Thirty kilometres east of Primosten and about 2km west of Split, TROGIR is one of the most seductive towns on the Dalmatian coast, a compact brown-beige welter of palaces, jutting belfries and shambling streets fanning out from an antique central square. Founded by Greeks fromVis in the third century BC, Trogir can compare with any of the towns on the coast in terms of historic sights, and its cathedral is one of the finest in the Adriatic. It's also a good base for further exploration: the swarming city of Split is a short ride away on the #37 bus, and in between lies a string of attractively time-worn fishing villages known collectively as Kaštela, after the little "castles" built here by Trogir nobles to serve as country retreats.

Arrival, information and accommodation
Trogir's old town is built on an oval-shaped island squeezed between the mainland and the larger island of Čiovo, while modern Trogir has spread onto the mainland, stretching along the coast for several kilometres. Intercity buses pick up and drop off on the main street in the new town, just opposite the bridge which leads over to the old town. Also on the mainland side of the bridge is a small bus station, where the #37 bus from Split terminates. Head over the bridge and straight through the town centre to find the tourist office at the southern end of Gradska, the main thoroughfare, which has basic town maps. Ferries to the nearby islands of Mali and Veli Drvenik depart from the eastern end of Trogir's Rival (Obala bang Berislavića), although tickets must be bought from Jadrohnija at the western end, at Obala bang Berislavića 4.
Rooms and apartments are available from the Cipiko agency, in the (Ćipiko Palace opposite the cathedral at Gradska 41 or from Atlas, a little way south of the old town in Ciovo at Obala kralja Zvonimira 10.There are two good hotels in old town houses on the Riva, both with friendly staff and smart en-suite rooms with TV: the Fontana, Obrov 1 and slightly more cramped Concordia, Obala bana Berislavica 22. Across the water in bovo, the Villa Sikaa pension, above the Atlas office at Obala kralja Zvonimira 13, offers snug rooms with TV and bathroom, many with excellent views of the old town.


The Town
Across the bridge froaf the mainland, the old town is entered via the seventeenth-century Land Gate (Kopnena vrata), a simple arch topped with a statue of the town's protector, St John of Trogir (Sveti Ivan Trogirski), a miracle-working twelfth-century bishop. Straight ahead, the outwardly unassuming Garagnin palace now houses the disappointing Town Museum (Gradski muzej), whose downstairs lapidarium boasts a few chunks of early Christian masonry and Renaissance family crests which once hung above the portals of patrician houses.You'll also see a giant wooden cockerel which once formed the figurehead of a sixteenth-century Turkish ship and was captured by Trogirans serving in the Venetian navy. Amid the pictures and yellowing documents upstairs are proclamations issued by the Napoleonic authorities, condemning Trogir leaders to death after a failed anti-French uprising in 1807.

The cathedral
Immediately east of the museum lies Trogir's main street, Gradska, which leads straight down to Trg Ivana Pavla II, a creamy-white square flanked by some  of the town's most historic buildings. Dominating them all the cathedral, a squat Romanesque structure begun in 1213 and only finished with the addition of a soaring Venetian Gothic campanile some three centuries later. A previous church on this site had been damaged by Saracen raiders in the twelfth century, but the town's control of lucrative trade routes with the Balkan interior helped pay for the construction of a new one.
The cathedral's most distinctive feature is its west portal, an astonishing piece of work carved in 1240 by the Slav master-mason Radovan. Radovan laid claim to his work in an immodest inscription above the door, calling himself "Most excellent in his art" — a justifiable claim given the doorway's intricate mix of orthodox iconography with scenes from ordinary life and legend, showing figures of apostles and saints, centaurs and sirens, woodcutters and leather-workers jostling for position in a chaos of twisting decoration. Roughly speaking, there is a gradual movement upwards from Old Testament figures at the bottom to New Testament scenes on the arches and lunette. Adam and Eve frame the door and stand with anxious modesty on a pair of lions. On either side, a series of receding pillars sit upon the bent backs of the undesirables of the time — Jews and Turks — while above is a weird menagerie of creawres in writhing, bucking confusion, laced together with tendrilled carvings symbolizing the months and seasons. The sequence begins with March (the year started with the Annunciation as far as the Church was concerned), symbolized by a man pruning vines, and a wild-haired youth blowing a horn (a reference to the March winds). Further on, a man killing a pig represents the autumn (pig-slaughtering and sausage-making still form an important part of the Croatian calendar), while another character in clogs cooks what look like sausages. The lunette above comprises two scenes fringed by curtains, in imitation of the two-level stages on which medieval miracle plays were often presented.The Nativity is portrayed on the upper level, and the Bathing of Christ below, with shepherds and magi crowding the wings. Above the lunette, the uppermost arch is decorated with scenes from the life of Christ.
Left of the portal, small circular windows are framed by a serpent tearing apart a half-naked libertine. Further over to the left lies the fifteenth-century Baptistry, a fine piece of Renaissance stonework executed by Andrija Alegi of Durres, who is thought to have been an Albanian noble who fled the Turks and had to learn a trade in order to earn a living. He was apprenticed to Juraj Dalmatinac at Sibenik, and was in many ways his stylistic successor. The portal, topped by a relief of the Baptism of Christ, gives way to a coffer-ceilinged interior, where a frieze of cherubs carrying a garland leads round the walls, overlooked by a relief of St Hieronymous in the cave in smooth milky stone.
The interior of the cathedral is atmospherically gloomy, its pillars hung with paintings illustrating scenes from the life of St John of Trogir. At the head of the nave stand a Romanesque octagonal pulpit, its capitals decorated with griffins and writhing snakes, and a Baroque high altar canopied by an ornate thirteenth-century ciborium; the beautiful set of mid-fifteenth-century choirstalls were carved in Venetian Gothic style by local artist Ivan Budislavi6. The north aisle of the cathedral opens up to reveal St John of Trogir's Chapel (Kapela svetog Ivana Trogirskog), another spectacular example of Renaissance work, mostly carried out by Juraj Dalmatinac's other pupil Nikola Firentinac, together with the Trogir sculptor Ivan Duknović. God the Creator is pictured at the centre of barrel-vaulted ceiling, from which a hundred angels gaze down. The space below is ringed by life-size statues of saints, each of which occupies a niche framed by cavorting cherubs. Firentinac's statues of St John of Trogir and St Paul, both portrayed as bearded sages pouring over their prayer books, are masterpieces of sensitive portraiture. Duknovic's equally impressive statue of St John the Evangelist, here depicted as a curly-haired clean-shaven youth, is thought to bear a deliberate resemblance to a favourite son of Trogir-based aristocrat Koriolan Cipiko, who may well have had a hand in commissioning the sculptures for the chapel. At floor level there are more cherubs, this time peeping cheekily from behind half-open doors – which here symbolize the passage from life to death.
Finally, further along the north aisle from St John's Chapel lies the sacristy, which houses the treasury (riznica) a mundane collection of ecclesiastical bric-a-brac. The best exhibits are the fine inlaid storage cabinets carved by Grgur Vidov in 1458, a fourteenth-century Gothic jug, scaled and moulded into snake-like form, and a silver-plated reliquary of St John of Trogir which is paraded round on his feast day.

The rest of the old town
Opposite the cathedral entrance is the Cipiko Palace, a well-worn fifteenth-century Venetian Gothic mansion whose balustraded triple window – with Venetian Gothic arches held aloft by florid Corinthian capitals – is said to be the work of Andrija Alek. There's nothing inside except the Cipiko tourist agency, though it's noteworthy for being the erstwhile home of the Cipikos, Renaissance Trogir's leading noble family. Their best-remembered representatives are the aforementioned Koriolan Cipiko (1425-93), Venetian admiral and author of De bello asiarico, an account of his wartime experiences with the fleet, and Alviz Cipiko, who commanded a galley from Trogir at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. It was in the Cipiko family library that the first known manuscript of "Trimalchio's Feast", a hitherto undiscovered fragment of petronius' Satyricon, was discovered in 1653, sending a frisson of excitement through literary circles all over Europe.
On the other side of the square, the Town Loggia (Gradska loža), with its handsome clock tower and classical columns, dates from the fifteenth century, though its pristine appearance is explained by a late nineteenth-century restoration. The large relief on the east wall of the loggia, showing Justice flanked by St John of Trogir and St Lawrence (the last holding the grill on which he was roasted alive), is another work by Firentinac, identifiable by the presence of his personal "signature", the flower-covered pillars on either side. The relief was damaged in 1932, when a Venetian lion occupying the (now blank) space beneath the figure of Justice was dynamited – an act carried out by locals keen to erase Italian symbols from a town which was still coveted by Italian nationalists. Mussolini, eager to resurrect territorial claims in Dalmatia, raged against "Yugoslav barbarism" and forced the Yugoslav government into a grovelling apology. The loggia's south wall has been disfigured by a surprisingly lifeless Mestrovi6 relief of Petar Berislavić, sixteenth-century Bishop of Zagreb and Ban of Croatia, who fought a losing battle against the advance of Ottoman power.
Just off the square to the southeast is the Church of St John the Baptist (Crkva svetog Ivana Krstitelja), a bare thirteenth-century structure which now holds the Pinakoteka a display of sacred art from the best of Trogir's churches. Among a number of painted crucifixes and the like is Blai JmJev's polyptych showing a Madonna and Child flanked by six saints, in which the Virgin proffers an ivory breast to the infant. There are also canvases of John the Baptist and St Jerome, painted for the cathedral organ by Gentile Bellim in 1489.
South of Trg Ivana Pavla II, the ever-narrowing Gradska leads on to the Convent of St Nicholas (Samostan svetog Nikole), whose treasury is famous for the outstanding third-century Greek relief of Kairos, discovered in 1928. Sculpted out of orange marble, it's a dynamic fragment representing the Greek god of opportunity - once past he's impossible to seize hold of, and the back of his head is shaved just to make it even more difficult. The rest of the collection focuses on Byzantine-influenced sacred paintings from the sixteenth century, and the painted chests in which girls new to the convent brought their "dowries" (gifts to the convent in the form of rich textiles and ornaments) in anticipation of their wedding to Christ.

Along the Rive
Gradska makes a sudden dog-leg to the right before emerging through the Town Gate (Gradska vrata) onto the Riva, a seafront promenade facing the island of Ciovo. Hard up against the gate stands the so-called Small Loggia (Mala ložia), nowadays occupied by souvenir sellers. On either side of the gate are a few stretches of what remain of the medieval town walls, large chunks of which were demolished by the Napoleonic French, who hoped the fresh sea breezes would help blow away the town's endemic malaria. To the right, past a gaggle of cafes, is the campanile of the Dominican Church (Crkva svetog Dominika), a light, high building with a charming relief in the lunette above the main door; it shows a Madonna and Child flanked by Mary Magdalene, clad in nothing but her own tresses, and Augustin Kažtotić (1260-1323), Bishop of Trogir and subsequently Zagreb. A small praying figure next to Kažotić represents his sister Bitkula, who commissioned the work. The main feature inside is the tomb of Simun and Ivan Sobota, which bears a Firentinac relief of the Pieta surrounded by mourners. The coffin below is decorated with more of Firentinac's trademark flowery, pinapple-topped pillars.
Further along, the fifteenth-century Kamerlengo Fortress was named after the Venetian official - the kamerling - who ran the town's finances. An irregular quadrilateral dominated by a stout octagonal tower, it's a wonderfully atmospheric venue for a quick stroll on the battlements. Beyond lies the town's footbapitch, on the opposite side
of which looms the tapering cylinder of St Mark's Tower (Kula svetog Marka), a sandcastle-style bastion built at the same time as the Kamerlengo. Finally, at the far end of the island is Marmont's Gloriette, a graffiti-covered, six-pillared gazebo which looks out onto Čiovo's rusting shipyard. It was built for Marshal Marmont, the French governor of Napoleon's Illyrian Provinces; just and progressive, Marmont was probably the best colonial ruler the city ever had, and the Gloriette serves as some sort of modest tribute.
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