Diocletian’s Palace

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Diocletian`s palace: a place where drawings and graffiti are cultural treasure

Many urban areas including the city of Split deal with problems such as graffiti on an everyday basis. Graffiti embrace all types of markings, etchings and paintings that deface public and private property. That`s why it might sound strange if we say that there are drawings and graffiti written on many prominent buildings inside Diocletian`s palace that we generally treat with care and treasure as part of cultural heritage.

Drawings and graffiti are so precious to us and many were made during the period of antiquity (when Split was ruled by emperor Diocletian), the middle Ages, and most of them can be found on Split`s cathedral. Some of the characters in and on the cathedral may have been accidentally created by builder’s mistake, but in most cases, they are traces left with the intention of sending a message to those inside. While many centuries have passed since these messages were sent, each of these drawings and graffiti is a puzzle waiting for an explanation.

One of the oldest examples of graffiti carved inside of Diocletian`s palace that we today observe with care are Zotikos and Filotas – names written in the Greek alphabet, which most likely belong to one of the first builders who worked on Diocletian`s mausoleum – today’s cathedral. Although we do not know much about the first builders who built the palace (how many of them were hired, where did they come from…) many Greek letters carved into the cathedral`s blocks indicate that they were `tags` carved by various builders to show which stone block they were working on.

In the middle Ages, all over the Adriatic coast, cathedrals became centres of social, cultural and religious life. Having such an important role in the lives of people, the walls of the cathedrals became places where many people were trying to carve something as a trace that would be visible to everyone.

Thanks to that, on the outside walls of the cathedral (mausoleum) we can today find many different crosses, stylized or simply engraved.


On the bell tower, as well as on the exterior walls of the cathedral, there are many examples of graffiti with authors initials, and sometimes the year when they were carved.

(Pictures show initials S ƚ C from 1659. and F ƚ M)

Besides graffiti with signatures, there are also different drawings from middle Ages carved into the walls of houses or tourist attractions such as Jupiter`s temple. This temple has probably the most beautiful and one of the best-preserved drawings showing a bull. Alongside the bull there are also some gothic letters.

The above drawings and graffiti are just a few of the many hidden examples inside the palace. It is not hard to spot them, but you need a sharp eye and some time to explore. They are living witnesses of times long gone, riddles waiting to be solved so that we can know something more about their authors.

If you want to know more, join us on our http://www.gecko-tours.co/tours/split-walking-tour/ and let us help you discover the palace as a local.

 Author – Petra Žuvela

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Diocletian's palace, Split, Croatia
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Diocletian's palace, Split, Croatia
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Diocletian`s palace: a place where drawings and graffiti are cultural treasure
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Gecko Tours Split
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