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article imageNew discoveries of UNESCO Diocletian Palace unveiled in London

By Paul Bradbury     Nov 22, 2014 in World
Built for a Roman Emperor 1,700 years ago, one of Croatia's most important UNESCO sites continues to shed its secrets in Split.
On Wednesday 19th November 2014, Dr. Radoslav Bužančić, Head of the Split Conservation Department, gave a lecture in London entitled "Diocletian’s Palace in Split: New Discoveries" which aroused huge interest and enthusiasm among experts in archaeology, architecture, history of art, museology and the protection of cultural monuments and heritage, an event organised by the British Croatian Society and Hrvatsko-britansko društvo in Split.
For the first time, the findings from excavating Diocletian’s Palace in recent times were presented to an English-speaking audience to reveal the full extent of their implications. The lecture was held to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the publication of Robert Adam’s magnificent book Ruins of the Palace of the Emperor Diocletian at Spalatro in Dalmatia (1752), one of the most important works about the Palace.
Dr. Radoslav Bužančić (left) in conversation with Dr. Ivan Grdešić  Croatian Ambassador to Lond...
Dr. Radoslav Bužančić (left) in conversation with Dr. Ivan Grdešić, Croatian Ambassador to London and Split Deputy Mayor Aida Batarelo.
Vinka Glunčić-Bužančić
The lecture was richly illustrated with photographs showing recent and current works in the Palace, as well as historical pictures from world collections by other authors besides Adam.
There are several exciting discoveries in Diocletian’s Palace which have been confirmed in recent months. They have completely changed the historical perspective on Diocletian’s building project in the ancient town of Aspalathos.
The recently confirmed findings include two round temples in front of the Protiron, opposite the Cathedral (the Roman Temple of Jupiter) in the Peristyle; a Tetrapylon, or four-cornered triumphal arch, in the centre of the Peristyle where the two main Roman roadways (cardo and decumanus) met; traces of a possible stadium in front of the south wall of the Palace stretching out towards the sea; and the remains of an amphitheatre.
Reconstruction of the possible appearance of the area inside the Palace precincts  by Dr. Radoslav B...
Reconstruction of the possible appearance of the area inside the Palace precincts, by Dr. Radoslav Bužančić.
Dr. Radoslav Bužančić
These buildings show that the Palace was a ceremonial centre for an Emperor who aimed to be revered by his people. It was certainly not just a luxurious retirement home but part of a rich Roman urban environment.
The lecture, which was prepared in collaboration with Vivian Grisogono MA(Oxon), was organized jointly by the British Croatian Society in London and the Hrvatsko-britansko društvo in Split. These two organizations have been collaborating successfully for many years in projects linking British and Croatian experts covering many different fields.
Aerial view of the excavated part of the amphitheatre.
Aerial view of the excavated part of the amphitheatre.
Split Conservation Department
The location was specially appropriate: the headquarters of the Georgian Group, a building on a square constructed according to Robert Adam’s design. The interior of the building is often used as a historical film setting.
Nicholas Jarrold, former British Ambassador to Croatia and current Chairman of the British Croatian Society, opened the proceedings and introduced the speaker. The Deputy Mayor of Split, Aida Batarelo, greeted the audience on behalf of the delegation from Split, which included Nikola Horvat, Head of International Affairs at the Mayor’s Office, and Vjenceslav Pejša, Chairman of the Hrvatsko-britansko društvo.
Robert Adam s drawing of Diocletian s Palace viewed from the east.
Robert Adam's drawing of Diocletian's Palace viewed from the east.
Robert Adam
Over 70 people attended, and the lecture-theatre was filled to overflowing with members of the British Croatian Society, representatives of AMAC UK from Oxford, members of the Decorative Arts Society and curators from several important museums, and experts from several fields. Several people had to stand throughout, despite the best efforts of the indefatigable Flora Turner-Vučetić, formerly Cultural Counsellor to the Croatian Embassy in London and previous Chairman of the British-Croatian Society, who was in charge of seating.
Among the distinguished guests in the audience were: His Excellency Dr. Ivan Grdešić, the Croatian Ambassador in London, accompanied by Mrs. Grdešić; Lady Jadranka Beresford-Peirse, founder and Chairman of the International Trust for Croatian Monuments; Rosemary Baird FSA of the Georgian Group, Curator Emeritus of the Goodwood Collection; Dr. Marjorie Trusted, Head of Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum; Dr Frances Sands, Catalogue Editor (Robert Adam Drawings Project) at Sir John Soane’s Museum; Margaret Baird, Chairman of the Events Sub-Committee at the Decorative Arts Society; Silvia Mazzola, Italian art historian; Anne Ceserole, historian of architecture and design; Andrew Selkirk, Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, former Vice-President of the Royal Archaeological Institute, founder and editor-in-chief of ‘Current Publishing’, editor-in-chief of ‘Current World Archaeology’; Caitlin McCall, editor of ‘Current World Archaeology’; Richard Hughes, Engineer and Building Conservator with Ove Arup and ICOMOS among other influential organizations; Martin Drury CBE, Chairman of the Landmark Trust, Vice-Chairman of the Attingham Trust, Vice-President of the Heritage of London Trust, and Vice-President of the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts; Dr. Nigel Ramsay, historian, of University College London; Colin Thom, senior historian, Survey of London, UCL Bartlett School of Architecture; Tom Nancullas of English Heritage’s Planning and Conservation Office, London; John Harris, architect, editor of ‘Fort’ journal; Dr. David Davison of Archaeopress, Oxford, the specialist publishing house for academic books on archaeology; Tony Suchy, Chairman of the British Croatian Chamber of Commerce; and Malcolm Billings, broadcaster and writer.
Immediately after the lecture, several experts suggested that Dr. Bužančić should publish the lecture material and give talks presenting it to a wider public. Many of the specialists also expressed the wish to visit Split to view the Palace from the new perspective.
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