The Cathedral of St. Anastasia is the largest church in all of Dalmatia. The church's origins date back to a Christian basilica built in the 4th and 5th centuries, while much of the currently standing three-nave building was constructed in the Romanesque style during the 12th and 13th centuries. The site has been submitted to UNESCO's Tentative List of World Heritage Sites.
The first known bishop in Zadar was Felix. He attended two church councils, the first in Aquileia in 381 and the second in Milan in 390. The basilica's original patron was St. Peter. During the time of bishop Donatus, the diocese received the ashes of Saint Anastasia of Sirmium from Emperor Nikephoros I, whom the cathedral took as patron. Donatus commissioned a sarcophagus for the remains, which are still held in the cathedral. The church was largely remade in the 11th-12th centuries, and reconsecrated by Pope Alexander VII in 1177.
During the siege of Zadar by the Venetians and Crusaders in 1202, the cathedral was heavily damaged. For the entire 13th century the building was under repair. It was reconsecrated on 27 May 1285, although the new building, designed in a fashion similar to the Santa Maria della Piazza church in Ancona, was completed only in 1324.
Ground floor and first floor of the bell tower were built in 1452. To complete the construction, Sir Thomas Graham Jackson was hired and the tower was finished in 1893.
The façade, completed in 1324, has two orders: the lower and more massive one has three portals, the central one being crowned by a bas-relief of Madonna and Child with Sts. Crisogonus and Anastasia; the upper one culminates in a triangular pediment, and is decorated with four orders of Lombard bands. These include a large Romanesque-style rose window and a smaller one in Gothic style. The left edge of the façade is decorated with a statue of a lion, and the right edge with a statue of a bull: these are symbols of the evangelists Mark and Luke, respectively. The richly decorated main portal contains a bas relief of the four apostles. The lunette of the left portal is decorated with a statue of the mystical lamb, while the consoles near the vault contain statues of angel Gabriel and Virgin Mary, which are older than the portal.
The bell tower was built in two stages. The ground floor and first floor were built in 1452 during the reign of Archbishop Vallaresso, while the upper floors date from 1890 to 1894 under design by the English architect and art historian Thomas Graham Jackson. The three upper floors, with four sides, are decorated with double mullioned windows. A flat wall surface is stylized with a floral mosaic, while the wreaths that separate floors are highlighted with a fretwork. At the top is an octagonal pyramid with a brass statue of an angel which rotates according to the direction of the wind.
The interior has a nave and two aisles, the former three times larger than the latter, which are separated by alternately arranged stone pillars and pylons. The presbytery is elevated; the 12th century crypt is located under it. In the presbytery are choir stalls, executed in Gothic style by 15th century master Matej Morozan; above the main altar is the early Gothic ciborium from 1322, while beyond it is a stone seat made for the Archbishop. On the northern wall of the marble altar are pictures of St. Dominic and the Sacred Heart. The altar was transferred from the eponymous church. The second altar is dedicated to the souls in Purgatory and was built by the Venetian stonemason Peter Onega in 1805. The altarpiece is a work of art by Josip Palma Jr. At the end of the nave is a marble altar with a marble paneling depicting the Sacred Heart, while the apse houses a marble sarcophagus with the relics of St. Anastasia with the inscription by Bishop Donat (9th century). There are also fragments of medieval frescoes in the Cathedral.
The southern aisle is home to a marble altar used for storing relics. Next to it is the altar of St. Sacrament, by sculptor A. Viviani from the year 1718. The altar has rich decorations with columns and statues. Above the tabernacle is the statue of the Madonna with the dead Christ lying in her lap, with statues of Moses and Elijah on the sides. On the altar wings there are larger statues of the four evangelists, and, below them, figures of virtues and, on an antependium, a statue of the Lamb of God. The southern aisle ends with an apse housing remains of frescoes. Above the aisles is a matroneum.
The church has a hexagonal baptistery that dates back to the 6th century, located on the south side of the cathedral. The original baptistery was destroyed in the bombing of Zadar of December 16, 1943, and was restored in 1989.
The walls and the apse of the sacristy, also known as the chapel of St. Barbara, belong to the oldest parts of the Cathedral, along with the floor mosaic depicting two deers (early 5th century).
The museum of art of the church houses the Zadar Polyptych, an early work by Venetian painter Vittore Carpaccio.References:
The Church of Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrios, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki. It is part of the site Palaeochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1988.
The first church on the spot was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Roman bath. A century later, a prefect named Leontios replaced the small oratory with a larger, three-aisled basilica. Repeatedly gutted by fires, the church eventually was reconstructed as a five-aisled basilica in 629–634. This was the surviving form of the church much as it is today. The most important shrine in the city, it was probably larger than the local cathedral. The historic location of the latter is now unknown.
The church had an unusual shrine called the ciborium, a hexagonal, roofed structure at one side of the nave. It was made of or covered with silver. The structure had doors and inside was a couch or bed. Unusually, it did not hold any physical relics of the saint. The ciborium seems to have been a symbolic tomb. It was rebuilt at least once.
The basilica is famous for six extant mosaic panels, dated to the period between the latest reconstruction and the inauguration of the Byzantine Iconoclasm in 730. These mosaics depict St. Demetrius with officials responsible for the restoration of the church (called the founders, ktetors) and with children. An inscription below one of the images glorifies heaven for saving the people of Thessalonica from a pagan Slavic raid in 615.
Thessaloniki became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1430. About 60 years later, during the reign of Bayezid II, the church was converted into a mosque, known as the Kasımiye Camii after the local Ottoman mayor, Cezeri Kasım Pasha. The symbolic tomb however was kept open for Christian veneration. Other magnificent mosaics, recorded as covering the church interior, were lost either during the four centuries when it functioned as a mosque (1493–1912) or in the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917 that destroyed much of the city. It also destroyed the roof and upper walls of the church. Black-and-white photographs and good watercolour versions give an idea of the early Byzantine craftsmanship lost during the fire.
Following the Great Fire of 1917, it took decades to restore the church. Tombstones from the city"s Jewish cemetery - destroyed by the Greek and Nazi German authorities - were used as building materials in these restoration efforts in the 1940s. Archeological excavations conducted in the 1930s and 1940s revealed interesting artifacts that may be seen in a museum situated inside the church"s crypt. The excavations also uncovered the ruins of a Roman bath, where St. Demetrius was said to have been held prisoner and executed. A Roman well was also discovered. Scholars believe this is where soldiers dropped the body of St. Demetrius after his execution. After restoration, the church was reconsecrated in 1949.