At the first mention of Šibenik, one surely immediately thinks of a memorable St James cathedral standing out among orange Medieval closely packed roofs of the old town. This unique composition became the town’s emblem and the part of world’s architecture ever since its construction.
May 1 1298. Šibenik becomes a town with its own diocese. In the location of the old St James’ church, damaged by Venetians some hundred years later, a new church starts to spring, while the world couldn’t even imagine what kind of monumental building will be raised in the very heart of Krešimir’s town.
Hoc opus cuvarum fecit magister Georgius Matthei Dalmaticus 29 XI 1443 (This apse was made by a master Giorgio da Sebenico 29 XI 1443) and it is the only known Giorgio’s signature, in inscription on the cathedral. Upon bishop’s call Giorgio diligently works on the conferred project, the construction of this pearl of Šibenik. After his death, his work on the cathedral was continued by an architect Niccolò di Giovanni Fiorentino who faithfully followed the initial Giorgio’s design and techniques and completes the cathedral’s nave and aisle’s walls (cupola).
This breathtaking cathedral is s entirely made of stone from the islands Brač, Rab and Korčula. But what is interesting is actually how the slabs of stone are carved with a perfect precision and assembled, like tiles, laid side by side so their joints could make the perfect fit with no use of plaster or similar binders, instead stone wedges are fitted and inserted into the ribs, so there is no need to use plaster or similar binders.
This hard and demanding construction lasted almost an entire decade so as to finally be finished and dedicated to st James in 1555. The statue of saint James is placed on the roof above the main altar faced to the eastern side holding a sward in his hands as a true patron of the Diocese of Šibenik. The archangel Michael, the town’s patron, is faced to the northern side in the town’s direction, standing proudly on the cathedral’s roof and running through with a spear the evil lying at the bottom of his feet.
Specifically interesting detail is found all along the perimeter – an hedge composed of human heads in natural size.
Sculptural inspiration for the main theme remains yet unclear, however, it somehow perfectly framed a monumental geometry of the facade making the theme of this artistic game less important.
UNESCO placed in 2000 St James Cathedral on its World Heritage List and recently the facade area has been thoroughly repaired because of the influence of salt and wind to which it is inevitably exposed due to its position. Its interior is currently being renewed so we will soon be able to enjoy its full beauty. Therefore, do not hesitate and visit this millennium monument of Šibenik!