The Cathedral of St. James
The Unique Monument of European Sacral Architecture
The Cathedral of St. James is the most valuable architectural monument built during the 15th and 16th century in Croatia. According to its beauty, construction techniques and style characteristics, it is not only the biggest and the most valuable object of the architectural heritage in the town of Šibenik but it is also the unique monument of European sacral architecture. According to its artistic value, it belongs to the most valuable European monumental cathedrals, and thanks to some of its features, it is unique not only among the cathedrals but among Christian churches in general!
The Only Construction Built Entirely of Stone in the Whole of Europe
It is the only cathedral in the whole of Europe constructed entirely of stone, as no wooden architectural elements were used for its building. It is also the first construction in Europe whose assemblage was based on the unique system of inter-grooved stone plates (other constructions based on this system originate from the 19th century), as well as the only construction whose outside volume completely corresponds to the shape of its interior. The Cathedral of St. James is also well known for its iconographic innovations, among which the frieze of 74 head sculptures (individual portraits of the contemporaries of Juraj Dalmatinac) takes special place. It is considered to be the most numerous portrait gallery of the highest quality exhibited as the public monument on a sacral object in Europe. On the vault of the baptistery was also introduced the relief representing Father God with the dove of the Holy Spirit and angels.
105 Years of Construction
The cathedral was constructed on the south side of the central square of the oldest town core, on the site of the former Romanesque Church of St. James. The idea of the construction of a big cathedral temple derives from the 13th century, when Šibenik was given the status of a town and its own diocese. The construction with several interruptions lasted for 105 years, from 1431 until 1536, beginning in the Venetian Gothic style and finishing in the Tuscan Renaissance style.
The Old Masters: Juraj Dalmatinac, Nikola Firentinac and the Others
Šibenik Cathedral is a three-naved 38 m long and 14 m wide basilica, and its highest point is on the top of the cupola. During the first decade of the 15th century the construction of the cathedral was led by Venetian architects Francesco Giacomo, Antonio Busato and Lorenzo Pincino, as well as Šibenik's stonemasons Andrija Budčić and Grubiša Statčić, but in 1441 Juraj Dalmatinac was appointed proto-master and worked on the construction until his death in 1475. As the master of the late Gothic flower style and the initiator of the Gothic-Renaissance style in Dalmatia, Juraj Dalmatinac changed the initial plan of the church, giving it its monumental importance. The construction of the cathedral was after his death continued by Nikola Firentinac in the pure Renaissance style. Since the cathedral had not been finished, the construction was after Firentinac taken over by Venetian architects Bartol and Jakov from Mestre and Zadar's master Mestičević.
The Baptistery as the Well of Life
In the cathedral's interior the baptistery draws particular attention, because of its original and creative synthesis of two different art styles of the first half of the 15th century, the Late Gothic and the Early Renaissance. The cathedral represents the first finished architecture in the Renaissance style, constructed only 20 years after the real beginning of the Renaissance in Tuscany. The most impressive feature of the baptistery is the abundance of sculptural decoration, among which the human figure is the most represented one. Besides the sculptures of the four prophets (of which only two are preserved until today), the whole vault is decorated with reliefs of angels, cherubs' heads and the impressive head of Father God. The baptismal font is located in the centre of the baptistery, carried by three plump naked boys in movement, made by Juraj Dalmatinac.