Church of St. Donatus, Zadar, Croatia | CruiseBe
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Church of St. Donatus

History and museums
church, architecture, history, sightseeing

The Church of St. Donatus is a church located in Zadar, Croatia. Its name refers to Donatus of Zadar, who began construction on this church in the 9th century and ended it on the northeastern part of the Roman forum. Originally named (and dedicated to) the church of the Holy Trinity, in the 15th century it was renamed the Church of St. Donatus.

Church of St. Donatus is the largest Pre-romanesque building in Croatia. It is also one of the most impressive churches of centralised type of the Carolingian period in Europe.



The beginning of the building of the Church of St. Donatus was placed to the second half of the 8th century, and it is supposed to be completed in the 9th century. The Zadar bishop and diplomat Donat (8th and 9th centuries) is credited with the building of the church. He led the representations of the Dalmatian cities to Byzantium and Charles the Great, which is why this church bears slight resemblance to Charlemagne's court chapels, especially the one in Aachen (now Aachen Cathedral), and also to the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna. It belongs to the Pre-Romanesque architectural period.

The circular church, formerly domed, is 27 m high and it's characterised by simplicity and technical primitivism. It has three radially situated apses and an ambulatory around the central area, surmounted by circular gallery. The circular shape is typical of the early medieval age in Dalmatia. It was built on the Roman forum and materials from buildings used in its construction. Among the fragments which are built into the foundations it is still possible to distinguish the remains of a sacrificial altar on which is written IVNONI AVGUSTE IIOVI AVGUSTO.

Its use has varied during its lifetime; during the rule of the Venetians it was a warehouse, and also during the French occupation and when under the Austrians. After the liberation it was an archaeological museum for a short period of time and it now serves as the concert venue for the annual International Festival of Medieval Renaissance Music, also known as Musical Evenings in St. Donatus because of its stark interior and excellent acoustics.

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