One of the biggest symbols of Split is probably the bell tower of the Saint Dominus Cathedral, but not everyone knows the story of the life and death of Saint Dominus. Locally known as sveti Duje (try: sveh-tee Doo-ye), Saint Dominus is the patron saint of Split. Every year on May 7th people of Split celebrate their city’s patron saint, and the locals call this manifestation Sudamja (Soo-da-mya) or fešta svetog Duje (try: feh-shta sveh-tawg Doo-ye). Even though Saint Dominus actually died in April, the feast and celebrations take place in May, so it doesn’t overlap with Easter. This tradition is several centuries old, and apart from commemorative ceremonies and gatherings, there are big fairs organized every year for visitors and citizens. Thanks to the favorable epidemiological situation, this year’s feast of Saint Dominus will look again like what we are used to it.
WHO WAS SAINT DOMINUS?
Born in Syria, Saint Dominus was a Roman Catholic bishop in Salona (Solin) who had lived during the reign of Emperor Diocletian, somewhere between the 3rd and 4th centuries. He started his missionary work upon his arrival in Salona, Dalmatia’s capital at the time. Dalmatia was a Roman province and Saint Dominus was the first bishop in Salona. When the persecution against Christians had started, Saint Dominus was tortured and murdered in the city’s amphitheater, by the orders of Emperor Diocletian himself. Historians agree that Saint Duje’s martyrdom happened on April 10th in the year 304. His remains were buried in a cemetery north of the walls of Salona, and in 650. Split’s bishop Ivan Ravenjanin had ordered to bring the remains of Saint Dominus to Split. Since then, the remains of Saint Dominus are kept inside the Diocletian’s mausoleum in Split, which from that point on, became known as The Cathedral of Saint Dominus.
HOW DO LOCALS CELEBRATE SUDAMJA?
Saint Dominus feast is celebrated in a traditional way, the content is a good mix of liturgical celebrations, and cultural, urban, and folklore contents. Traditional fair in Riva is probably the most popular event, where people usually buy wooden toys called klepetalo for their kids and a new batch of wooden stirring spoons.
The day of the celebration officially starts with a high mass at 9, called devetnica and it continues with traditional Sudamja fairs in Riva, concerts in Riva, and gala concerts in The National Theatre. This year’s program is supported by interesting events and tournaments, such as an international race of rowing legends from Oxford, Cambridge, and Split in the City Port and Bocce Ball Tournament. On Saturday, May 7, 2022, starting at 08:00 a.m. in the underwater area of Zvončac Bay and Sustipan in Split, an ecological action EKO SUDAMJA 2022, cleaning the underwater/sea bed, will take place. This eco-action is a thank you to St. Domnius and the legacy he left and also a warning of the importance of preserving that heritage for future generations. For more information about Sudamja’s program, check out Split Tourist Board’s website.