In 1979 Diocletian palace became part of the UNESCO world heritage. It is one of the best preserved monuments of Roman architecture in the world. The emperor's palace was built between 295 and 305 as a combination of a luxury villa and a Roman military camp, divided in four parts with two main streets. The southern part of the palace was designed for the emperor and the northern part for the imperial army, servants, warehouses and the like. It was built of the stone from Brač and its decorative details such as sphinxes, marble and stone decorations were brought from Egypt, Italy and Greece.
Since the palace was 6 kilometers away from the nearest big city (Salona) it was surrounded by towers (16 towers). There were four entrances into the palace, three from the land and one from the sea. The southern side facing the sea (that one was in Diocletian's time splashed by water) had smaller openings and doors than the eastren and westren side, which were similar and without decoration. The northern entrance was the main entrance into the palace. From the two main streets (cardo and decumanus) , cardo was leading to the peristyle ( open space in front of the emperor's apartment). On the left side there was the emperor's mausoleum (today st. Dominus cathedral) and on the right side there were three temples. The main temple was dedicated to Jupiter (well preserved), and the other two to Cybelle and Venus. Vestibule, the entrance to the emperor's apartment even today looks fascinating. It once had a big dome, and half a century ago people even used to live in it.
Buildings from various periods built in different styles have been well preserved, just as the palace itself, that has managed to maintain its historical role up to the present day. When trasforming the palace into the city the emperor's mausoleum was turned into the cathedral. The cathedral was initially dedicated to Virgin Mary, but at the end of the Middle Ages it was renamed and dedicated to the martyr from Salona and patron saint of Split- St. Dominus. Diocletian's palace is perhaps the only Roman monument in the world in which people still live. Well preserved peristyle, Diocletian's mausoleum, Jupiter's temple, early Christian churches, romanesque houses, the works by sculptor Juraj Dalmatinac and many other monuments are living witnesses of our rich history.
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Among the best preserved remaining of the palace is definitive the complex of underground vaulted halls. That complex, sometimes referred to 'as basement halls', is the substructure of the emperor's apartment and is situated in the southern part of the palace. In order to level the sloping land Diocletian's builders built these halls, whose only function was to support the upper part, where the emperor's living quarters were. Because of that function the halls had the same division of rooms as the emperor's apartment. By transforming the palace into the city most of the apartment was destroyed, but on the other hand, the substructures remained almost intact. Differently from the rooms in the upper part that were knocked down or rebuilt, the ground floor was covered with sewage and other waste material, and its walls and vaults have for the biggest part survived. The walls in the eastern part have partly been pulled down, mostly because building material was needed when in Middle Ages the bell tower of the cathedral was built.
When we take a walk round the cellars, we can find in most walls original Roman material, the so called opus quadratum, sometimes with chiseled symbols. In the upper layers the wall was built of a mixture of materials- opus incertum mixtum, whereas vaults were made of pumice and bricks. In 1956 the excavations in the cellars started and so far 85% has been excavated. An interesting fact is that in the eastern part of the cellars archeologists have discovered larger areas covered with white mosaics, over which a Roman wall was built, which all indicates that the mosaic had been there before the palace was built. A finding of a hole in one of the halls is related to the sacrificial ceremonies, also belonging to the archeological layer before the construction of the palace.