Posted by: viewfromtheriva | February 27, 2010

Spring cleaning in the Palace

Many consider the Peristil to be the crown jewel of Diocletian’s Palace, but all last summer a good portion of the Peristil was covered up while restoration work was done.

At the junction of the Roman Decamanus and Cardo (the east/west and north/south streets of the Palace; today’s Kresimorova and Diocletijanova streets), the triumphal Peristil  is the must-see place that every tourist visits.

The tourist office is here as well as the city’s most important Cathedral (Sv. Domnius), inside of which the patron saint of Split lies entombed.

In Dicoletian’s times the Peristil served not as a gathering spot for the hoi polloi but where Diocletian was revered by followers of his cult as the living son of Jupiter (Jove).

It’s not hard to imagine seeing the Emperor in his robes emerge from the Prothrym, the Vestibul entrance to the imperial living quarters, and stand regally above  his worshipers before he and his entourage descended and made their way to the Temple of Jupiter, just 50 meters away.

The city preservation authorities worked feverishly to get a lot of work done last year because 2009 was the 30th anniversary of the Palace being declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

But like all complex restoration projects, they ran into problems and the famous Egyptian sphinx that sits astride the Peristil was covered up along with all of the Roman columns next to it and the Church of St. Roche.

Right now the city is putting the finishing touches on laser cleaning the monumental columns and are hard at work shoring up the foundation and walls of the early 16thC Church of St. Roche, which anchors the eastern corner of the Peristil.

In the midst of doing all this work the preservationists came to understand that the Peristil is not so much a separate element as it appears but part of a larger ensemble both Roman and later.

As the city grew out of its Roman roots and other buildings, and later other palaces, were added onto the Peristil, all of this created complicated inter-related  structural tension that needed to be understood and then carefully addressed.

Looking west from Cardo towards the Roman columns in the Peristil

The tiny Church of St. Roche, for example, is actually being “pushed” by the horizontal pressure of the Roman arch it abuts.  This has forced the city’s main tourist office to move from the Church to a cramped office just up the steps leading to the Vestibul–no fun for them or the tourists who have to climb up these narrow steps and avoid being knocked over by others trying to get up and inside.

Scaffolding envelops the tiny Church of St. Roche; note the Roman arch that abuts the roof of the church whose weight and horizontal force are causing preservationists to shore up the foundation and walls of the Church

Hopefully, the current restoration work (which never really stops) will be completed by the time the tourists come en masse this summer so the tourist office can assume its former space and the Peristil and St. Roche’s can be enjoyed in all their glory.

The stunning Golden or North Gate of the Palace, below the wonderful Mestrovic sculpture of the Bishop of Nin whose gleaming toe is touched daily by locals and tourists alike for good luck, is also expected to be ready this summer.

It is the best preserved of all of the four main gates of the Palace and although the gods and goddesses in the niches above the arched entry are long gone, there are two marvelous carved heads looking down from just outside the arch (much larger than similar heads that frame the overhead carved entrance to Jupiter’s Temple) that will be revealed for the first time.

I can’t wait!

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  1. […] Read the original: Spring cleaning in the Palace « View from the Riva–Split Croatia […]

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