Zadar's Architecture Walking Tour, Zadar

Zadar's Architecture Walking Tour (Self Guided), Zadar

Zadar's architecture is a tapestry woven with the threads of Roman, Byzantine, and medieval influences, each contributing to a rich and vibrant heritage. Indeed, as you walk the streets of Zadar, you can't help noticing a plethora of ancient buildings reflecting the varied cultural influences imposed on the city over the centuries.

This part of Croatia’s Dalmatian coast has been inhabited since prehistoric times. The city itself was founded by Romans, and, quite naturally, one of the most significant examples of historical architecture in Zadar is the Roman Forum. The ancient Forum, built in the 3rd century AD, stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of classical architecture, while the monumental round edifice of St. Donatus Church nearby, featuring pre-Romanesque style, offers a glimpse into the artistic achievements of early Christian stone masons.

Zadar's medieval architecture is just as noteworthy, particularly the soaring walls and towering gates surrounding the old town, which today are still largely intact. These fortifications evoke the strength and resilience of the city's medieval inhabitants, complementing the notable sanctuaries of the period, such as the Church of St. Mary and the Cathedral of St. Anastasia, both erected in the 12th century.

Walking through Zadar's old town is like taking a journey through time, with each twist and turn revealing new wonders of architectural beauty and historical significance. Give these buildings a moment of your time and you will hear a symphony of styles and influences, each adding its own unique note to a timeless composition that continues to captivate and inspire visitors to Zabar to this very day.
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Zadar's Architecture Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Zadar's Architecture Walking Tour
Guide Location: Croatia » Zadar (See other walking tours in Zadar)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.2 Km or 0.7 Miles
Author: nataly
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Captain's Tower
  • St. Simon's Church
  • City Sentinel
  • Church of St. Chrysogonus
  • St. Mary's Church and Permanent Exhibition of Religion Art
  • Church of St. Donatus
  • Bell Tower
  • Zadar Cathedral
  • Monastery of St. Francis of Assisi
Captain's Tower

1) Captain's Tower

Captain's Tower is a historical landmark located in the coastal city of Zadar. The tower, which stands tall at the entrance of the city's harbor, was built in the 16th century by the Venetians as a part of the city's defensive system against Turkish attacks. Its pentagonal shape is unique and is attributed to the Venetians' innovative approach to fortification design.

The tower gets its name from the nearby residence of the Venetian city captain, who oversaw the defense of the city. From this vantage point, the captain could monitor the harbor and respond quickly to any threats. The tower played a vital role in the city's history, as it helped to repel attacks from the Ottoman Empire and other potential invaders.

In modern times, the tower has been repurposed as an exhibition space, showcasing various exhibitions on the history and culture of Zadar. Visitors can explore the tower's interior, which features several levels of exhibits, and enjoy stunning views of the city and the Adriatic Sea from the tower's top.

Captain's Tower is a significant architectural and historical monument, symbolizing the city's rich past and its enduring resilience. Its strategic location and unique design make it an important attraction for visitors interested in the city's history and culture.
St. Simon's Church

2) St. Simon's Church

St. Simon's Church, located in the city of Zadar is a historic site that dates back to the 5th century. The church has undergone multiple alterations over the years, with the most recent taking place in 1980.

One of the most notable features of St. Simon's Church is the mummified body of St. Simeon, who is considered to be one of Zadar's patron saints. This 17th-century church is known for being the home of the saint's body, which is a significant draw for tourists and religious pilgrims alike.

The Chest of Saint Simeon is another remarkable feature of St. Simon's Church. The chest is a rectangular cedarwood sarcophagus in the shape of a chasse, overlaid with silver and silver-gilt plaques. It is said to hold the relics of St. Simon the God-receiver and is located over the main altar in the church.

The chest is considered to be a masterpiece of medieval art and a unique monument of the goldsmith's craft of the age. It is also one of the most interesting works in gold in Europe and is under the protection of UNESCO. The chest was made by local goldsmiths to an Italian design between 1377 and 1380, making it a valuable historical artifact.
City Sentinel

3) City Sentinel

The City Sentinel in Zadar is a stunning architectural gem designed by a Venetian architect during the late Renaissance era. Its design features a large central clock tower, which makes it an unmistakable landmark in the city. Over time, the building has undergone several renovations, including the addition of a surrounding stone barrier and railing with holes for cannons.

The City Sentinel was once home to the Ethnographic Section of the National Museum, which was one of the most significant collections in the country. Visitors who appreciate the vibrant culture and history of the region will find it worth visiting to explore the rich colours of local national costumes, textiles (weaving and lace), jewellery, agricultural, fishing and household objects.

The collection housed within the City Sentinel offers a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of the region, providing visitors with a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the local history and traditions. From colourful costumes to intricate jewellery and everyday objects, the collection is a testament to the skill and craftsmanship of the region's artisans.
Church of St. Chrysogonus

4) Church of St. Chrysogonus

The Church of St. Chrysogonus in Zadar is a significant architectural heritage site dating back to the 12th century. This Romanesque church is dedicated to Saint Chrysogonus, the patron saint of the city, and is the only surviving part of a large medieval Benedictine abbey.

Built at the site of a Roman emporium, the Church of St. Chrysogonus replaced the Church of Saint Anthony the Hermit. The church was consecrated by Lampridius, Archbishop of Zadar, in 1175.

The church is adorned with archaic designs and statues of patron saints Chrysogonus, Anastasia, Simeon, and Zoilus. The frescoes, high altar, and exterior stonework of the church are notable features. The exterior walls of the three apses at the back of the church have several graceful blind arches.

The construction of a bell tower began in 1485 but was abandoned in 1546 and never completed. The church's facade is plain, but the sides are adorned with elaborate columns that resemble Twizzler sticks.

In 1387, Elizabeth of Bosnia, the murdered queen dowager of Hungary and Dalmatia, was secretly buried in the church, where her body remained for three years until being moved to the Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Székesfehérvár Basilica).

While the Church of St. Chrysogonus is no longer active, a few evening concerts are held there in July and August. Visitors are advised to call ahead for timings, as the church is rarely open. The Church of St. Chrysogonus is a beautiful and significant part of Croatia's rich cultural and religious heritage.
St. Mary's Church and Permanent Exhibition of Religion Art

5) St. Mary's Church and Permanent Exhibition of Religion Art

Located in Zadar, the Church of St. Mary is a Benedictine monastery that was established in 1066 on the eastern side of the town's old Roman forum. The noblewoman Čika founded the monastery alongside an existing church and later endowed it with valuable items such as two Hymnariums (collection of hymns) and a prayer book. While the Hymnariums are lost, the prayer book is currently kept in the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

Čika's daughter, Vekenega, became the first successor of Čika and sought financial aid from King Coloman of Hungary to complete the monastery and erect new objects. As a result, the monumental tower bears Coloman's name and was constructed in 1105. The church houses Vekenega's tomb, which is adorned with Latin verses.

The monastery underwent several renovations throughout the centuries, including a Renaissance-style portal and southern facade by Nikola Španić in 1507, and the addition of Baroque motifs to the interior decorations in 1744. During World War II, the church and its surroundings were destroyed by Allied bombing but were rebuilt after the war.

Today, the Benedictine nuns in Zadar own one of the most valuable church collections in Croatia, containing approximately 200 items such as stone sculptures, paintings, wood carvings, and goldsmith's works. Visitors to the monastery can view these exhibits, which have been collected over the centuries, including ancient Bibles, Christian symbols, and old monastery furniture.
Church of St. Donatus

6) Church of St. Donatus (must see)

Close by the Bell Tower of Zadar Cathedral is the 8th century, Pre-Romanesque Church of Saint Donatus. Donatus of Zadar, active in the 8th and 9th centuries, wore three hats. He was a saint, bishop, and diplomat. He led delegations of Dalmatia to Constantinople and the court of Charles the Great, and he built the church.

The church was originally dedicated to the Holy Trinity. It was rededicated to Donatus in the 15th century. The building bears some resemblance to the court chapels of Charlemagne and the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna. It is almost primitive in its Pre-Romanesque plainness.

The 89-foot high central cylindrical structure is enclosed by three radially placed apses and an ambulatory. The overall circular shape is characteristic of early medieval Dalmatia. The church was built over the old Roman forum, using material from the forum remains.

Structured as a cylinder within a cylinder, the outer wall of the church connects with the inner, creating a gallery. The inner structure has a conical roof held by six pilasters and two Roman columns from the forum. The theme of the Holy Trinity is shown in the three apses and three doorways on the west, north, and south sides.

The Church of St. Donatus has had several non-church employments. During the regnum of Venice, it served as a warehouse. In the French occupation, it continued as a warehouse. Under the Austrians as well, it was a warehouse. While the city was part of Yugoslavia, it was an archeological museum. Now it is a concert venue. The acoustics are great.

The Church of St. Donatus is one of the very few buildings to have survived the Mongol invasions of the 13th century. Perhaps the Mongols were reminded of their homes on the steppes by the shape of the building. It looks vaguely like a cross between a yurt and a grain elevator. That being said, it is an important cultural relic.
Bell Tower

7) Bell Tower

Zadar's Bell Tower is an impressive and recognizable structure, boasting stunning city views from its elevated location. A part of the Church of St. Anastasia, the tower's Baroque architectural style features numerous stairs leading to its high peak.

The Bell Tower was constructed on two separate occasions. The cathedral's ground floor and first floor were built in 1452, during the tenure of Archbishop Vallares. In contrast, the upper floors were added between 1890 and 1894 by English architect and art historian Thomas Graham Jackson, modeled on the bell tower in Rab.

The tower's three newer upper floors are enclosed on all sides by double biforas, with a flat wall surface adorned with stylized plant mosaic designs. The floors are demarcated by cornices that feature slight mesh decorations. At the top of the Bell Tower, there is a tall eight-sided pyramid culminating in a brass statue of an angel.

Shortly after the completion of the Bell Tower in 1894, damage appeared at the joint of the old and new sections. Architect and conservator Ćiril Iveković determined that the weight of the heavy bells caused the vibration leading to the damage. Consequently, in 1900, Iveković replaced the iron brackets with wooden ones.
Zadar Cathedral

8) Zadar Cathedral (must see)

The Cathedral of Saint Anastasia is the largest church in Dalmatia. It was constructed in the 12th and 13th centuries on the site of a 5th-century Christian basilica dedicated to Saint Peter.

While Donatus was bishop of Zadar, he received the ashes of Saint Anastasia of Sirmium from Emperor Nikephoros I, patron of the cathedral. The remains of Saint Anastasia were placed in a sarcophagus commissioned by Donatus. They are still in place today.

The facade has three portals. The center one has a relief of the Madonna and Child accompanied by Saints Chrysogonus and Anastasia. There is a triangular pediment, a large Romanesque rose window, and a smaller, Gothic-style window. A lion and a bull, symbols of Mark and Luke, are on the left and right of the facade, respectively.

A relief of the four evangelists is on the central portal. The left portal lunette holds a statue of the Lamb. The consoles of the vault have the Angel Gabriel and the Virgin. There is one nave and two aisles, separated by stone pillars. The 12th-century crypt is under the presbytery.

The main altar is under a Gothic ciborium, dating from 1322. A second altar is dedicated to souls in Purgatory. It was built by Venetian stonemason Peter Onega in 1805. In the nave is another altar of marble with a depiction of the Sacred Heart.

The south aisle has an altar for storing relics. The Chapel of Saint Barbara is the oldest part of the cathedral. The floor mosaic shows a scene of two deer.
Monastery of St. Francis of Assisi

9) Monastery of St. Francis of Assisi

The Roman Catholic Franciscan Monastery of St. Francis Assisi in Zadar, under the jurisdiction of the Franciscan Province of Saint Jerome, dates back to the 13th century. Built in 1221, the monastery and its namesake church were consecrated on October 12, 1282, by bishop Lovro Periandar.

Over the centuries, this religious site has played a prominent role in Zadar's spiritual life and served as the site of the Franciscan school, a forerunner to the present-day University of Zadar. The monastery housed a noteworthy collection of codices, parchments, and a picture gallery. It was here that Saint Jakov Varingez (Giacomo of Bitetto) received his first ordination.

Located in the western part of the city, the monastery's Gothic church is the oldest of its kind in Dalmatia. The main altar, erected in 1672, is situated behind the chapel, which is adorned with intricately carved Gothic choir seats dating back to 1394 by Giacomo da Borgo Sansepolcro.

Adjacent to the choir area is the sacristy, which is of historical significance in Croatia as it was the site of the signing of the Treaty of Zadar in 1358. This treaty marked the end of Venetian control over Dalmatia, as the Venetian Republic relinquished its territorial claims to the Hungarian-Croatian King Louis I.

Walking Tours in Zadar, Croatia

Create Your Own Walk in Zadar

Create Your Own Walk in Zadar

Creating your own self-guided walk in Zadar is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Zadar Introduction Walking Tour

Zadar Introduction Walking Tour

Ancient Zadar presides over a spacious harbor from a rocky promontory once separated from the mainland by a deep moat. In 59 BC, it was decreed a municipality by none other than Julius Caesar. Germanic tribes, Byzantines, Slavs, Franks, and Ottomans, had all ruled the area at one time and left their marks. Venice ruled Zadar from 1409 to 1797.

Zadar Old Town is best explored on foot. Begin at...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.6 Km or 1 Miles