The cathedral of St. Jacob is the most valuable architectural monument built during the 15th and the 16th century in Croatia, and according to its beauty, construction techniques and style characteristics it is not only the biggest and the most valuable object of the architectural heritage of the Town of Šibenik, but it represents also a unique monument of the European sacral architecture.
THE UNIQUE MONUMENT OF EUROPEAN SACRAL ARCHITECTURE
According to its artistic value, it belongs to the most valuable European monumental cathedrals, and thanks to some of its features it is unique not only among the cathedrals, but among the Christian churches in general.
THE ONLY CONSTRUCTION BUILT ENTIRELY OF STONE IN THE WHOLE OF EUROPEIt is the only cathedral in the whole of Europe constructed entirely of stone. No wooden architectural elements were used for its building.
It is also the first construction in the whole of Europe, the assemblage of which was based on a unique system of intergrooved stone plates (other constructions based on this system originate from the 19th century), as well as the only construction whose outside volume completely corresponds to the shape of the interior.
The cathedral of St. Jacob is well known for the iconographic innovations, among which the frieze of 74 head sculptures (individual portraits of the contemporaries of Juraj Dalmatinac) takes special place. It is considered to be the most numerous portrait gallery of the highest quality exhibited as the public monument on a sacral object in Europe. Also, introduced was the relief representing Father God with the dove of the Holy Spirit and angels on the vault of the baptistery of the Cathedral.
105 YEARS OF CONSTRUCTIONThe Cathedral was constructed on the south side of the central square of the oldest town core, on the site of the former Romanesque church of St. Jacob. The idea of the construction of a big Cathedral temple derives from the 13th century, when Šibenik was given the status of a town and its own diocese. The construction lasted for 105 years with interruptions, from 1431 until 1536. It began in the Venetian Gothic style, and was finished in the Tuscan Renaissance style.
MASTERS: JURAJ DALMATINAC AND NIKOLA FIRENTINACDuring the first decade of the 15th c., the construction of the Cathedral was led by the Venetian architects Francesco Giacomo, Antonio Busato and Lorenzo Pincino, as well as Šibenik’s stonemasons Andrija Budčić and Grubiša Statčić, but in 1441 Juraj Dalmatinac was appointed protomaster and worked on the construction until his death in 1475.
As the master of the late / flower Gothic style and initiator of the Gothic-Renaissance style in Dalmatia, Juraj Dalmatinac changed the initial plan of the church, giving it monumental importance. After his death, the construction of the Cathedral was continued by Nikola Firentinac in the pure Renaissance style. Since the Cathedral hadn’t been finished, after Firentinac the construction was taken over by Venetian architects Bartol and Jakov from Mestre, and Zadar’s master Mestičević. The Šibenik Cathedral is a three-naved basilica 38 metres long and 14 metres wide, and its highest point is on the top of the cupola (38 metres). It was consecrated in 1555 by bishop Ivan Štafilić.
BAPTISTERY AS WELL OF LIFEIn the Cathedral’s interior the baptistery draws particular attention because of its original and creative synthesis of two different art styles of the first half of the 15th century – late Gothic and early Renaissance.
The Cathedral represents the first finished architecture in Renaissance style constructed only 20 years after the real beginning of the Renaissance in Tuscany. The most impressive feature of the baptistery is the abundance of sculptural decoration among which the human figure is the most represented one.
Besides the sculptures of the four prophets (of which only two are preserved until today), the whole vault is decorated with reliefs of angels, cherubs’ heads and impressive head of Father God. The baptismal font is located in the centre of the baptistery, carried by three plump naked boys in movement made by Juraj Dalmatinac.