Trogir is a very charming city situated on a small island about 30 minutes up the coast from the city of Split. It falls under the group of European ‘old cities’ that would be worth visiting even if they would not have world heritage status.
While founded as a Greek colony, there is nothing left of the original Greek city save for the layout of the town. The Greeks of Issa (now Vis) first settled her in the 3rd century BC. Today the remaining buildings are of a medieval or Renaissance origin. In 1997 Trogir was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Trogir is an excellent example of a medieval town built on and conforming with the layout of a Hellenistic and Roman city that has conserved its urban fabric to an exceptional degree and with the least of modern interventions, where the trajectory of social and cultural development is clearly visible in every aspect of the panorama.
Trogir is a remarkable example of urban continuity. The orthogonal street plan of this island settlement dates back to the Hellenistic period and it was embellished by successive rulers with many fine public and domestic buildings and fortifications. Its beautiful Romanesque churches are complemented by the outstanding Renaissance and Baroque buildings from the Venetian period.
The ancient town of Tragurion (island of goats) was founded as a trading settlement by Greek colonists from the island of Vis in the 3rd century BC on an islet at the western end of the bay of Manios, in a strait between the mainland and one of the Adriatic islands, where there was already a small settlement. Megalithic walls enclosed the Hellenistic town and its streets were laid out on a Hippodamian grid plan: the line of the ancient cardo maximus is that of the modern main street. The town flourished in the Roman period as an oppidum civium romanorum. During the late Roman period, extension and re-fortification work took place. Extensive Roman cemeteries surfaced, and a basilica came in place in one of these.
The plan of contemporary Trogir reflects the Hellenistic layout in the location, dimensions, and shapes of its residential blocks. The two ancient main streets, the cardo and the decumanus, are still in use, and paving of the forum was found by excavation at their intersection. Ancient Tragurion lies at the eastern end of the islet; this spread out in the earlier medieval period. The medieval suburb of Pasike developed to the west on a different alignment and the later fortifications enclosed it. The port was on the south side. Finally, the massive Venetian fortifications incorporated the Genoese fortress known as the Camerlengo.
Construction of the Cathedral of St Lawrence, built on the site of an earlier basilica and dominating the main square, began around 1200 and was added in the late 16th century. This relatively protracted period of construction has meant that successive architectural styles – Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance – are all represented. It is a three-aisled basilica, each of the aisles terminating in an apse. Inside the porch at the west end is the baptistery. Of the many aristocratic palaces the Cipico Palace, facing the west end of the cathedral, is the most outstanding. It consists of a complex of structures covering an entire town block.
Most of it dates back to the 13th century, but incorporated in it are some elements of buildings from the late Roman period. During the 15th century, the owner brought in the three most celebrated artists of the period to embellish its facade and interior. Throughout the town, and in particular around the ramparts, are the palaces of other leading families. Many of these arise directly from the foundations of late classical or Romanesque structures and are in all styles from Gothic to Baroque.