Let’s Meet Marko Marulić

24 May 2024

Marko Marulić (1450–1524), was a Croatian poet, lawyer, judge and a Renaissance humanist who coined the term  psychology and wrote the first Split travel guide, praising the beauty of the Peristyle. Owing to his work, he became the most distinguished person of the humanist circle in Split, known as“the father of the Croatian Renaissance“. His Latin poetry is of such high quality that his contemporaries called him "The Christian Virgil."

Legend has it that Henry VIII was a fan, but the influence and legacy of Marko Marulić stretches far beyond the violent hands of England’s most infamous king. When discussing Croatian literature, Marulić is Ground Zero. Born into a wealthy noble family in Split in 1450, the man known in Latin as Marcus Marulus Spalatensis was the quintessential Renaissance Man, a humanist as focused on innovation and creativity as he was on faith and matters of the soul. Yet, there is a veil of mystery shrouding Marulić's life, with little concrete information and much of what we know being conjecture. He was educated in Split and almost certainly studied further in Italy before returning home to become a poet, lawyer, judge and man of influence. Some believe he even coined the term “psychology,” while his writings found favour far and wide.

Marulić primarily wrote in Latin (it was the 15th and 16th centuries, after all), but his desire to bring literature to the uneducated led to “Judita,” the first epic poem written and published in the Croatian language. Completed in 1501, it took 20 years for the story to reach the masses, but it was then published three times while Marulić was still among the living. The epic poem and its trailblazing language marked Marulić forever as the Father of Croatian Literature, the man who established Croatian as a literary language for all eternity. 2024 marks the 500th anniversary of Marulić’s death, and the year has been given over to this most influential Croatian humanist.

Exhibition on Marmontova Street
Held as part of the many events marking the 500th anniversary of his death, this exhibition uses text and illustrations to bring the life and work of Marko Marulić into the modern world. The outdoor exhibition (until May 12) masterfully weaves its way through the complex world of late 15th-century Dalmatia, putting Marulić and his family in a local and broader context through a brilliant combination of visual aids. Marulić is arguably Croatia’s most important writer and Split’s favourite son, but the city he created in was wildly different to the one we know and love today. Marulić is presented faithfully in the exhibition, which engages through fascinating information and incredible artefacts covering everything from his time in prison to his final years. Unique QR codes will help visitors find their way around Marko Marulić’s Split, adding another layer of understanding to this most influential Renaissance figure.

Marko Marulić Monument
Two of Croatia’s most influential creatives combine, as the nation’s first writer is sculpted by its most important artist. The Marko Marulić monument was unveiled on Voćni trg (Trg braće Radić) in 1925, another feather in the jam-packed cap of sculptor extraordinaire Ivan Meštrović. The monument was funded by a broad range of individuals and institutions, as an entire community came together to create a monument to the Father of Croatian Literature and Split’s most impactful humanist. Its position was chosen by Meštrović, who wisely understood that a visible position within Diocletian’s Palace was the only logical choice. Many other monuments to Marulić around the world have since been erected, most notably structures in Zagreb, Berlin, and even a bust in Punta Arenas, Chile, showcasing the global recognition of his legacy.

Virtual Exhibition
While little concrete information is known about the life of Marko Marulić, this exceptionally detailed virtual exhibition offers a unique opportunity to delve into the details in search of truth. It begins, logically, with the man’s birth and childhood, detailing his education under the watchful eyes of Tideo Acciarini and other teachers. No stone is left unturned when it comes to Marulić, his life and his work, his writings and his relationships, and the exhibition makes the most of the scant reliable information that is out there. If you are looking for a primer on Marko Marulić before heading to Split to do your own detective work, you can do worse than spending some time with this virtual exhibition, an excellent beginner’s guide to Croatia’s most important writer. The exhibition, organised by the National and University Library in Zagreb, is fortunate to hold many of Marulić’s most influential creations, adding to its appeal and credibility.

The grave of Marko Marulić - The Church of Saint Francis
When you climb to the Marjan Mountain, you'll pass by the church of Saint Francis (13th century) in which there are headstones that depict renaissance fine art. The headstones are of famous writer Marko Marulić (1450-1524), the tombs of Jero Kavanjanin (1641-1714), Toma Arhiđakon (around 1200-1268) as well composer Ivan Lukačić (1548-1648). Numerous baroque paintings and statues decorate the inside of the church, not to mention the gothic cloister on the outside.



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