Eclipsed in fame and size by Dubrovnik on the same Adriatic coast, Trogir is like a very expensive perfume, kept in a tiny bottle. It would have been hard for a film crew to recreate such accurate sets for bringing to life an aristocratic society of hundreds of years ago. But Trogir looks perfect and is genuine and vivid, with its artifacts that go back three centuries before our age.
Trogir is situated in the neighborhood of Split, one of the largest cities in Croatia, and even closer to Kastela, a collection of former villages, now turned seaside resorts.
The oldest traces of living on this “island of goats” go back to the times when Greeks were conquering the shores of Mediterranean See. They established a colony here, and although their dwellings are long gone, amazingly the city to this day keeps its Hellenistic plan. From Greek, the citadel turned Roman, a natural stage considering that it is not far from the remains of Diocletian’s Palace in Split and that even today Trogir takes its drinking water from the same river as the palace of the emperor once did. And the story went natural on with the ages, when Trogir was part of the Byzantine foothold on Dalmatia, with capital in Zadar.
But there was another nation that marked the looks of Trogir for most of the last millennium, and that was the city-state of Venice. To them we ow the current look of the city, the main cathedral, the fortress and the general aspect of the streets. Their reign was only briefly interrupted by the Austrian Habsbourgs and by the French empire of Napoleon.
The buildings that stand out are the Kamerlengo Fortress (Camerlengo), a monumental citadel of 15 century with thick stone walls. It was built by Marin Radoj, commissioned by Venice. The word camerlengo is an Italian equivalent of chamberlain, a rank in the Venetian republic. Then there is the imposing cathedral of St Lawrence (Sv Lovri), also known as St John (Sv Ivan), a bishop who worked at this project. Since it was built during the 12th and 15th century, under the jurisdiction of Hungarians, Austrians and Venetians, the cathedral encompasses several styles – mainly Romanesque Gothic. Trogir itself is considered the best preserved Romanesque Gothic city in East-Central Europe. The most valuable artistic element of St Lawrence’s cathedral is the western portal, carved by a Croatian sculptor, Radovan, with scenes from the life of Christ.
Another noticeable religious building is the Benedictine church of St John the Baptist (Ivan Krstitelj), which sits next to the cathedral of Sv Lovri. Near the Duke Palace, there is also a Loggia, also built by Benedictines in the 13 century, with columns and bass-reliefs depicting Justice and other allegoric figures. The Loggia is right in the main city square, where an abbey was once, and was complemented by a tall clock-tower.
The Italians were forced to abandon the city when Croatia became part of the Yugoslav Federation, but they gladly return now in the animated harbor with their yachts or to roam the narrow streets of this dream-city and to rest in one of the exclusive coffee shops on the seafront promenade shadowed by palm trees.