Although there is a large colonnaded hall within the the Emperor's Apartments, it seems likely that this was used for more private interviews, and that it was the hall on the main north-south axis which was used for "spectaculars". Little of this remains, but its approaches are marked by a grand peristyle:
- and then by a domed circular vestibule:
The vestibule was presumably where ambassadors congregated before being admitted to the Great Hall behind. A circular building with corner "cusps", it was domed - an earthly version of the heavens above, and thus a reminder of the divine nature of the Emperor.
Most people, of course, never got this far, for god-emperors retained their glamour only at a distance (an effect some modern rulers have forgotten). The colonnaded peristyle in from of the domed vestibule and the Great Hall was for the appearance of the Emperor to the people in the most sumptuous of possible settings.
There is some dispute about whether the retired Emperor would indeed have been the focus of ceremonial in his retirement - for which, see a summary in Palace or Chateau?. But assuming that the "scenic" setting of Split was so used, the procedure might have gone as follows:
The people would stand at ground level. The Emperor, flanked by his guard, would appear in his finery on the central balcony underneath the arch - at which point the people might have kneeled or, conceivably, prostrated themselves completely. The Emperor's dress would probably have been a highly decorated silk toga, decorated with gold and silver thread and ornamented with jewels and brooches - the antique equivalent of the Bishop's cope, which is its direct descendant. Ivory diptychs (decorated folders for important or honorific documents) of a slightly later date, and from the Eastern Empire (i.e. Constantinople) sometimes show the Emperor or Consul in just such dress, and framed in just such an arch as this, cut off further from the common herd by a decorated balcony which, at Split, is missing.
Today, the colonnade to the north is blocked by palaces, and that to the south (toward the mausoleum) is open. Adam's drawing shows a pierced stone balustrade (a transenna) still in place between two columns:
- and in Diocletian's day, all the flanking colonnade would have been so decorated, with a central doorway in each, the one leading to the mausoleum, the other to the temple - a design reminiscent of that of enclosed choirs in mediaeval Western churches, or the Iconostasis in Greek Orthodox ones. Even though the balustrades have disappeared, their design, and place in "palace furniture", so to speak, is easily reconstructed from Ravenna mosaics, from late imperial consular diptychs, or from the arrangements Charlemagne put in place for his early 9th century Chapel Palatine at Aachen - a building which enthusiastically imitates the setting of Roman ceremonial, the remains of which he and his scholarly advisers would have seen in the city of Rome.
Fischer von Erlach's drawing of the peristyle, inventive though it is, apparently misunderstands the upper storey of the central pedimented portico - and offers the crossing colonnade in the (wrong) form of a set of square pillars:
The flanking colonnades of the peristyle would have been more impressive when part-open on both sides, and not just (as today) toward the mausoleum:
To the west, they have been used as swanky facades to palazzi. And if the architecture and town-planning aspects of this square, with their noble if somewhat heavy arcading, and palaces fitted into them, remind you of Vicenza - then this is because Palladio was himself impressed by what he saw of Split, and certainly owned drawings by others of the complex
From here you may go to any of the following screens:
The Introductory Page; The Colonnaded Streets; Comparisons with Split's Architecture; Diocletian as Builder; The Emperor's Apartments; The Emperor's Mausoleum; Is Split palace or chateau?; The Temple; The Walls & Gates A short description of the Tetrarchy; The Bibliography; My Biography; The technology I've used; A Short Research Paper.