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Trg Peristil from Split, Croatia

Seen from above, the old town of Split appears like a rectangular box in which someone has placed buildings, streets and markets. Two of the markets in the citadel are large and, starting with the Middle Ages, had a key role in the history of the city, called Spalato in Italian, Narodni trg. The People’s Square, simply Pjaca for the locals, is mentioned already in the 13th century and has a number of superb gothic buildings. A bit further on, at the entrance in the citadel, lies Trg Braće Radić, called Voćni trg by the locals, meaning fruit market, in remembrance of her old, colourful role. Just outside the medieval walls there is the third great square, Republic Square. Newer, its architecture reminds one of the Venetian San Marco. It was built in a historicist style in the middle of the 19th century, in order to show that Split, long under Venetian rule, carries on the tradition. There are beautiful squares, each with a marked individuality, but the oldest and most interesting of the Split squares is by far Trg Peristril, smaller, yet seen by the locals as the historical heart of the area. Its history is special. In the beginning, the square was the interior courtyard of the palace built for the Roman emperor Diocletian in 305, on a huge, 300 square meter surface. In fact, half of the old city of Split lies within the palace walls, the best preserved Roman palace to survive to our time. After the Romans abandoned it, it will remain uninhabited for centuries, until the people of Salona take refuge from the Slavs, turning the former palace into a settlement. And a settlement it shall remain henceforth. John of Ravenna, the first local archbishop, decides the transformation of Diocletian’s mausoleum into a church. It is the moment when the palace courtyard officially becomes the cathedral square, with all the functions of a medieval square. Changes take place, but some features are kept, including the red porphyry columns.