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Cathedral of St. James in Sibenik

Cathedral of St. James in Sibenik
The Cathedral of Saint James in Sibenik is a Gothic-Renaissance construction built entirely from stone. It was built in three phases, by three architects, between 1431 and 1535. Its style started out as Venetian Gothic, but was turned to Renaissance by the two latter architects (Georgius Mathei Dalmaticus and Niccolá di Giovanni Fiorentino). These were also responsible for the characteristic sculptures. Slabs of stone from the island of Brac were used, even for the dome where stone wedges held the tiles in place.

The cathedral suffered damage during both World War II and the fighting in 1991. The reconstructions that have been carried out since have been true to the original model and techniques.

Visit September 2008

On a late Saturday afternoon I went by bus from Split to Sibenik, about 80 kms to the north. The public bus took us on a winding road along the coast line, passing several marinas. For me this was the first view of the non-touristy Croatia. It has a general Mediterranean feel about it, it could be anywhere between Spain and Greece.

At the outskirts of Sibenik we hit upon a traffic jam caused by horning and flag waving car drivers. At first I thought that people were celebrating because Croatia had won an important football match. But it turned out to be a loud and patriotic wedding - not the last I would see that Saturday.

The cathedral of Sibenik is located about 10 minutes on foot from the bus station, and can be seen from afar. You have to get up close to get the real "Wow!"-feeling though. All those fine little sculptures around the gates, facade and apse! No less than 74 small sculptured heads that represent eminent Sibenik citizens are the highlight of the exterior.

The interior of the cathedral is much darker and more sober. I didn't get the chance to explore the church well on the inside, because that would have meant that I had to push another bridal couple to the side. The cathedral of course is a prime wedding location: another couple and their guests were already waiting at the plaza next door for the next 'shift'. So I had to retreat again, and take the bus back to Split.


Clyde (Malta):
I visited this WHS in April 2014. Since it is quite close to several other WHS in Croatia and usually visited by tour groups on day trips, I decided to spend the night there. It turned out to be a wise choice as the narrow uphill streets or stairs and the old city centre were empty at sunset or at night or even early morning. This meant that I had the cathedral all to myself and I tried to discover different vantage points from where to take good pictures and appreciate this stone cathedral. The best views in my opinion are the following: 1) from the Ana Fortress or cemetery, 2) from beneath the few stairs immediately in front of the main facade, or else 3) all the way up the stairs to the left of the town hall. The main interesting peculiarity of this cathedral, apart from it being built entirely from stone, is that the apses and facades are adorned by common citizens' faces instead of saints or gargoyles. The highlight of my visit was the intricately carved baptistry at the back of the cathedral. It is in immaculate condition and the natural lighting on the baptismal font with angels was really something I'll never forget.
Date posted: May 2014
Klaus Freisinger (Austria):
Sibenik is very pretty town in a scenic location on the Adriatic Sea. It features a picturesque Old Town, with the main attraction being the Sv. Jakov (St. James) Cathedral. The cathedral is built in a Venetian Renaissance style and is quite impressive, even though it is surrounded by buildings and can't really be admired from afar. The interior is also interesting and well-preserved, especially the baptistry. All in all, it is a nice attraction in a nice city, nothing very special, but certainly worth an excursion. The drive or bus ride from Split or Zadar along Croatia's stunningly beautiful coastline is a big part of the enjoyment.
Date posted: May 2013
Hubert Scharnagl (Austria):
There are a lot of cathedrals on the WH list, plenty of them are larger in size or have a more magnificent interior decoration or are of greater historical significance. But the Cathedral in Sibenik has its own special charm: the location close to the shore, the bright white of the facade, and the carved stone portraits mentioned by Els. They depict citizen of Sibenik and not - as usual - saints or demonic creatures.
But the special feature of the cathedral is the construction technique. It is entirely built of stone, no other material was used. The barrel vault and the cupola were constructed of self-supporting stone slabs. No mortar or other binding material was used.
We visited Sibenik and the nearby Krka National Park as a daytrip from Trogir. We reached Sibenik in the afternoon and amazingly there were only a few tourists. That was a pleasant surprise compared with the crowds in Dubrovnik, Split and Trogir. We also strolled through the almost deserted old town and walked upstairs to the Ana fortress. From there you have a wonderful view to the cathedral and the bay (photo).
Date posted: December 2012
Zrinka Jelic (Canada):
It's a required field trip for all grade four studends in primary school. I went there when I was a fourth grader and later each time my mom thaught grade four (if she didn't take them to Plitvice which is an alternate trip) Either way I've seen this magnificent monument so many times and each time was as if I'm looking at it for the first time.
Date posted: May 2011

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Site info

Cathedral of St. James in Sibenik
Country: Croatia
Inscribed: 2000
Cultural Heritage
Criteria:  (1) (2) (4)
Category: Religious structure, Christian

Site history:
2000 Inscribed
Reasons for inscription

Site links

Official website:
»Sibenik Tourism

In the news:
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Getting there

This WHS has 1 location(s).


Italian Architects outside Italy . Renaissance .
Gates depicting Lions .
Damaged in World War II .
Adriatic Sea .
Fusion . Republic of Venice .
Religion and Belief
Cathedrals .
Built in the 15th century .
Free entrance . Smallest cultural WHS .
WHS Hotspots
Split hotspot .
World Heritage Process
Single Monuments .

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