The Cathedral of St James
The Cathedral of St James in Šibenik was built between 1431 and 1535. This unique building, which combines Gothic and Renaissance characteristics, was built according to a design of George of Dalmatia, and completed by Niccolò di Giovanni. A salient feature of this three- nave cathedral is the innovative technical handling, the dome of stone slabs fitted into grooves, and the vault. The organic fusion of architecture and sculpture is most to be seen on the frieze of the apse, with the sequence of 71 carved heads that clearly have the characteristics of portraits.
A distinct unit of the holdings of the Glyptotheque consists of the oeuvre of builder and sculptor George of Dalmatia or Giorgio da Sebenico, with casts from the Cathedral of St James in Šibenik, his masterpiece, which in 2000 was entered on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List.
Sculptures of the northern portal
George of Dalmatia: St Peter and St James,
The sculptures of St Peter and St James by the sculptor George of Dalmatia are in the niche of the northern portal of the Cathedral of St James. These are classic Renaissance figures, placed in a Gothic niche, which is typical of George’s sculpting. George of Dalmatia shows St James, the patron of the cathedral in Šibenik, with staff and pilgrim’s cloak, while St Peter stands calmly, head bowed. The figure of St James is the sculptor’s only statue that is totally worked and finished at the back as well.
Bonino da Milano: Adam,
The most important part of the northern wall of the cathedral is the north portal, the Lion’s Door, as it is called, the work of the master Bonino of Milan. In front of the side entrance into the cathedral are the figures of lion and lioness, bearing decorated octagonal columns on the capitals of which stand the figures of Adam and Eve. Above these figures, Gothic baldachins have been added on with the Early Renaissance sculptures of SS Peter and James (the sculptures are the work of George of Dalmatia of 1445). The naked figures of Adam and Eve are the work of Bonino da Milano, and are rendered in the Late Gothic style, as manifested in the position and rendering of their bodies.
The northern façade of the Cathedral of St James with a frieze of heads
On the cornice of three apses and on part of the northern façade, 71 human heads have been carved, 40 of them the work of George of Dalmatia, the others having been made by his assistants. During the renovation of the cathedral in 1840, 14 of the heads were replaced by heads that were of lower value as carvings. In the holdings of the Glyptotheque are copies of the heads from the cathedral that are characterised by fine modelling and proportions, and give off the realism of the Renaissance.
On the northern façade is a Late Gothic portal with Renaissance sculptures of St Peter and St James, the work of George of Dalmatia.
The baptistery of Šibenik Cathedral, a small round room with a quatrefoil ground plan, lies beneath the floor of the southern apse, and is the first work in the mixed Gothic-cum-Renaissance style in Dalmatia. George of Dalmatia here linked together Gothic decoration and Renaissance figuration into a unique harmony. In the centre of the space of the baptistery three winged boys (putti) support the baptismal font. The vault of the baptistery was constructed with George’s pre-fabricated system: it consists of just nine parts of stone that were butted together without mortar or any other kind of binder. The central medallion of the vault of the baptistery is ornamented with a relief of God the Father, and in the fields that surround it are reliefs of angels, framed with a cornice in two rows of leafwork that along with the ornamentation of the ribs constitutes the Gothic component of the baptistery.