As you probably know by now, Croatia is predominantly a Catholic country, being Croatian and Catholic pretty much go hand in hand. Since the seventh century Croats have accepted the Catholic faith. Culture, art, and many traditions of Croatia were influenced by religion. Many cities and towns, including Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Rovinj, Split, and many others, feature a great mix of architectural style of churches from the ruins of ancient Roman palaces to medieval, Goth and Modern day.
So let me share with you some of my favorite churches in Croatia!
1. Cathedral of St. James – Sibenik
I cannot explain the energy and heart thumping experience that literally runs through my veins every time I look up at this phenomenon of a construction! The Cathedral of Saint James (Sveti Jakov) is Europe’s only cathedral (protected by UNESCO) that is entirely built from limestone and marble, shipped from the stone masons’ Island of Brac where Juraj Dalmatinac and Nikola Firentinac, famous stone masters from Croatia, supervised the construction itself. Located in the heart of Sibenik, St. James most intriguing feature is the seventy-four stone heads, which surround its facade. If your planning to head to Sibenik pick the month of July the Feast Day of St. James (25th of July) exhibits the city in all its glory and colors and commemorate the patron saint!
2. St. Euphemia Basilica–Rovinj
This definitely is one of the most photographed churches on the Mediterranean! I remember the first time I saw St. Euphemia (Sveta Eufemija) peering out of the town Rovinj I was absolutely love struck. The beauty of this church entangled with the rolling hilltops and seaside background cannot be painted into words. St Euphemia is a Venetian Baroque building and the largest monument in Rovinj that was restored between 1725 and 1736. To get the best view in town, climb the bell tower of the church once on top the panorama is simply mind-blowing, you can also light a candle inside the church — I make sure to light one for my family and friends in almost every church I go to.
3. Church of St. Donatus – Zadar
When visiting Zadar one must visit St. Donatus –‘Sveti Donat’ (very hard to miss even if you try)! An ancient church built in rare pre-Roman Dalmatian style.St. Donatus is a landmark in the area known as the Forum dating back to the 9th century and is certainly Zadar’s most famous spot! A charming and Romanesque city Zadar is also well known for having many attractive Romanesque churches: Cathedral of St. Anastasia from 13th century and the Church of St. Chrysogonus from 12th century as well as the church tower of St. Mary dating back from 12th century too. Zadar town is fortified with medieval walls, distinguished for their pretty and impressive ports, all entries in the city date back to the sixteenth century. After a day of exploring Zadar visit the seaside village of Vinjerac (20 minute drive from Zadar) and dine at Konoba Pece you will not be disappointed!
4. Church of St. Blaise – Dubrovnik
I have a really close connection with the city of Dubrovnik; it holds a special place in my heart, a city where many of my childhood memories were created. It takes me to a world where dreams and fairytales come alive and the old city walls magnetize me to stay and never leave. A UNESCO Heritage site, Dubrovnik is also known as ‘The Pearl of the Adriatic’ and is home to some of the most amazing landscapes and buildings; one of them being the Church of St. Blaise (Sveti Vlaho), an 18th-century baroque church on Luza Square dedicated to the patron saint and protector of Dubrovnik.
For more than a thousand years the city under Srd Hill celebrates the day of their patron saint on February 2nd. A true reflection of Dubrovnik can be experienced on this day as every February 2nd, Dubrovnik celebrates with a mystical procession with candles with crowds repeating the famous old saying: “Candelabra, winter gone, followed by Saint Blaise, who says it’s a lie.” Which In deed is a metaphor for on this day, when inland cities are bathed in rain, and Europe is often swept by snow, Dubrovnik is full of mimosa’s, daffodils and – sunny, spring days.
The church of St. Blaise is my personal favorite, in front of the saint’s church lay wide grand stairs that lead to the churches doors, many locals sit here and watch the world go by all year round-one of my most treasured pastimes’.
5. Church of St. Mark – Zagreb
When I first moved to Croatia back in 2009 I lived in Zagreb. A majestic and charming city rolled into one. Most afternoon’s I would take a walk in the upper town of the city where located is St. Mark’s Church. ‘Sveti Marko’ originally built in the 13th century it was the type of church that made you come to a halt, look, stare, awe and gasp at, every time you walked by. The finest part of the church is its fanciful tile roof; an extraordinary patchwork of Gothic and Romanesque architecture, with significant 19th century additions of the roof and bell tower. On the left –side of the roof is the coat of arms used for the Kingdom of Croatia, Slavonia, and Dalmatia from 1848-1852, and on the right side is the coat of arms of Zagreb. In the church’s interior you can also view influential works by the great Croatian sculptor Ivan Mestrovic. When visiting Zagreb St. Mark’s Church is a must on your to-do-list!
6. Cathedral of St. Domnius– Split
Saint Domnius is the Patron saint of Split and the cities major festival day. Adoringly known as ‘Sveti Duje’ it’s the feast day that unofficially marks in the warm weather, season of swimming, flamboyant produce and renowned cultural events that emerge along the Adriatic coast! The story goes that the patron Saint of Split was guided by Saint Peter to evangelize Dalmatia! The emperor Diocletian (history deems he was not the most liked and nicest rulers) wanted Domnius dead! Diocletian’s attempts failed and today Sveti Duje is the symbol of Split, the cathedral of Saint Domnius claims to be the oldest in the world and is also where the remains of the famous saint rest. In honor of ‘Sveti Duje’ many male children are named after this saint in Dalmatia.
So what are you waiting for don’t just lie on the beach all day and get a tan, discover and unveil customs and traditions that are ingrained in Croatia’s religious roots. Many of the little churches in Croatia have the option for visitors to take a moment of their busy day, light a candle, and reflect. These candles are often to the side near the front of the church.
What’s your favorite church in Croatia?