I. The channel of the Diocletian Aqueduct that brought the water to the palace had a cross section of 0.75 m x 1.60 m, and made us of a free fall from the 33 m high Jadro Spring, by Solin, over the 9 km long path to the Palace. Some 1500 litres of water a second (or 129,600 cubic metres a day) flowed through the aqueduct, which according to today’s standards would serve a city of 173,000. It is still used by the city of Split. Constantine Porphyrogenitus, Imperial author, stated in the 10th century that the water of Solin “was the best tasting of all water, as those who have tasted it aver”, adding that Diocletian’s family was from Solin. The arcade of the aqueduct in Dujmovaca was used in the Middle Ages as a striking topographic landmark: the land of the Split nuns of St Benedict, for example, was described in the 11th century as being located by and above the great arches (super magnos arcus) or below the “ruined arches” (supra minimos arcus).
The Jadro Spring is characterised by the even power and quantity of the water it provides, irrespective of the season. The channel of the first part of the aqueduct enters the actual Jadro Spring, at the end of the underground river of Mosor, and then goes along the foothills of Mt Mosor, underneath Mravinci, intersecting, at the place known as Prosik, the Kunceva greda. Then it goes underground all the way to two valleys (Karabaši and Bilice) south of Solin, where it flows over low arches, and arrives at the Dry Bridge, in Dujmovaca, where in 1878-79, 28 monumental arches were restored. The aqueduct is here, at the place of the biggest depression, or the highest elevation of the aqueduct (the same time at the place where the road passes underneath it) built as a prestigious piece of architecture in the best building techniques, with large, regularly dressed and finally worked stone blocks (opus quadratum), joined with iron clamps. Apart from at Kopilica, where another section on arches can be seen again, the aqueduct goes on from here underground, to Lovret, in the city itself. From the archaeological point of view, the most interesting part is that on Ravne njive, where it is incised into the living stone as a tunnel, in places up to 21 m deep.
An enclosure shows the longitudinal profile of the whole of the aqueduct with detailed measurements of its gradient (from 0.78% and 0.65% in the front part of its flow to the aqueduct at Karabaši and Bilice, 2.38% to “Dry Bridge”, and 2.254% in the tunnel in Ravne Njive, 0.997 and 0.88% in Kopilica to the concluding 1.18% with which it arrives at the reservoir in the city itself).
II. The first-class stone of the Brac quarries enabled the creation of a series of brilliant buildings – from the ancient, Early Christian and Early Croatian to the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque periods, and then on to the buoyant Brac 19th and 20th centuries, when on this island, more than anywhere else in Dalmatia, harmony could still be sensed in the architectural composition and construction of even the most humble of houses. From the Plate, Oklade, Zastražišce and Rasohe quarries, there were two ramps to bring the blocks down to the harbour, which can still be clearly discerned in the landscape and within the settlement. These ramps ended in the landing place. Two of them are today the main roads of the settlement of Splitska, and are located on the eastern and western side of the valley. The western ramp is preserved in very large part all the way to Plate quarry. Today it is used as a field road, but its uniform and carefully produced gradient can easily be discerned. The ramp passed by the stone-working settlement, of which the ruins of the Church of St Jadro [Andrew] from the time of late antiquity can be seen, which testifies to the intensity of the extraction of the stone even after the time of Diocletian. Splitska was a perfect port, protected from the gusting of the bora, with a well constructed ancient quay, now submerged because of the rise in the sea level, which has risen by two metres in the last two millennia. The monumentally-worked stone blocks that would sometimes fall into the sea while being loaded on board the galleys can still be seen in the sea.
History and development:
I. The aqueduct was built in the AD 300s, and was probably damaged as early as the 5th century, during the Gothic wars around Salona and the Palace, and was partially restored to serve a new purpose, that of road. This find confirms the assumptions already started according to which the western and eastern thermae in the Palace itself fell out of use very early on.
The restoration of the aqueduct was mooted in the mid-19th century. On May 1 1855 Andric started excavating and making architectural drawings of the archaeological remains. This date was perhaps deliberately chosen for symbolic reasons, for it marks the 1550th year of Diocletian’s abdication (in 305), the day which is most usually taken as the formal conclusion of the building of the Palace.
Of particularly vital importance was Andric’s observation that the central capacity of the aqueduct between the source, its subterranean and above-surface parts showed that Diocletian’s architect had achieved the greatest possible length in conjunction with the smallest possible work on subterranean constructions and arches above the ground – which spoke of exceptionally skilled geometers and engineers. In the final restoration of the 1870s about 35% of the length of the ancient aqueduct was able to be used without great repair efforts, another 25% needed the vaulting rebuilding, and about 40% needed complete repairs. One part of it, with 17 arches on pylons, at Bilice, by Solin, was reconstructed in 1999, while a new road was being built.
II. The settlement obtained its name of Splitska in the Middle Ages, when the ancient quarries were put to use again. Today’s settlement developed around the castle of the Cerinic-Cerineo (from Škrip) family castle, built in 1577.
Škrip was the central fortified settlement on the island, and is located on the eastern side of today’s settlement, which is called Veli [Great] or Gornji [Upper] Škrip, which has a continuity of use stretching back more than five thousand years. Around the complex of the Radojkovic Castle in Šrkip, built on top of a late antique mausoleum, from the time of Diocletian, the megalithic walls that girt the Illyrian settlement, are in a state of good preservation (an area of about 0.8 ha.). The eastern side of the fort is fortified with megalithic walls with a port (Mala Vratca), whence the track to Dol descends. The fortification ring goes on towards the south, according to a natural pillar where it is defended with natural cliffs as far as the western wall of the cemetery. Finds of Mycenaean ceramics indicate a period of possible Greek colonisation (still not proven). The dominant position and the inexhaustible spring enabled Škrip to develop from the prehistoric hill fort into an ancient oppidum. The spring is celebrated in an inscription devoted to nymphs (2nd century AD), and within the fort and outside its confines, great cisterns (kostirne) are cut into the living rock. Several Early Christian sarcophagi lie alongside the nearby fortified palace of the Cerinic-Cerineo family (1618). The whole complex is covered with stone tiles, like all the roofs in the centre of Škrip. As early as 1764 the first decree was issued concerning the conservation of archaeological monuments, Brac headman Francesco Badoer thus banning the destruction of the walls and the removal of the great stone blocks.
The little Church of Holy Spirit (sv. Duh) at today’s local cemetery was actually the first parish church. It was created on foundations of part of an ancient complex in which there was a shrine devoted to Cybele. The church underwent a number of transformations, from the 7th to the 17th century. The first phase might be dated by a lost inscription that spoke of refugees from the mainland who found refuge on the island at the beginning of the second half of the 7th century in front of the attacking waves of Avars and Slavs. An equally important phase is related to the construction of an Early Romanesque basilica (nave and two aisles). Alongside it was built the Late Renaissance church of St John [Ivan], also on the megalithic defensive wall of the Škrip Illyrian ramparts. It once housed a very fine altarpiece by Palma the Younger (1544-1628), now kept in the parish church, for which the same pupil of Titian painted another three altar paintings.
The Parish Church of St Jelena [Helena] the Cross Finder is devoted to the cult of the mother of Constantine the Great, whom local tradition turned into a woman of Brac. It was believed that Constantine Chlorus, governor of Dalmatia during the time of Diocletian, fell in love with her at first sight and then married her. A reflection of the legend of Jelena and Constantine can be seen in the Gothic reliefs of the Dragon’s Cavern on the southern slopes of Brac.
Form and date of the most recent records of the property:
Diocletian’s Aqueduct (ed. J. Belamaric), Split 1999
B. Kirigin, Adriatic Islands Project – Archaeological Heritage of the island of Brac, Split 2004
Present state of conservation:
After major archaeological investigations of the Diocletian Aqueduct in the part located by Bilice near Solin in 1999-200, for the first time we were in a condition to talk of the renovations of Diocletian’s Aqueduct from the time of the Austrian government with something of an overall view. The pages of comments contemporary with conservator Vicko Andric (see 3 a I) are amply confirmed; they related to his plans for the renovation of the Diocletian Aqueduct, which were ultimately rejected for being “too archaeological”, or were premised on scrupulous conservation and restoration of the remains that were found. However, as well as being able for the first time to analyse all the elements of the original appearance of the Roman aqueduct, the archaeological excavations showed a somewhat unexpected image of the rehabilitation of it as early as the period of later antiquity. Diocletian’s Aqueduct was, from all accounts, damaged during the warfare at the time of the Gothic occupation of Salona and Dalmatia. The original arches, at the site which we are now investigating, were quite clearly knocked down, then the pylons were lowered, and the space between them was filled with a wall that – probably in the 6th century, if not a little before – had a road created upon them. There are very ample archives concerning all these things in the Conservation Institute in Split.
In Škrip and in Splitska on Brac, the most important monuments are in a state of continuous renovation: in Škrip there is the Radojkovic Castle (seat of the Museum of Brac Island with a wonderful archaeological display), the Cerinic Castle, the Church of the Holy Spirit, in Splitska there is the Castle of the Cerinic family, and so on. A conservational feasibility study concerning the management of the antique quarries between these two settlements is just now in its closing stages.