The Cathedral of St. James in Šibenik along the Dalmatian coast is a triple-nave basilica with three apses and a dome and is the most important architectural monument of the Renaissance in the entire country. Since 2000, the Cathedral has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The building of the church was initiated in 1402, though plans on its construction had already begun in 1298, when Šibenik became a municipality. The actual work to transform the older Romanesque cathedral began in 1431, and the cathedral is built entirely of limestone taken from a nearby stone quarry and marble from the island of Brač.
Initially, it was conceived as a simple church, but with exceptional skill, architect Giorgio da Sebenico combined architectural and decorative elements to create a unified entity. He constructed the western main portal, the northern portal (The Lion Gate) and the first chapel. The western main portal was decorated by the Bonino da Milano, fist master mason, with statues of Christ and the twelve apostles. The bronze door was created in 1967 by the Šibenik sculptor Grga Antunac.
The Lion Gate shows a motif of Adam and Eve standing on two lions, which is also seen at the Trogir Cathedral, but here Adam and Eve are on columns over the lions. These statues, together with St. Jacob and St. Peter, are the work of Juraj Dalmatinac. The statue of Eve draws the attention of onlookers as she has a belly button, while, according to the Bible, she was conceived from a rib of Adam. The beautiful baptismal font, made from reddish breccias, is supported by three angels. The drawing of the sculpture of St. Michael became the coat of arms of the city of Šibenik, because in the 12th century the judge of Monte Sant’ Angelo, was sent by Pope Alexander III as a notifier to Šibenik.
The barrel roof is made from a line of enormous stone slabs and considered a marvel of construction at the time. Although the dome of Šibenik Cathedral was built after the dome in Florence, Niccolò di Giovanni Fiorentino used an octagonal drum in its construction, before Bramante and Michelangelo, in its original function as the transition from the square base to the circular dome. The execution of the cupola is considered one of the best achievements of Renaissance architecture.
The dome of the church was heavily damaged by the JNA-supported Serb forces during the shelling of Šibenik in September 1991 – within years it was quickly repaired with no damage visible. It is interesting to note that this cathedral has no bell-tower, a tower on the adjoining city walls served this purpose.
Trg Republike Hrvatske, 22000 Šibenik