Zadar - Episcopal complex

Photo by Els Slots.

Zadar - Episcopal complex is part of the Tentative list of Croatia in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.

The Episcopal complex in Zadar comprises the remains of the Roman Forum and a group of religious buildings connected to the seat of the archbishop. They are located at the heart of the modern city. The cathedral of St. Anastasia dates back to a Christian basilica built in the 4th and 5th centuries, while much of the currently standing three-nave building was constructed in the Romanesque style during the 12th and 13th centuries. The church of St. Donatus, a monumental round building, is the largest Pre-Romanesque building in Croatia.

Map of Zadar - Episcopal complex

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The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.

Community Reviews

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Persian Globetrotter

Spain - Iran - 29-Nov-23 -

Zadar was the first city I visited in Croatia, in the middle of the pandemic, so I was able to enjoy the city without crowds.

The city of Zadar itself is already very beautiful both for its location facing the sea and for its architecture, the area of ​​the Roman Forum, with the Cathedral and the remains of Roman and pre-Roman ruins around it, are places that deserve an inscription. 

Read more from Persian Globetrotter here.


Spain - 19-Oct-22 -

I visited zadar a couple years ago and tbh at the time I was a bit underwhelmed. I expected quite a bit of the city and It didn't fullfill. The Fortifications pale in comparison to those of Dubrovnik, the city has way less charm than sibenik and the Roman remains are almost inexistent. Nevertheless It is a nice city, with a pleasant old town, a very interesting church, a surprising Cathedral and an impressive set of fortifications.

In fact, Zadar IS already part of the whl as a component of venetian works of defence owing to those impressive fortifications. However, the new proposal, far from an extension, would requiere a completely new site, whose main Focus would probably be croatian preromanesque.

The church of st donatus, as pointed out by the state, is the main component of the site and clearly its most valuable asset. There's only a couple dozen preromanesque churches in Europe and st donatus is not only quite unique and big, but also acclaimed as the best example of the croatian regional a style, which is not represented in the list. The rest of the proposal includes several interesting buildings in the old town, chief among them the grande romanesque Cathedral.

Now, the list already has plenty of preromanesque churches, mostly carolingian, but also asturian and lombard. Croatia also has plenty more churches which could be included in a "croatian preromanesque" proposal (which IS imo the best way to represent these sites which are often quite underwhelming on their own).  As such I come upon a problem i'm sure iconos will stumble upon too. I would be in favour of st donatus being on the list, given Its importance in understanding preromanesque art..i'm just not sure which should be the side.

You see, st donatus is Big, but quite barren, as was the style at the time, thus It's far from the impressive carolingian art and even pales in comparison to the lacluster decorations of asturian preromanesque. In other words, I don't think the church by itself can support a proposal, and apparently neither does croatia.

Instead, Croatia has opted for including It in zadar historic town, which albeit nice, is no true wonder of itself. As such I feel conflicted about Its place in a list which already boasts Split, Dubrovnik, Trogir and sibenik as prime examples of adriatic medieval cities. Furthermore I deeply dislike duplication of world heritage sites.

The question is, does st donatus elevate zadar to wh status? My answer is: probably not. However I think It Will get in, because st donatus is important enough to act as a barhaining chip of sorts.

So my conclusion?...more study would be necessary, but a priori I wouldn't be against the proposal. Though It's barely to my liking. (Insert mild eyeroll)

It also opens the door for a new wave of preromanesque sites which seems to already be on the move. Spain has the intention to get the visigothic see of egara (with its dubious frescoes) and a set of mozarabic churches. There's also the real posibility of other visigothic churches getting on the list, perhaps as a multinational site.

Ilya Burlak

USA - 30-Jul-19 -

Zadar - Episcopal complex         (T) by Ilya Burlak

Zadar is already on the World Heritage list, or at least its fortifications are as part of the Venetian Works of Defense serial site. Additionally, a collection of buildings and points of interest in the center of the old town may be up for inscription in the next couple of years. The group includes the Cathedral of Saint Anastasia, the church of Saint Donatus, the Roman Forum, the monastery of Saint Mary, the archaeological museum of Zadar, and a few other structures. On a recent visit to Zadar, I explored the first three, and looked from the outside on all others.

The Forum is not too large, clearly laid out in patterns that suggest its museum-like design, free to walk through, and draws a significant part of its appeal purely due to its location at the focal point of the town. Saint Anastasia, whose façade opens on a small square away from the Forum, is very reminiscent of a typical Romanesque cathedral found in a midsize Italian town; the cathedral’s interior is no more than just ok; the reliefs and the stonework of its portals are probably the most impressive features here. The cathedral tower is fairly easy to climb and the views from the top are quite worth the effort. The round church of Saint Donatus is almost entirely empty, but the reliefs and the column capitals are quite beautiful, although not necessarily worth the entry fee.

None of these sights raise to the level of exceptional individually. Taken together, they may be visually pleasing but still fall short of being outstanding. My "thumbs up" for the tentative site is mostly due to the fact that I liked historic Zadar as a whole and I have already seen WH sites that I think are less defined in terms of their OUV; Zadar wouldn't be out of place on the inscribed list.

A couple of hours appear to be enough to see these and all other components of the tentative site, and the whole of Zadar seemingly can be well explored in a single day; there are museums that may extend that, including the aforementioned archaeological museum that I did not go into. Distance-wise, Zadar is about 2 hours from central Split by car; while within acceptable range for most day-trippers, I am left with the feeling of not being able to linger in town long enough due to the length of the return drive.

Read more from Ilya Burlak here.

Thibault Magnien

Belgium, France - 11-Jul-18 -

Zadar - Episcopal complex         (T) by Thibault Magnien

The Episcopal complex of Zadar includes the Roman forum, the cathedral of St. Anastasia, the archbishop’s palace, the church of St. Donatus, the Zmajevic seminary, the orthodox church of St. Elias, the Benedictine nunnery with the church of St. Mary and several other buildings / museums. The central point of this site is the main square with the ruins of the roman forum and the church of St. Donatus, with rotunda shape, with the cathedral tower on its side. The site is a fine and esthetic ensemble. St. Donatus and the cathedral are historical masterpieces. However, Croatia will have to make efforts in justifying the OUV and uniqueness of this place compared to other religious ensembles in the country. Extending the site to include the whole Zadar historic center would maybe be a possibility to explore considering the rich Venetian heritage also existing in the town in addition to Roman and Christian buildings.

Full Name
Zadar - Episcopal complex
Religious structure - Christian
2016 Requested by State Party to not be examined

2013 Requested by State Party to not be examined

Withdrawn after Rejection Advice from ICOMOS

2012 Advisory Body overruled

Referral instead of Deferral

2012 Referred

2005 Added to Tentative List

The site has 1 locations

Zadar - Episcopal complex (T)
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