Gold and Silver of Zadar

  • Zadar Region

Gold and Silver of Zadar

Along with the reconstructed interior of the old Croatian Church of St Nediljica, manuscripts, sculptures, embroideries, tapestries and reliefs, there shines the gold and silver of Zadar, as a dazzling testimony to the rich past of Zadar from the 7th to the 18th century, especially to the Medieval period when Zadar was the most important centre on the eastern Adriatic coast.

A reliquary from the 7th and 8th centuries, St Aroncius’ reliquary from the 11th, and St James’ reliquary from the beginning of the 12th century, silver hand-shaped reliquaries encrusted with precious stones, with the oldest example from the 12th century, a stone baptistery, a part of the Cathedral ambo or pulpit (elevated place, lectern, located at the junction of the sanctuary and the nave of the church intended for Bible reading) and other stone fragments from the 12th and 13th centuries, Gothic sculptures or paintings by the great Renaissance master Vittore Carpaccio and the Venetian master of Mannerism, Palma Giovane – all this can be seen in eight modern halls of about 1,200 square metres within the Benedictine Monastery of St Mary in Zadar.

This invaluable artistic and historical treasure has been preserved over the centuries by the Benedictine Nuns, and some extremely valuable exhibits such as lace, then church textiles woven with gold threads, are the work of their hands. In 1972, a representative exhibition was formed in the building of the Church of St Mary, i.e., its Monastery from 1066, whose buildings were damaged during the Second World War – the Permanent Exhibition of Religious Art (SICU), which is one of the most valuable exhibitions in Croatia, known as The Gold and Silver of Zadar. Only four years later, it grew into a permanent exhibition of religious art, but the story of Zadar’s gold and silver had begun about twenty years earlier.

Krleža’s second essay Zadar’s Goldsmiths, published in 1966, was written as a preface to the catalogue of the exhibition in Zagreb, so with references to the centuries-old destruction and ill fate of the city, the great writer emphasizes the invaluable treasure in Zadar’s Benedictine Monastery, especially the cultural history from the Croatian rulers to the Anjou period, i.e., the Anjou Dynasty that ruled Sicily and the Kingdom of Naples, and later provided rulers of Hungary, Croatia and Poland (11th – 14th century). Zadar goldsmithing, Krleža notes, could not be isolated from other parts of today’s Croatia “because of the number of travellers which flowed for centuries through Senj and Zagreb to Buda, and from Pecs to Jajce and Bihać“. The image of these goldsmiths remained a bit magical and mystical, and the collection of Zadar’s gold and silver is a kind of a profuse overview of art that is dazzling, brilliant and famous.

For the Croatian writer the gilded Casket of St Simeon, with the Saint’s relics, was an ingenious panorama of scenes from the lives of the donors, their relatives and contemporaries, and it depicts the entry of the King of Hungary and Croatia, Louis the Great (Louis of Anjou), in Zadar in 1358. His wife, Elizabeth Kotromanić (Elizabeth of Bosnia), bestowed upon Zadar this splendid Casket of St Simeon in 1380, which was made by the Milanese master Franciscus de Mediolano. He was assisted in this art work by the local craftsmen Petar Blažev from Rača, Stjepan Pribičev, Mihovil Damjanov and Andrija Markov from Zagreb, creating in Zadar a tremendous monument of Medieval goldsmith art.

ICU was officially opened for visitors on 4th December 1976, and it is one of the greatest collections in terms of quantity, artistic quality and value of collected art works in Croatia. The exhibition is arranged chronologically, so on the ground floor of the Benedictine Monastery there are halls with the permanent exhibition of Romanesque sculpture, and in one of them, the interior of the famous Church of St Nediljica is recreated, which was demolished in 1890. On the second floor, there are exhibits of jewellery or artistic embroidery of the Romanesque and Gothic periods, as well as a reliquary with relics of the head of St Gregory from the 13th and 14th centuries, and a gilded marble icon of the Virgin from the Church of St Simeon, a work of Roman art of the 13th century. On the third floor, art works of the late Gothic and Renaissance are exhibited, and among them there are painted wooden sculptures of the Crucifixion of Christ and the Twelve Apostles, the work of woodcarvers Matteo Moronzone (Matej Moronzon) and Ivan Petrov from Korčula. The SICU collection contains paintings, woodcarving and goldsmith art works, stone sculptures, reliquaries, pax (liturgical objects handed by the priest to the faithful for a kiss), canonical tables, icon bindings, embroidery, liturgical garments and lace, so it is, in fact, extremely difficult to determine the enormous value and the artistic reach of the objects, or simply to enumerate every single one.


Zadar Tours

In Zadar region, their one-day trips offer a combination of history and natural wonders. You can explore Zadar’s ancient city walls, visit the unique Sea Organ, and discover the city’s rich cultural heritage. Additionally, you have the opportunity to visit the nearby stunning Plitvice Lakes National Park, known for its cascading waterfalls and vibrant turquoise lakes.

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Zadar region Beaches

We handpicked 5 beach destinations in Dubrovnik area. Check out the whole list by clicking the button under our Top 5, or click on the beach and get directions to each spot.