If there is anything that determined Marjan in the same way as its pines, walking paths or narrow medieval alleys on its eastern slopes, then it’s a string of small Marjan’s churches and chapels. They were built in times when Marjan was a spiritual sanctuary, and today browsing from one to another is a beautiful walk with spectacular seaviews, pure enjoyment and tranquility under the shade of the pines.
One of the possible tours starts at the church and monastery of Saint Francis on Riva, allegedly founded by the saint himself. From there go uphill through Veli Varoš, a settlement of peasants and fishermen on the Marjan slopes, with narrow alleys and stone houses. First stop should be the viewpoint with the most photographed view on Split, and the old Jewish cemetery founded at 1573.
From there, another steep path leads to the church of Saint Nicholas built in 13th century, marker for generations of seamen who passed by Split. It’s also another bird-perspective viewing opportunity on Sustipan peninsula with ruins of Saint Stephen church where Croatian kings were coronated. Sustipan was also a site of the old Split cemetery, which moved in the 1950s.
From Saint Nicholas take the gravel road westbound, passing the small Botanical garden. There are several stops with benches for enjoying scenery, so sit and contemplate on one overlooking Ivan Meštrović’s Kaštilac and another church dedicated to Our Lady of Good Advise.
Further to the west is Our Lady of Betlehem, built in the 14th century. The final stop on this route should be one of the Marjan jewels, the 15th century church of Saint Hyeronimus, with hermits’ caves above, and cliffs popular among free climbers.
This definitely is not the only route one can take on this spiritual journey. Right under Saint Hyeronimus, hidden in the woods lies Our Lady of Seven Sorrows, very popular among Split faithfuls, who leave their messages of gratitude there.
There is also Saint Manda in Veli Varoš, where we also find one of the most beautiful, miniature Saint Mikula (Dalmatian form of name Nicholas), even smaller Our Lady of Soca (little village). Compared with them, the parish church Saint Cross looks almost gigantic.
On the western most tip of Marjan lies Saint George, and within the Bene recreational zone are ruins of Saint Benedict.
Parts of this spiritual circle don’t even exist anymore. According to some authors, through history there were maybe more than twenty churches scattered all over Marjan.
(to be continued)