Civitas Sacra – Civitas Sacra
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To the people of Šibenik, the Cathedral of St James was much more than an architectural masterpiece. It represents a symbol of unity whose cultural aura bathed medieval Šibenik and turned its citizens into visionaries, enlightened citizens of the world who united around the idea of constructing a monumental building.

As Zoran Ladić from the Institute for Historical Sciences of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts remarked in his paper ”Šibensko ‘vrijeme katedrale’. Doprinos stanovnika kasno srednjovjekovne šibenske komune izgradnji katedrale sv. Jakova.” (The ‘Cathedral Era’ in Šibenik: Contribution of the citizens of the Late Medieval Šibenik commune to the construction of the Cathedral of St James), the construction of the Šibenik cathedral should also be viewed as the product of religious inspiration and the unity of all of the citizens of Šibenik, secular and non-secular individuals, elite, citizens, foreigners, peasants and paupers alike, all united in the joint effort to construct the cathedral as a symbol of the spirit of the community and a sense of belonging to a clearly defined urban and rural community, on the path to the realisation of the Šibenik commune as a ‘civitas sacra’.

Inspired by the idea of belonging to a united community, which was so typical of this period, the construction was, decade after decade, supported by both the inhabitants of the city and the inhabitants of many villages in the Šibenik district, largely through
testamentary donations.

‘What impelled them to do so was, most certainly, a sense of belonging to a community that had, as such, already been functioning for centuries under the divine protection of both St Michael and St James. The construction of a cathedral dedicated to the latter is one of the expressions of the mediaeval idea of a ‘Civitas Sacra’, a sacred city that, upon obtaining a cathedral, becomes stronger as the fibres of the urban and rural areas, its population and its divine protectors intertwine to form a single body’, writes Ladić.

This relationship with the building – as a symbol of faith, unity, martyrdom, humility and mankind was what the team of authors found the most interesting, as it represents the root of the concept of the sacred city, the ‘civitas sacra’ which as a sociological phenomenon appears in mediaeval Šibenik.

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