Keeping on with the tradition of the administrative division of Croatian territory into counties, that was for the first time in Croatia mentioned in the 10th century, the County of Split and Dalmatia has rightly gained the title of the largest, and as many consider it to be, the most beautiful Croatian county.
The County of Split and Dalmatia, that together with the sea covers an area
of 14,501 km2, has a population of 474,000. Today it is divided in 10 towns and
36 municipalities. The city of Split with a population of 207,000 is the centre
of this County.
Keeping on with the tradition of the administrative division of Croatian
territory into counties, that was for the first time in Croatia mentioned in the
10th century, the County of Split and Dalmatia has rightly gained the title of
the largest, and as many consider it to be, the most beautiful Croatian county.
It is almost difficult to distinguish the factors that contribute to its beauty:
nature, history, cultural heritage or its people. In the County that takes great
pride in hundreds of kilometres of coastline, mountain peaks and rich tradition
woven into each and every pore of life, each of these factors is at least partly
responsible for its uniqueness.
The history of this area dates back to the very distant past when the
Stone-Age man left the first traces on the Adriatic Coast. The remains on the
island of Hvar are 5,000 years old and are dated to the New Stone Age. The
archaeological remains from the islands of Brac and Hvar, Split, Trogir and Sinj
speak of activities in these areas during the Bronze and Iron Age, and
contribute to the beauty of historical complexity. The first millenium before
Christ was the period of Illyrian tribes, and the Delmati stood out in
significance, whereas the Antiquity was characterized by the Greek colonization
of these areas. In 389 B.C. Greek settlers founded the town of Issa on the
island of Vis, and in 385 the very strong settlement Pharos sprang up in the
northern cove on the island of Hvar. On land, Greek settlers founded Tragurion
(Trogir) and Epetion (Stobrec).
Under the Roman rule, that directed the organization of life along the entire
coast, many present-day towns were founded and already then connected with
roads, that even today keep those same directions.
Salona, the onetime port of the Illyrian tribe of Delmati, became the capital
of the Roman province of Dalmatia. At the time it had 60,000 inhabitants and
because of its administrative importance was the meeting point of passengers and
tradesmen from the entire Mediterranean.
Salona bears testimony of the earliest traces of Christianity on the east
Adriatic Coast. Religion was the reason why many lives were taken, mostly during
the rule of Emperor Diocletian who in 303 issued a decree forbidding
Christianity. The bishop of Salona and Syrian martyr Domnio (Dujam in Croatian)
was the victim of prosecuting of Christianity. In memory of this bishop he is
still celebrated as the patron-saint of Split.
Diocletian, a former soldier, probably a native of Salona, who was proclaimed
Roman Emperor in 284, had a magnificent palace built from 295 to 305 (nucleus of
today's Split) in the vicinity of Salona. When the agreed period of the rule of
two emperors came to an end, he retired to the palace where he spent the last
ten years of his life.
The Croats settled these areas in the first decades of the 7th century,
founding a state in the hinterland with Solin and later Knin as one of its
In those early centuries this region was exposed to Venitian doges and
Hungarian rulers, and Klis was for several centuries the centre of the Croatian
Primorska Zupanija (Littoral district). During the next centuries the
inhabitants experienced the municipal system of developed European states, but
also Venetian rule, Turkish attacks, and the very short period of French rule.
As the region on the outskirts of the great Austrian Empire, in the 19th
century central Dalmatia was completely economically and culturally
underdeveloped, yet at the same time Croatian political awareness strengthened.
As a result of the wakening of the idea of Croatian national revival, the Croats
took over the municipal government of Split in 1882. This encouraged national
enthusiasm which was in various circumstances of the 19th and 20th century
suppressed, yet never destroyed.
At the first democratic elections in 1990 the people of the County of Split
and Dalmatia expressed the unanimous desire of the Croatian people for the
independent Republic of Croatia.
Historical changes have created an exceptional cultural heritage, styles and
treasures that the County of Split and Dalmatia unselfishly presents to all its
chance travellers. One of the most significant features of this area are the
precious stone structures. An impressive masterpiece in stone is also the portal
of the Cathedral in Trogir that was cut out by master Radovan in 1240.
Remarkable works recorded in stone in Split are those by Gothic sculptor Bonino
of Milan and our greatest Gothic and Renaissance master Juraj Dalmatinac. In
Trogir, there are works by his contemporaries Andrija Alesi and Nicholas of
Florence. The doors of the Cathedral in Split made of walnut wood by Andrija
Buvina in 1214 are considered an impressive work of art in European Romanesque
wood sculpture and a masterpiece left to Split.
In the art of painting, painters mostly earned fame with their paintings in
churches and chapels. The paintings of the Madonna and saints by Blaz Jurjev
Trogiranin and Dujam Vuskovic remain as permanent heritage on church ceilings
and altars. Such an art tradition laid the foundation for a series of great
painters of the more recent period, such as Emanuel Vidovi} who with his dark
landscapes and interiors became the most significant Croatian painter of the
late 19th and first half of 20th century.
Respecting the tradition, rich cultural and historical heritage, generations
of people from the County of Split and Dalmatia worked much beyond the County's
territory. Thus, our greatest sculptor was Ivan Mestrovic (1883-1962), a native
of Otavice near Drnis, whose works are found in the world's most notable museums
and galleries. By the deed of gift of this great artist, the collection of his
works is exhibited in the Mestrovic Gallery in Split.
Works in stone, marble and wood from central Dalmatia that are not only
confined to churches and chapels, speak of the rich talent and inspiration of
artists in this area. They are found both in houses and palaces, in historical
urban wholes, mostly in the Romanesque and Gothic style that unite artistic
creativity and natural beauties thus creating an urban masterpiece. During the
period of the Venitian rule, seven magnificent summer houses-citadels were
erected west of Split, a fortification was built around Seget imitating
Diocletian's palace, and mediaeval Omis was moved from the hill down to the
Artistic achievements that always found here inexhaustible inspiration, were
followed by the first preserved monuments of literacy in Croatia. The Split
Evangeliary, the oldest book in Croatia dating back to the 6th century, is today
kept in the Cathedral in Split. As early as the 13th century, archdeacon Tom
recorded events, life and customs of that time. In 1521, the poem "Judita"
written by Marko Marulic from Split was published in Croatian, which earned the
author the title of the father of Croatian literature. His works in Latin have
been published and translated into many languages. Poets from Hvar, Hanibal
Lucic and Petar Hektorovic wrote verses in Croatian, and so created a basis for
those that would in the centuries to come describe the beauties of the karst,
sea and Zagora as did Vladimir Nazor, Ranko Marinkovic, Tin Ujevic, Dinko
Simunovic, Josip Pupacic...
The list of great names connected with drama, opera and ballet coming from
even the smallest villages of this County, is a long one, because this County
has a rich dramatic tradition that dates back to the theatre in Hvar established
in 1612, then the building of the Croatian National Theatre in Split from 1893.
Simply, the County of Split and Dalmatia has always been an area that has
inspired everyone and left no one indifferent.
Sport is an inseparable part of the County's past and present, the sportsmen
from these clubs are holders of numerous Olympic, world and European medals.
With their top results, they have spread the fame about this area to all
continents making it a phenomenon of sports success.
The County of Split and Dalmatia, that encompasses central Dalmatia, aside
from a rich history has a secure future as well. Strong branches of economy:
shipping, shipbuilding industry, tourism, agriculture and trade guarantee this.
Although it was not in the centre of traffic routes for years, impoverished by
war so that development was rendered impossible, these branches of economy have
proved their high resistance.
Industrial development relies on three shipyards, cement, chemical and
textile industry, building trade and stone-masonry, and well developed shipping
Industrial deveploment stands side by side with agriculture, especially the
production of quality wines, oil, fish processing and growing of vegetables and
flowers, for which this area is renowned.
Recently, this area has been especially significant for trade and small-scale
industry and thanks to this employment figures have multiplied. Thus, trade has
become second in significance among economic activities whereas three thousand
small and medium-sized enterprises and over seven thousand crafts shops speak of
the economic boom in the County.
Economy accounts for eighty percent of employed population, while only a
small part of the population is employed in social services.
Among the branches of economy, tourism definitely stands out as the most
promising. This County disposes of 23,000 beds in hotels and 68,000 beds in
private apartments and campsites. There are 5 modern marinas with 1,060 berths
in this County. Already in 1996, the first post-war year, the County recorded 2
A very significant factor in economic development, particularly tourism is
the airport in Kastela, which accounts for the greatest part of tourist traffic,
but also the airport on the island of Brac that has brought the islands closer
to European tourists.
The County of Split and Dalmatia has great hopes in its immense advantages -
preserved natural environment, clean sea and mild Mediterranean climate,
therefore it both sees and builds its future only in accordance with nature's
harmony, not affecting it the least.