Cathedral of St. James, Šibenik

Cathedral of St. James, Šibenik

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The Cathedral of St. James in
Šibenik is a historic town in Croatia, with population of 51,553 . It is located in central Dalmatia where the river Krka flows into the Adriatic Sea...

, Croatia
Croatia , officially the Republic of Croatia , is a unitary democratic parliamentary republic in Europe at the crossroads of the Mitteleuropa, the Balkans, and the Mediterranean. Its capital and largest city is Zagreb. The country is divided into 20 counties and the city of Zagreb. Croatia covers ...

 is a triple-nave basilica
The Latin word basilica , was originally used to describe a Roman public building, usually located in the forum of a Roman town. Public basilicas began to appear in Hellenistic cities in the 2nd century BC.The term was also applied to buildings used for religious purposes...

 with three apses and a dome (32 m high inside) in the city of Šibenik, Croatia. It is the church of the Catholic Church in Croatia
Catholic Church in Croatia
Roman Catholicism in Croatia is part of the worldwide Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the Pope and curia in Rome.There are an estimated 3.8 million baptised Roman Catholics in Croatia, roughly 85% of the population. The national sanctuary of Croatia is in Marija Bistrica...

, and the see of the Šibenik diocese
A diocese is the district or see under the supervision of a bishop. It is divided into parishes.An archdiocese is more significant than a diocese. An archdiocese is presided over by an archbishop whose see may have or had importance due to size or historical significance...

. It is also the most important architectural monument of the Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 in the entire country. Since 2000, the Cathedral has been on the UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

 World Heritage List.

It is often mistakenly known as "St Jacob's", because Croatian
Croatian language
Croatian is the collective name for the standard language and dialects spoken by Croats, principally in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Serbian province of Vojvodina and other neighbouring countries...

, like many other languages, uses the same name for both "James" and "Jacob". It is dedicated to Saint James the Greater.

The first Italian masters

The building of the church was initiated in 1402, though plans on its construction had already begun in 1298, when Šibenik became a municipality. The actual work to transform the older Romanesque
Romanesque architecture
Romanesque architecture is an architectural style of Medieval Europe characterised by semi-circular arches. There is no consensus for the beginning date of the Romanesque architecture, with proposals ranging from the 6th to the 10th century. It developed in the 12th century into the Gothic style,...

 cathedral began in 1431. Built entirely of stone: limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

 from a nearby stone quarry and marble from the island of Brač
Brač is an island in the Adriatic Sea within Croatia, with an area of 396 km², making it the largest island in Dalmatia, and the third largest in the Adriatic. Its tallest peak, Vidova Gora, or Mount St. Vid, stands at 778 m, making it the highest island point in the Adriatic...

, it was completed in three phases: from 1433 to 1441 when the Grand City Council entrusted the work to local masons and the Italian masters: Francesco di Giaccomo, Lorenzo Puncio, Antonio di Pier Paolo, Bussato, Bonino di Jacopo da Milano, Andrija Budičič, Grubiša Slavičič and Giorgio da Sebenico (Giorgio Orsini or Juraj Dalmatinac).

Juraj Dalmatinac

Initially, it was conceived as a simple church. With tremendous skill, Giorgio da Sebenico combined architectural and decorative elements to create a unified entity. He constructed the western main portal, the northern portal (The Lion Gate) and the first chapel. The motif of the Lion Gate are Adam and Eve standing on two lions, which is also seen at the Trogir Cathedral, but here Adam and Eve are on columns over the lions. This gate as a side entrance forms an artistic trinity
The Christian doctrine of the Trinity defines God as three divine persons : the Father, the Son , and the Holy Spirit. The three persons are distinct yet coexist in unity, and are co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial . Put another way, the three persons of the Trinity are of one being...

 with the abbey of San Leonardo di Siponto. Furthermore, the angels on the ceiling of Hagia Sophia are on the ceiling of the cathedral of San Marco in Venice, where are the horses of the Hippodrome of Constantinople, and on the ceiling of the Trogir cathedral, too. Over the Lion Gate of the Šibenik cathedral are the coat of arms of two bishops and of the procurator
Procurator (Roman)
A procurator was the title of various officials of the Roman Empire, posts mostly filled by equites . A procurator Augusti was the governor of the smaller imperial provinces...

 of the church of Saint Saviour in Šibenik. The church of Saint Saviour in Šibenik became part of the barrack
Barracks are specialised buildings for permanent military accommodation; the word may apply to separate housing blocks or to complete complexes. Their main object is to separate soldiers from the civilian population and reinforce discipline, training and esprit de corps. They were sometimes called...

 in the 18th century. The coat of arms of this procurator shows two bars. The drawing on the ceiling over the Imperial Gate of the Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia is a former Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later a mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey...

 in Constantinople shows two bars, too. This forms an artistic trinity between the church of St.Saviour in Šibenik, the city of Šibenik and the Hagia Sophia. The crest of this coat of arms shows a lion holding a sun. This forms an artistic trinity between the church of St.Saviour in Šibenik, the San Marco cathedral in Venice with its lion of San Marco, and the abbey of San Leonardo di Siponto, which ceiling is designed according the astronomical midday. This procurator was elected by the great assembly of the people of the city of Šibenik, which financed this building. The title of a procurator carried immense prestige. In Venice was just one procurator, the Procurator of San Marco
Procurator of San Marco
The office of Procurator of San Marco was the second most prestigious life appointment in the Republic of Venice .-History:...

. In the period between 1444 and 1477 the building work was directed by Juraj, who was invited to come from Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

 as the investors were not satisfied with the beginning of the work. His first contract in 1441 was concluded for a period of 6 years to build just a simple church, but he probably traveled a lot before he started to work.
Such a master of his art was difficult to find even then. However, until the cathedral was finished, there were a large number of procurators in Šibenik e.g. the procurator of the factory of Santa Maria etc.. The Pope in Rome was asked to meet the procurators in Šibenik. It is not known if they meet personally. In 1451, the bishops of Venice became Patriarchs of Venice
Patriarch of Venice
The Patriarch of Venice is the ordinary bishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice. The bishop is one of the few Patriarchs in the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church...

. Most of the procurators in Šibenik remained anonymous. Their portraits are outside on the wall of the cathedral. Some of these heads on the facade have a damaged nose, probably a work of vandalism. Until Justinian II
Justinian II
Justinian II , surnamed the Rhinotmetos or Rhinotmetus , was the last Byzantine Emperor of the Heraclian Dynasty, reigning from 685 to 695 and again from 705 to 711...

 was this the expression to discredit the reputation of someone, and so it was necessary that this individuals remained anonymous. They considered that too little for the money spent, so Juraj altered the plan: he enlarged the cathedral with a side nave
In Romanesque and Gothic Christian abbey, cathedral basilica and church architecture, the nave is the central approach to the high altar, the main body of the church. "Nave" was probably suggested by the keel shape of its vaulting...

 and apse
In architecture, the apse is a semicircular recess covered with a hemispherical vault or semi-dome...

s, so that the ground plan of the cathedral was in the shape of a cross, and prepared it for the dome
A dome is a structural element of architecture that resembles the hollow upper half of a sphere. Dome structures made of various materials have a long architectural lineage extending into prehistory....

, built the presbytery, sanctuary and his masterpiece, the baptistery
In Christian architecture the baptistry or baptistery is the separate centrally-planned structure surrounding the baptismal font. The baptistry may be incorporated within the body of a church or cathedral and be provided with an altar as a chapel...

. Juraj combined the mentioned artistic trinities of the 6 mentioned locations in the ground plan. St. Saviour as the apses, the city of Šibenik as the Lion Gate vis-a-vis of the abbey of San Leonardo di Siponto, Saint John (Trogir cathedral) as the central nave what is also symbolized by an eagle as the John the Evangelist's symbol outside on the wall over the main entrance, the San Marco cathedral in Venice as one side nave and the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople as the other side nave. The extension of the line from the main entrance to the apse shows towards Jerusalem, but as an orthodromic distance curve
Great-circle distance
The great-circle distance or orthodromic distance is the shortest distance between any two points on the surface of a sphere measured along a path on the surface of the sphere . Because spherical geometry is rather different from ordinary Euclidean geometry, the equations for distance take on a...

 shows towards the obelisk
An obelisk is a tall, four-sided, narrow tapering monument which ends in a pyramid-like shape at the top, and is said to resemble a petrified ray of the sun-disk. A pair of obelisks usually stood in front of a pylon...

 of the Karnak Temple, from where are the sphinx
A sphinx is a mythical creature with a lion's body and a human head or a cat head.The sphinx, in Greek tradition, has the haunches of a lion, the wings of a great bird, and the face of a woman. She is mythicised as treacherous and merciless...

es in the Diocletian's Palace
Diocletian's Palace
Diocletian's Palace is a building in Split, Croatia, that was built by the Roman emperor Diocletian at the turn of the fourth century AD.Diocletian built the massive palace in preparation for his retirement on 1 May 305 AD. It lies in a bay on the south side of a short peninsula running out from...

 in Split. The description of the Karnak temple by an unknown "Venetian" was brought to Venice in 1589 and is now in the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze. The apses are decorated on the outside with various sculptural decorations, including 74 small Renaissance portraits immortalising important contemporaries and figures who had for some reason particularly impressed the architect or that deemed to tight to help foot the bill for the cathedral's construction. The extension of the line from the main entrance to the Lion Gate shows towards the Split Cathedral. Giorgio Orsini worked on the cathedral up to his death in 1475.

Nikola Firentinac

Between 1475 and 1505 the work was overseen by Tuscan
Tuscany is a region in Italy. It has an area of about 23,000 square kilometres and a population of about 3.75 million inhabitants. The regional capital is Florence ....

 master Nikola Firentinac
Nikola Firentinac
Niccolò Fiorentino ; , was a Dalmatian Renaissance sculptor and master architect. He was of Tuscan birth, but lived most of his life and conducted much of his work in Venice, Šibenik and other towns of Dalmatia.He is best known by his work on the Cathedral of St.James in Šibenik, in 1455...

 (Niccolò Fiorentino) (? - Šibenik 1505), a foreigner from the Donatello school of sculpture who developed as a sculptor and builder in Dalmatia
Dalmatia is a historical region on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. It stretches from the island of Rab in the northwest to the Bay of Kotor in the southeast. The hinterland, the Dalmatian Zagora, ranges from fifty kilometers in width in the north to just a few kilometers in the south....

. He continued the building in the Tuscan Renaissance style
Renaissance architecture
Renaissance architecture is the architecture of the period between the early 15th and early 17th centuries in different regions of Europe, demonstrating a conscious revival and development of certain elements of ancient Greek and Roman thought and material culture. Stylistically, Renaissance...

, completing the extensive galleries, building the vault in the central nave, the outer sculptures of St. Michael, St. James and St. Mark. The drawing of this sculpture of St. Michael became also the coat of arms of the city of Šibenik, because in the 12th century the justiciar
In medieval England and Ireland the Chief Justiciar was roughly equivalent to a modern Prime Minister as the monarch's chief minister. Similar positions existed on the Continent, particularly in Norman Italy. The term is the English form of the medieval Latin justiciarius or justitiarius In...

 of Monte Sant'Angelo
Monte Sant'Angelo
Monte Sant'Angelo is a town and comune of Apulia, southern Italy, in the province of Foggia, about 15 km north of Manfredonia by road and 4 km west of Mattinata, on the southern slopes of Monte Gargano.-History:...

, who was from Siponto
Siponto was an ancient port town of Apulia in southern Italy. The town was abandoned after earthquakes in the 13th century; today the area is administered as a frazione of the comune of Manfredonia, in the province of Foggia...

, was sent by Pope Alexander III
Pope Alexander III
Pope Alexander III , born Rolando of Siena, was Pope from 1159 to 1181. He is noted in history for laying the foundation stone for the Notre Dame de Paris.-Church career:...

 as a notifier to Šibenik. According to the Longobard writer Pavlo Đakon from the year 642, Croats have many ships under the city of Siponto. St. James, because James and John were with their father by the seashore when Jesus called them. Another St. John was bishop of Trogir. Šibenik and Trogir as sovereign city-states had with each other treaties of alliance, but the duke was annoyed, after which he was driven out of Trogir. The barrel roof is made from a line of enormous stone slabs and considered a marvel of construction at the time, and the upper façade
A facade or façade is generally one exterior side of a building, usually, but not always, the front. The word comes from the French language, literally meaning "frontage" or "face"....

. He also built the triforias (parallel galleries) and worked on the presbytery and sanctuary.

Although the dome of Šibenik Cathedral was built after the dome in Florence, Nikola Firentinac used an octogonal drum in its construction, before Bramante and Michelangelo, in its original function as the transition from the square base to the circular dome. The execution of the cupola was one of the supreme achievements of Renaissance architecture.

Inside the Cathedral

Inside the cathedral there are four large, evenly matched columns on which the dome rests. The builder decorated the capitals and came to arrangements with the nobles who were to finance the building of chapels, on condition that they would be free to choose their own builders.In the first chapel on the right-side, there is the sarcophagus
A sarcophagus is a funeral receptacle for a corpse, most commonly carved or cut from stone. The word "sarcophagus" comes from the Greek σαρξ sarx meaning "flesh", and φαγειν phagein meaning "to eat", hence sarkophagus means "flesh-eating"; from the phrase lithos sarkophagos...

 of the bishop, humanist and writer Juraj Šižgorić
Juraj Šižgoric
Juraj Šižgorić was a Croatian latinist poet.He was the first humanist from Šibenik and the central personality of the Šibenik's humanist circle and also one of the most important figures in 15th century cultural life and history of Croatian people.His Elegiarum et carminum libri tres was a first...

 (1420-1509) which is the work of Andrija Aleši based on a design by Juraj Dalmatinac. Aleši also created the statue of St. Elijah which stands behind the bishop's throne. On the left-hand side is the sarcophagus of Bishop Ivan Štafilič, during whose life the cathedral was completed. Beneath the choir there are the graves of two bishops, which reliefs: on the right Bishop Calegari and on the left, Bishop Spingarola. The latter is the work of the local artist Antun Nogulovič.

Opposite the famous Altar of the Holy Cross (Sveti Križ) made by Juraj Čulinovič (Giorgio Schiavoni) is buried (1433 or 1446-1505). On the altar there is a painting by Felipe Zaniberti. Amongst other altars to the left of the entrance is the Altar of the Holy Three Kings with a painting by Bernardo Rizzardi, according to the ground plan of Juraj Dalmatinac (see above). The fragments of the mosaic of the Holy Three Kings in St. Mark's Basilica in Venice are now in the Museo Marciano in Venice. The sides of the altar are decorated with reliefs of two angels holding the scroll of Nikola Firentinac, set into shell-shaped niches. The Cathedral Treasury includes works by the Renaissance master Horacije Fortezza of Šibenik (1530-1596), an exceptional goldsmith and miniaturist.

After Fiorentino died in 1505, the construction was finally completed in 1536 by two other craftsmen, Bartolmeo of Mestra and his son Jacob, completely following Nicholas' instructions. The cathedral officially became consecrated in 1555 after a multitude of Venetian
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

 and local craftsmen had worked on it, in Gothic style
Gothic architecture
Gothic architecture is a style of architecture that flourished during the high and late medieval period. It evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture....

. Most of the restoration was done between 1850 and 1860 and subsequently between 1992 and 1997.

The dome of the church was heavily damaged by the JNA
Yugoslav People's Army
The Yugoslav People's Army , also referred to as the Yugoslav National Army , was the military of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.-Origins:The origins of the JNA can...

-supported Serb forces during the shelling of Šibenik in September 1991. Within years it was quickly repaired with no damage visible. It is interesting to note that this cathedral has no bell-tower. A tower on the adjoining city walls served this purpose.

External links