Croatia, a gorgeous country situated at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, has a significant share and history in establishing architecture over the years. It is a tourist place that has created architectural assets for the country through various developments and implements. A mixture of Romanesque, Renaissance and Baroque architecture is prevalent throughout Croatia, clarifying the immense changes and styles in design and art and the flourishing of modern architecture. The main historical buildings are churches, palaces, public buildings, and monuments, all revealing how architecture has played a prominent role in defining the country’s beauty and other cultural, social, and political aspects.
Architectural Styles Over the Years
The architecture of present-day Croatia focuses on the built environment and its contemporary condition resulting in the use and introduction of many diverse materials and unconventional forms in their construction, along with new innovative projects. However, the beginning was certainly different. An amalgamation of various architectural styles gave Croatia its beautiful monuments and an attractive tourist place.
Before encountering romanesque architecture, Croatia witnessed the pre-Roman architectural style, which paved the way for developing many new buildings and cities. Roman heritage was initially introduced from the 1st century BC to the 5th century in the towns of Istria and Salona, respectively. By the 12th century, the beginning of an era of Central European cultural influence was spread all over Croatia with the romanesque architectural style. During this time, the important buildings in the cities like Zadar, Trogir, and Split were churches. The Church of St Donat in Zadar is the most outstanding work of a romanesque church built around the 9th century. These buildings were made of stone with columns, arches, arcades, and wooden roofs. The Romanesque era ended with the beginning of Gothic, evident from the monumental figures in Istria, which had features reminiscent of Gothic.
The cathedral of St Lovro in Trogir is one of the earliest examples of the gothic architectural styles in the country of Croatia. Gothic architecture influenced the crowd and was considered the golden age of free Dalmatian cities. The streets were built with the use of stone and sewage canals. Gothic fortifications can be defined as having high towers shaped like a square prism. An example of gothic architecture over the years and out of all the church buildings is the Franciscan church in Pula which was a simple building but represents gothic architecture well.
Croatia in the 15th century was divided into three states, and the city of Dalmatia introduced new religious and public architecture influenced by the Italian Renaissance. The Sibenik cathedral of St James, built entirely by an artist called Giorgio da Sebenico, is an example of a mix of gothic and Renaissance styles with an admirable stone building. Further, the influences of the Renaissance were seen in the Republic of Ragusa with the construction of several villas known for their functionality and spatial organisation. Although many buildings were destroyed later, and the Renaissance lived a short life, Croatia still had unique renaissance design styles.
After the fading of the Renaissance from the architecture field, there were establishments of buildings with Baroque and Rococo styles. Cities influenced by the Baroque style have straight streets and rectangular squares in the middle of buildings. And then began the contemporary architecture era of Croatia, which was believed to be found by Edo Sen. Many of the structures from the end of the 19th century witnessed the beginning of contemporary and innovative buildings in the country. The new museum of contemporary art was one of the first buildings of the modern day that is notable in the architectural history of Croatia. Igor Franic designed this building for both permanent and temporary art exhibitions. After that, over the years, several modern buildings were designed and constructed by many Croatian architects changing the architectural style entirely contemporary, but the country is still filled with architecture reminiscent of the past.
Architecture in Split: Now and Then
Split is a city in Dalmatia and also the third-largest city in Croatia. It is the epitome of ancient history blended with modern lives through the city, with striking architecture dating back to the Roman empire.
Architecture in the Olden Times
The split was a city under power and authority between many territories during the 10th to 14th centuries. This resulted in the struggle to construct new city buildings with the increasing population. Therefore, if we look at the architectural condition of Split in the medieval ages, there is little to point out around the areas.
With Venetians’ control of the city, several new buildings and infrastructures were ordered to be constructed. Later, this development led the city to become one of the largest ports in the Adriatic sea. Therefore, the Venetians introduced the beginning of the architectural aspect of the town of Split. Elements such as pointed gothic arches, symmetrical facades, and loggia are the highlights of the architecture of the Venetian period. Venetians also improved the city’s fortifications and added modernised city walls to defend against cannon fires. The architecture of this city in Croatia in the past and even still can be traced to Venetian architecture. The bell tower of St Arnir chapel, Mala Papaliceva Palace, etc., are some examples of Venetian influences in the city. Later Split was controlled by the French and led to the many constructions of buildings with the French style. Split is a mix of all these architectural influences from each era.
Architecture in the Current day
After the declaration of independence of Croatia, Split became one of the country’s main cities by establishing new changes around the area. Today, Split is one of the leading tourist cities with many wonders, such as The Riva Waterfront, The Palace of Diocletian, The Republic Square, and The People’s Square. Modern-day Split is thriving with several hotels, cafes, restaurants, and museums for the entertainment of tourists and further creating an architectural space for all. The city is filled with new buildings with the remains of the past. Even if it became a modern city of Croatia, it is impossible to ignore that when we look at the churches on the Cliffside, it always takes us back to the architectural days of the past, travelling throughout the Roman, Gothic, and other eras that were the fundamental foundation of these cities and its country.
Croatia is a country with exquisite architectural history and facts. It is filled with cultural and political changes of its own. While changes and innovations are essential for the future, we often forget how the olden times and the many elements of it have significantly developed and defined a particular place. And it is always a wonder to identify and acknowledge how people from such underdeveloped periods could have come up with such unique ideas for construction. But the bottom line is that it happened, worked, and became a base for today’s architecture. Talking about architecture and its influence in Croatia is vast and beyond a few words. This beautiful country with gorgeous buildings will continue to flourish and create more architectural wonder.
1.Wikipedia. (n.d.). Architecture of Croatia. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Architecture_of_Croatia#Ancient_heritage [Accessed 18 Dec. 2022].
2.Croatia Traveller. (n.d.). Croatian Architecture. [online] Available at: https://www.croatiatraveller.com/Architecture.htm [Accessed 18 Dec. 2022].
- Carney, R. (2020). Architecture of Split, Dalmatia, Croatia. [online] Architecture of Cities. Available at: https://architectureofcities.com/split [Accessed 18 Dec. 2022].