We visited Trogir, Croatia on the fifth day of our study tour of nearby Split. I felt that this excursion deserves a blog post separate from the one I wrote describing the entirety of our Split trip. Trogir is a special place, so special that it’s no surprise its old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In the historic town of Trogir, people have lived in an urbanized setting continuously for the last 2,300 years. The town was first founded as a Greek colony around 3 BCE, its name Tragurion derived from the Greek word “tragos” or goat. Trogir’s location on the Adriatic, a separate island and yet close to the mainland, has made it an important trading outpost.
However, when the Romans conquered and established the province of Dalmatia, Trogir began playing second fiddle to Salona, Dalmatia’s designated capital city. As Salona increased in wealth and prestige, Trogir sank into near-obscurity.
But that was not to last. When the Roman Empire fell, Salona was destroyed by the Slavic people in the 7th century. Salona’s occupants then fled to Trogir. On the other hand, the Slavs began settling just outside the town.
The 9th century saw Trogir coming under the rule of the Byzantine Empire. During the 12th century, the town was completely destroyed in an attack by the Saracens. But rather than abandoning the town, Trogir’s citizens chose to rebuild. This spurred a period of massive growth for the town.
When the Byzantine Empire collapsed in the 1400s, the Trogir aligned itself with Hungary. Unfortunately, this resulted in Trogir getting caught in the conflict between Hungary and Venice for the domination of the Dalmatian coast. When the coast came under Venetian influence, Trogir refused to toe the line. In retaliation, Venice began attacking Trogir.
Hostilities lasted until 1420, when Trogir finally fell under Venetian might. Venetian rule in Trogir spanned 400 years. While Trogir lost its independence, the new regime spurred economic and cultural growth in the town. Most of the cultural treasures that Trogir possessed today were built during this time.
Venetian rule in Trogir ended in 1797, when Venice itself was conquered by Napoleon. This resulted in Trogir being assimilated by the Austrian Empire. Austria’s hold on the town ended in 1918, at the onset of the First World War. At the end of this war, Trogir was absorbed by the kingdom of Yugoslavia.
Trogir changed hands once again during the Second World War, when the Italians came and conquered it. When that war ended, Trogir again became part of Yugoslavia. In 1991, it became part of Croatia when Croatia gained its independence.
Today, Trogir remains part of Croatia. The town has greatly enlarged since it was first settled and now has three parts. Upper Trogir is on the mainland, while Lower Trogir is on the island of Ciovo. Right in the middle is the old town of Trogir, on its own island, connected by bridge to both the mainland and Ciovo.
Getting to Trogir from Split
Trogir is located 27 kilometers west of Split. It was a 45-minute drive from our accommodations at Ark Apartments in Stobreč. Since there were eight of us in the group, we chose to rent a minivan with driver to take us there. It cost us EUR 60 one way. Considering the size of our group and the distance between the two cities, I think the price is reasonable enough. The drive could have been shorter, but there was traffic when we set off.
If you’re visiting Trogir from Split and driving is out of the question, there are alternative modes of transportation you can explore. You can ride a bus from Split to Trogir, for one. For another, there are ferry rides sailing from the port in Split to Trogir.
What to see in Trogir
Trogir is truly a window to the past. Visiting the old town is like stepping back in time into the Renaissance Age, as many of Trogir’s treasured buildings and monuments were constructed during that time. They are lovingly preserved so they would remain intact for future generations to enjoy.
What should you see on your visit to Trogir? You shouldn’t miss the following sights:
- The Cathedral of St. Lawrence
The Cathedral of St. Lawrence is the most imposing structure in Trogir’s old town. It is a multi-story cathedral built in varying architectural styles. The reason for the mishmash of styles is the church took centuries to complete. The lower floor and some parts of the church were done in the Gothic style, while the rest is a mix of Romanesque and Mannerist. Construction on the church began in the 1200s and was completed only in the late 1500s.
The cathedral is the product of the labor of many Croatian and Venetian master craftsmen. A point of interest inside the cathedral is the intricate Romanesque portal carved by the legendary Croatian craftsman Master Radovan and his pupils. The portal depicts the life of Christ, as well as figures of exotic animals
- The Church of St. John the Baptist
The Church of St. John the Baptist is a Benedictine church and monastery located close to the eastern walls of Trogir old town. It is a Romanesque church with a single nave that features many frescos, relief carvings, and other artwork. Many of these artworks were believed to have been crafted by Master Radovan.
- The Cipiko Palaces
The Cipiko Palaces were the residences of the prominent Cipiko family, which ruled medieval Trogir for more than 300 years. They are located at the town square just across the Cathedral of St. Lawrence.
The palaces are actually two complexes composed of many other buildings. The larger Old Palace was linked to the smaller New Palace with a walkway. This walkway, however, no longer exists. These palaces are remarkable for the beautiful carvings created by Croatian Renaissance masters. Among their most notable features are their Venetian-Gothic three-light windows.
- The city gate and walls
On the coastal side of Trogir stand the remains of the great wall that once surrounded the old town. These walls date back to the 13th century, although the two towers flanking it were built during the 1400s. Between these towers is a carved gate believed to be the work of Renaissance master Trifun Bokanić. The gate is notable for its Gothic statue of the blessed bishop John, the patron saint of Trogir.
- The city loggia
The loggia located in the neighborhood of Trg Ivana Pavla II is believed to be a courthouse used during medieval times. The structure contains carvings and artwork created by Croatian master craftsmen. The loggia also features a clock tower said to belong formerly to the Church of St. Sebastian.
- The Duke’s Palace and City Hall
The Duke’s Palace and City Hall is a majestic building standing right at the town’s main square. Formerly the residence of the ruling Duke, the palace was first built during the 15th century. The building also symbolized the economic and political power of Trogir. Among the many features of the building are the coats of arms of the town’s most prominent families. Today, the Duke’s Palace serves as the Trogir City Hall.
- The Kamerlengo Fortress
The Kamerlengo Fortress served as part of Trogir’s naval defense system during the Renaissance period. It was once connected to the city’s walls. The massive and heavily fortified castle is strong enough to withstand sieges and had mounts for guns to deter enemies coming in from the sea. Today, the fortress is now an open-air cinema as well as summer theater.
Trogir is a long drive from Split. But we’re happy we made the time for this day trip. Our visit has made us realize just how significant the role that Trogir played is in forming the history of Dalmatia. And it is truly fortunate that Trogir has kept intact these ancient, beautiful monuments from its glorious past.
Please read the rest of my study tour to Split: