Monday morning greetings from Split, Croatia. Two of my favorite things so far about Croatia: amazing fish and amazing Catholic history. The fish can wait until another time.
Flew here late yesterday afternoon from Zurich through Zagreb. After finding the hotel, strolled through the Old City. The Roman Emperor, Diocletian, built his "retirement home" here, which was completed in 305 AD. He was a notorious persecutor of the Christians, so standing in the recesses of his palace, pictured above (there was a beautiful flower show there this week) was bittersweet. He massacred so many of my own Christian brothers and sisters, that it is difficult to stand in the tourist areas without bringing this to mind. It is also difficult to conceive of the strength of that Christian faith: "Choose Christ and you choose death." And so many chose Christ. Is my faith that strong?
At any rate, Diocletian's palace is basically the old city here, with shops and restaurants built within the old walls. It contains a real pulse of contemporary Croatian life. The place where Diocletian was buried, his mausoleum in fact, is now the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Saint Domnius; how ironic because Diocletian was present at Domnius' beheading. Here are a few photos taken today. Here you can see remnants of the ancient Roman palace.
As luck would have it, today and tomorrow are the high points of Split's great annual festival, "Sudamja," which commemorates the martyrdom of saint Domnius, a two-week long celebration with street festivals, music, and religious observances. The streets are filled with festive Croatians.
I visited the cathedral today (it is a tiny octagonal building). Just for this festival, the holy relics of Saint Domnius are placed on the cathedral's altar. These are the reliquaries, holding presumably bones from his hands and upper body.
Once per year, during the festival, the reliquaries are taken in procession from the cathedral to an outdoor area where Mass is celebrated. It actually looks like one of those platforms and tents that are erected when the pope celebrates Mass outdoors.
And guess when all of this happens? This morning at 10:00 A.M.! I hope to get some good photos for you.
So, it has been an interesting few days thus far. This country is over 90% Catholic, with a rich Catholic history. I hope to be able to show you more as the week unfolds.
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.