Church of St. Donat is the symbol of Zadar and the most famous medieval building in Croatia. It was called the Church of Sv. Trinity by the 15th century, and then it was named after St. Donatus, the bishop who had it built. It has a distinctive shape, it is 27 meters high and is one of the most famous pre-Romanesque churches in Europe.The church is cylindrical in shape and quite massive. It is originally conceived as an independent building, but has become a part of the construction of the complex with the Cathedral of St. Anastasia.
Who was St. Donatus?
But you must be wondering who is this St. Donaust by whom the church is named? Donatus was the Bishop of Zadar. He lived in the 8th century in this area, and he was some kind of a saint. It is not known exactly when he died, but his character as an old man was recorded on the frescoes in the church. St. Donatus was wise and skillful diplomat. Through the acquaintance with Prior Paul and the Emperor Karlo Veliki he was enabled to go on many trips. A journey worthy of special attention, is the one to the imperial residence.
It is believed that the church of St. Donat was modeled on what they saw in Ravenna and Aachen. Church somewhat resembles to the church San Vitale in Ravenna or the Palestinian court chapel at Aachen, but it’s still a special structure that is significantly different from those models. It is therefore interesting to specialists, but also numerous Zadar tourists. Its unusual shape attracts the most attention, but its purpose is to cause much debate. Church of St. Donat served as the residential bishop of the church, but certainly served the religious needs of the population.
Sv. Donat was buried in the church of St. Trinity that bears his name since the 15th century. His remains were placed beneath the main altar, and after the French invasion in Zadar, were transferred to the church of St.Anastasia where they are today.
The church today
The church has no long a sacred function, and for a time it was Zadar’s Archaeological Museum. Sv. Donat has an excellent acoustic characteristics, and the international festival of medieval and Renaissance music Glazbene večeri u Sv. Donatu is being held in the church.
We will never know what prompted the construction of this monumental freestanding church, but we will not even bother with it. We are just glad that this monument is in our beautiful Zadar!