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Tombs i6 p&c 00 book.indb 239 2017.09.20. 16:22 i6 p&c 00 book.indb 240 2017.09.20. 16:22 PAGAN TOMB TO CHRISTIAN CHURCH: THE CASE OF DIOCLETIAN’S MAUSOLEUM IN SPALATUM Ivan Basić How and when did Emperor Diocletian’s tomb in Spalatum (present day Split in Croatia) become a Christian church? Earlier scholarship presented the conversion of Diocletian’s mausoleum into a church as a ‘one-time’ event, taking place in the seventh century, following an earlier step of transformation in the fourth century, when triumphant and revengeful Christians destroyed the persecuting emperor’s domus aeterna and removed his mortal remains.1 A reexamination of the evidence in a broad interdisciplinary perspective with new interpretive paradigms reveals a different process and turns traditional theories about the Christianization of Diocletian’s mausoleum upside down. Revisiting the data in context, this paper challenges earlier hypotheses about the transformation of the final resting place of “Christianity’s greatest mass persecutor.” It shows that Diocletian’s mausoleum, just like the majority of Classical monuments in Late Antiquity, underwent a gradual process of alteration. Sources and Scholarship on Diocletian’s Mausoleum Built in around 305 AD, Diocletian’s mausoleum is an elevated, two-storey octagonal structure in the center of the emperor’s palace. The well-preserved construction is now the Cathedral of Split, dedicated to the patron saints of the city, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Domnius and Saint Anastasius. There are no Late Antique sources on the monument prior to Ammianus Marcellinus, writing some eighty years after Diocletian ’s death at the end of the fourth century. 1 E.g. Željko Rapanić, Od carske palače do srednjovjekovne općine [From Imperial Palace to Medieval Municipa­ lity] (Split: Književni krug, 2007), 70–2; Željko Rapanić, “Tri ljubavne anegdote kao povijesni izvor,” [Three Love Stories as Historical Sources] in Scripta Branimiro Gabričević dicata, ed. Josip Dukić, Ante Milošević, and Željko Rapanić (Trilj: Kulturno društvo Trilj, 2010), 207–12. i6 p&c 00 book.indb 241 2017.09.20. 16:22 IVAN BASIĆ 242 When was Diocletian’s monumental domed octagon converted into a church? This question of considerable importance triggered a long academic debate with views ranging from the mid-seventh to the ninth century. Theories on the chronology of the Christianization of Diocletian’s mausoleum cluster around two dates: an early dating (shortly after the Edict of Milan, 313), and a later dating (middle of the seventh—closing years of the eighth century). Early daters emphasize the supposed desecration of the emperor’s tomb after the Christian triumph (not necessarily involving a conversion into a church); late daters link the event to the move of the archdiocese of Salona to Split after the turmoils of the early seventh century (explicitly linking the move to the tomb’s conversion into a church). The move of Salona to Split is variously dated in scholarship, depending on scholarly preconceptions and preferences of various historical contexts best fitting the late medieval narrative on the establishment of the archbishopric in Split. Following Frane Bulić and Ljubo Karaman in the early 20th century, the majority of scholars agreed that the mausoleum was first modified for Christian use when it was transformed into a cathedral.2 With little or no deviation, the physical and functional transformations of the building were automatically connected with the establishment of the archbishopric––with some ambiguity as to whether this happened in the seventh, the eighth or the ninth century. Archaeologists, historians, and art historians brought up profuse arguments to date the Christian octagon from a plethora of sources, such as the narrative of the medieval chronicler Thomas of Spalato; early medieval liturgical installations; early medieval architectural sculpture; early medieval sculpture decoration, typology, iconography, and style. The Early Christian sculpture fragments, however, were not seriously discussed,3 2 Frane Bulić and Ljubo Karaman, Palača cara Dioklecijana u Splitu [The Palace of Emperor Diocletian in Split] (Zagreb: Matica hrvatska, 1927), 70–4, 88–90 (hereafter Bulić and Karaman, Palača). This is still predominant in the recent literature, see: Tomislav Marasović, Dalmatia praeromanica, vol. 3 (Split-Zagreb: Književni krug, Muzej hrvatskih arheoloških spomenika, 2011), 254–69 (hereafter Marasović, Dalmatia). The conversion of Diocletian’s mausoleum was not included in comprehensive catalogues and gazetteers of Christianized pagan monuments (such as the ones by Friedrich Wilhelm Deichmann) because Dalmatia and Illyricum were largely by-passed in these studies; another reason is that the mausoleum in Spalatum was not considered by the scholarly...


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