancel apse is also of some significance: the high canopy, the monumental pulpit and the Gothic stalls count among the best Romanesque-Gothic ecclesiastic interior architecture in Dalmatia.
Opposite the western facade of the cathedral stands Cipiko Palace, built for a rich merchant family in Venetian Gothic style with Renaissance elements. It represents an extraordinary example of Dalmatian civic architecture. The southern side of the square is taken up by the airy loggia, a building with many functions which used to serve mainly as a courtroom. The reliefs on the stone table in the middle of the main room were carved by Fiorentinac. On the clock tower next to it you can still see the chains to which people who had been sentenced were fastened and exposed to the scorn of their fellow citizens.
The Dvor (Town Hall), which was built during the 14th and 15th centuries, concludes the attractions on the square. The edifice was most probably designed by Venetian architects and is not dissimilar to the northern Italian fortress-style public building, complete with an atmospheric interior courtyard.
Close to the main square are several churches. Right behind the loggia, for instance, is Sveta Barbara, the oldest church in Trogir, and Sveta Marija. To the south of the Town Hall is Sveti Ivan Krstitelj (Church of St. John the Baptist). It dates back to the 13th century and used to belong to the Benedictines, the predominant order in Trogir.
The road continues south to another Benedictine establishment, Samostan Sveti Nikola (St. Nicholas’ Monastery). A testament to the times of antiquity is kept behind the walls of the old monastery: a Hellenic relief showing the god Kairo. The Greeks worshipped him as the god of the right moment or of the right opportunity – something which had to be taken advantage of when it occurred. Near the monastery, the road makes a turn and leads past St. Nicholas’ Church to the Morska vrata (Sea Gate) and the fish hall next to it. In this part of the town big sections of the city wall have survived.
From the coastal promenade you can see across to dovo Island, which today is a kind of suburb linked to Trogir by a bridge. In the Middle Ages, however, this was the place to which people suffering from leprosy were banished, and where they were looked after by monks. Today, holiday-makers arrive here in search of a less harrowing time. In the north, more and more summer houses are being built, but the south has so far managed to keep its original features.
The island has been inhabited since prehistoric times. The Romans used to exile heretics and political offenders here. Then, beginning in the 5th century, monks started arriving and soon built a monastery. Ciovo began its career as a safe haven for sick people and for refugees fleeing the Turks. Since the 15 kilometer-long island almost reaches to the cape of Split, it forms something resembling a natural harbor for the socalled “Bay of Castles.”
The Franciscan monastery Sveti Ante, on Mount Drid on the east side of ‘Novo, is the oldest on the island and was built above a former hermit’s cave. Worth seeing here is a painting by Palma the Younger depicting the two “desert saints,” Anthony and Paul. The nearby Bay of Saldun has been covered by newly-built holiday houses, so that today the old fishing village of. Gornji Okrug seems to be more of a scattered settlement. On the eastern side of the island, in the direction of Slatine, is Arbanija, with the pretty Dominican monastery of Sveti Kriz, dating from the 15th century. The chapel houses a miraculous crucifix. In Slatine, the last settlement on the eastern shore, there are rows and rows of modern houses on the slopes leading to the sea. Lying off the headland southwest of Trogir are the islands of Mali Drvenik and Veli Drvenik, known in antiquity as the double island of Tarion. The islands were probably covered originally in forests, because their name comes from the Croatian word drvo (wood). After the forests were cut down for houses and shipbuilding, olives, figs and grapevines were planted. Both islands are quite untouched by tourism; only yachts anchor occasionally in the bays, some of which have beautiful sand beaches.