Born Juraj Matejev in Zadar, the Adriatic’s greatest 15th-century architect was already an established stonemason in Venice when he was invited to Šibenik in 1441 to take over a cathedral project that was losing direction. Juraj immediately set about making major changes, applying the up-to-date construction techniques he had learned in Italy to develop curving roof-surfaces for the cathedral’s roof and domes made from an interlocking sequence of long rectangular stone blocks.
Juraj’s work on the cathedral was conducted in fits and starts, continually interrupted by lack of funds. Dalmatinac was never short of work elsewhere, however, taking over from renowned Italian architect Michelozzo Michelozzi as Dubrovnik’s chief military engineer in 1461, and laying out the new town of Pag in 1466-67. He also worked in the Italian cities of Urbino and Ancona.
Dalmatinac never got round to finishing the famous roof of Šibenik Cathedral, his work being brought to fruition by his successor Nikola Firentinac. As a sculptor, Dalmatinac is best remembered for his work on the apse of Šibenik Cathedral, where the line of stone heads emerging from the wall (thought to be portraits of Juraj’s contemporaries) remain full of life to this day.