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The smallest cathedral in the world

What an unusual superlative. Cathedrals are usually known for their great size and grandeur.

The mere 60 m2 base area of the church of Sveti Križ (Church of the Holy Cross) in Nin, Croatia, is shaped like a Greek cross with a rotunda in its center. The arm of the cross that lies opposite the entrance, which also features a belfry, originally functioned as the presbytery. Except for blind niches, the building nowadays is entirely undecorated.

  Crkva svetoga Kriza14 jklein pg  Picture: Konstantin Zurawski, Köln
To answer the question whether the church originally hosted a bishop's throne - which is the criterium to call a church a 'cathedral' - we have to go back to the 9th century. Large structures were rare, especially in more rural regions. Stone buildings were seldom seen as well. Nin, however, was the first royal seat of Croatia and the bishops there played a very important political role. Bishop Gregor of Nin is believed to have been chancellor of the Kingdom of Croatia.
  Crkva svetoga Kriza17 jmodAP Picture: Konstantin Zurawski, Köln


The size of the building was also not unusual, as an example from another remote region in Europe proves. The Church of St. Lawrence was approximately the same size.

Is the claim therefore credible?

There is no historical proof for the presence of a bishop's throne. Nevertheless, there exists documentation on bishops in this center of power. These bishops must have had a bishop's church. There are no traces of other stone buildings from this period in Nin. The only remaining alternative would have been a wooden church.

We cannot answer the question regarding the correctness behind the statement at the top of this article.

Yet, we grant this honorable structure and the young EU-Member state this title nevertheless.



Translation: Erik Eising (M.A.)


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