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The Golden Gate of the Diocletian's Palace in Split, Croatia (Hrvatska)
The Golden Door to the North
Portus Aerelius in Ancient Days
The Northern Gate, or Golden Gate, was the main entrance to the Palace in the 4th century A.D. The most glorious of all the four entrances, It was large enough to admit a horse drawn carriage. Tight controls at this entrance were on twin, octagonal shaped towers on either side of its entrance.
Four large pedastals remain to this day. Historians believed that displayed here were statues of the four rulers of the Roman Empire at that time - known as the tetrarcy. It consisted of the Diocletian who was born outside of Split in the suburbs of Salona, a major cosmopolitan town in the 3th century A.D. His co ruler, Maksimijan, a fellow Illiran general, ruled the western half of the empire while he spend most of his time in the east, at Nicomedia.
Nine years later, in 293 A.D., The two "vice presidential" caesars of the Empire joined them - Galerija ("the Barbarian"), who married the Diocletian's daughter, Valerija - and Konstantin Klor (or Paleface), who divorced his then wife St. Helena to marry Maksimijan's stepdaughter, Theodora. These were political marriages, of course, but all within the time. The golden door was the link between the Palace and Salona.
Grgur Ninski - famous Croatian
Outside the Walls of the Golden Gate
Right outside the walls themselves is a large imposing statue with his finger pointing upwards. This is the symbol of Croatia's victory over the use of its ancient and very sophisticated alphabet called Glagolith alphabet. Grgo Ninski, or Gregory of Nin (a city to the north) was a very important Croatian Bishop fighting for the rights of Croatians to use their alphabet in the mass. Croatians are very tied to the (Western) Roman Catholic religion, if not literally then symbolically. The entire Balkan peninsula is of Eastern, or Orthodox belief system. Grgo Ninski was important because it helped Croatia develop its own identity, sandwiched between the latin (that no one knew or used) and the Eastern church. This statue is a great place to take a photo. Legend has it, if you touch the statue's big toe and make a wish, it will come true.
The sculptor of this statue is Ivan Mestrovic. His works can be found in Montenegro, Serbia, Ireland, the United States (in New York and in Chicago) as well as in various locations within Croatia. Originally situated at the Peristil, Grgo Ninski, largely due to his massiveness, was relocated to the Northern Gate.
Inside the Walls of the Golden Gate
Between the inner and outer doors of the Northern wall was an inner area, the size of a large room. This was the point of last defense. From above are two hallways, one on the outer wall and another on the inner wall. From this vantage point, Palace guards would shoot down arrows at the enemy invaders, horses and warriors thrashing in confusion. They also used hot oil as a measure of self-defense. The Palace structure was very well designed and as far as historians know, was never broached or invaded in its 1700 year history.
The guards lived within the city walls. There was a space between the inner and outer walls. In Romanesque times (after the Diocletian up to around the 10th century A.D.) some of the guard fortifications on the walls were converted to St. Martin's church.
The interesting ancient architecture of the "pregrade" shows the border line where the holy and the unholy meet. A similar type facade was used in the Peristil at the pagan ceremonial area between the holy and the unholy. The design on the rock shows the simple but intricate style of the period.
Patron Saint of the Military
Saint Martin, Patron Saint of the Golden Gate
Saint Martin, not unlike Saint Theodor on the Western Gate, was a protector of the Military. These saints names and assignments were given during the Middle Ages when risk of invasion was the greatest with the constant attack of the Ottoman Empire all along the Dalmatian coast.
Saint Martin may have been the first Christian saint who was not tortured. During the Diocletian's purges in the 4th century, the majority of Christian saints underwent terrible hardships. Martin was inducted into the army as a young teenaged boy. He was probably born in 316 in Panonia, located near Slovenia and Hungary. As a young teenaged boy, he went with his father in the military, later serving in France. After his conversion to Christianity, he left the army and later became the bishop of Tours. He is best known for sharing his cloak with a barely clad beggar on a cold winter night. This was in a dream but it was his best known legend. Very well known and loved, his following almost became a cult. He is the patron saint of the military throughout all of Europe.
Ancient Map of the Palace
Each gate was guarded by octagonal towers. The Diocletian was a superstitious, mystical type of retired military man, and the number eight served his sense of "eternal life". In a way he got his wish, since his Palace is the last great example of Late Ancient Architecture anywhere in the world, and his name has been remembered for centuries.
Two streets - Cardo from the North-South direction, and Decumanus in the East-West direction. The entire palace was made mainly of white limestone from the island of Brac and marbled pillars from Greece and Egypt (after all he was the emperor, so what he saw and liked, he brought back home).
It was constructed from 295-204 - a period of approximately ten years. The cement is better quality than in modern times, and many historians speculate that it may be fortified with horses' hair, blood, or eggs to add to its extremely adhesive and long lasting properties.
Elegance and Beauty
The Northern Section of the Palace
Two Main Streets - Four Blocks within the Palace
In the Diocletian's day, there was a clothing factory used to make the Diocletian's wonderful royal robes, located in the North - eastern Section. The water from the aqueduct was used in processing the fabric. The yellow plant, broom brush or aspalatos, was also used to make a deep reddish colored dye.
In the Northwestern section was military quarter - they lived here in the Palace, separate from ordinary civilians. The majority of civilians lived in the town of Salona, which was linked by a road leading north from the Golden Gate. It has 12,000 citizens, an arena, ampitheater, many churches and basilicas, graves and necropolis and a fantastic city-like infrastructure. They lived as well or better than people live today. The Diocletian's waterways brought water from the mountains, to Salona, and on to the Palace area at the rate of 1,100,000 m3 which was enough water to support 170,000 people, far more than necessary.
In the northern section of the Palace, you will also find the amazing City Museum of Split at the Papalić Palace, built by the Papalić family in Split during the Renaissance times. This four story building with the huge Gothic shaped windows and views contains artifacts from Split's long and interesting history. Perhaps the most interesting object inside is the Diocletian's own serving platter which was discovered in the Palace's substructure in a few large pieces.