Sibenik (Šibenik) is city on the Croatian coast some 80 km north of Split. As it's positioned in the deep bay, it is one of the most naturally protected harbors on the Adriatic coast.
Sibenik is the city less known to tourist than Dubrovnik and Split, although it has its own personality and some great things to see and enjoy. The atmosphere in Sibenik is youthful and lively. Little streets lead to attractive squares where modern shop windows unite really nice with the fine and stylish architecture of the vanished centuries.
One of the things not to be missed in Sibenik is Sibenik’s cathedral – Cathedral Sveti Jakov, built back to 1434, is an important architectural Renaissance building in Croatia. It's listed by the Unesco as a World Heritage Site. The cathedral lies just underneath the fortress walls of the town in the old area of Sibenik .
This cathedral consists of lime stone and marble from the stone mason’s Island of Brac in Croatia. Juraj Dalmatinac and Nikola Firentinac, famous stone masters from Croatia supervised the building itself.
St James Cathedral of Sibenik
The Cathedral of Šibenik is the fruitful outcome of many interchanges of influences between the three culturally different regions of northern Italy, Dalmatia and Tuscany in the 15th and 16th centuries. These interchanges created the conditions for unique and outstanding solutions to the technical and structural problems of constructing the cathedral vaulting and dome. The structural characteristics of the cathedral make it a unique and outstanding building in which Gothic and Renaissance forms have been successfully blended.
Sibenik is a small town on the Dalmatian coast, opening out on a bay separated from the Adriatic by the Sveti Ante (St Anthony) channel and a multitude of tiny islands. The Subic family founded the town in the 10th century. It consists of a labyrinth of narrow streets and small squares climbing from the level of the cathedral to the fortress at the summit of the old town. Early in the 12th century, it came under the sway of the kings of Hungary, who granted its independence.
In 1116 and 1378 Sibenik suffered at the hands of the Venetians. They took the town in 1412, renaming it Sebenico and holding it until the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797. The cathedral of St James owes its present appearance to three successive periods of construction between 9 April 1431, when the first stone was laid, and 1535.
Georgius Mathei Dalmaticus built the cathedral, except for the nave and the aisle walls, by assembling slabs of stone and the contiguous sections of pilaster and ribbing using a particular technique for the joints. The roofing of the aisles, as well as that of the apses and the dome, is made from stone ’tiles’. These roofing tiles are laid side by side with their horizontal edges overlapping, and the joints are made by the perfect fit. On the dome, the tiles are held in place by stone wedges fitted with great precision and are inserted into the ribs as into a portcullis.
This type of construction could well have taken its inspiration from shipbuilding, or from the experience of many artists whose first trade was the working of wood as joiners, cabinet-makers, or model makers. The solution adopted for the cathedral at Šibenik was made possible by the outstanding quality of the stone used, which came from the stone quarries of Veselje, on the island of Brac, which is still in operation to this day.
Church of St. Barbara
The small Church of St. Barbara, behind the Cathedral of St. James, was built around the middle of the 15th century, and conserves parts of an older building. Irregular openings make the façade unusual: the lunette on the main door has a statue of St. Nicholas from the workshop of Bonino of Milan.
Inside is an altar made by a youthful pupil of Juraj Dalmatinac (Giovanni da Pribislao), who needed to match another altar which had been saved from the earlier church. The church also houses a rich and interesting collection of religious art, with paintings, sculptures and illuminated texts dating from the 14th to the 16th centuries.
Church of St. Francis
Along the busy seafront, on the southern edge of the Old Town center, once stood the Monastery of St. Francis, founded in 1229 and destroyed during a raid in 1321. Some capitals, a few statues, and parts of the arches in the cloister are of the original structure. Towards the middle of the 15th century several new chapels were added on.
The buildings were completely rebuilt in the Baroque style around the middle of the 18th century. The church underwent complete renovation: the wooden ceiling and the sumptuous gilded carved wooden altars were remade, and every wall was decorated with paintings.
Inside, in the first chapel on the left, s a great organ from 1762, made by Peter Nakic. The large cloister has kept its 14th century structure and there's a library with manuscripts and liturgical material in the monastery.