Grgur Ninski

Gregory of Nin (Grgur Ninski): A Pillar of Croatian Identity and Language

The statue of Grgur Ninski in Split stands as one of the city's most renowned symbols, crafted by the famed Croatian sculptor Ivan Meštrović. Unveiled in 1929, it commemorates the 10th-century bishop Grgur Ninski, who championed the use of the Old Church Slavonic language and the Glagolitic alphabet in religious ceremonies—a pivotal step in preserving Croatian identity and language

History and Significance

Grgur Ninski, the historical figure the statue depicts, was a bishop in Nin. His advocacy of the vernacular in church services, challenging the dominance of Latin in liturgical practices of the time, heralds him as a key figure in the history of the Church in Croatia. People consider his struggle to be a crucial element in maintaining the Croatian language and culture.

One of Split's most iconic landmarks is the statue of Gregory of Nin, prominently located at the northern entrance of Diocletian's Palace near the Golden Gate. This imposing sculpture, crafted by the renowned Croatian artist Ivan Meštrović, soars over six meters in height.

Croatian culture reveres Gregory of Nin, a bishop in the 10th century, for his critical contributions to the development of the old Slavic language and the Glagolitic alphabet. It is believed that touching the toe of his statue and making a wish will compel him to fulfil it, a testament to his enduring legacy among Croatians.

Gregory's Era

Internal conflicts among Croatians often hindered their progress during Gregory's era. Nevertheless, he took a bold stand against the dominant use of Latin in church services by advocating for the Croatian language during the Great Assembly in 926. This defiance against the Pope and the insistence on using Croatian in religious contexts were groundbreaking. Up until the late 1960s, Latin was the lingua franca of the Roman Catholic Church, alienating the majority of its adherents who could not understand it.

His efforts were pivotal in preserving the Croatian language and culture, despite the challenges. However, Gregory's endeavours faced significant opposition from the Pope and Dalmatian bishops. King Tomislav and the clergy ultimately marginalised Gregory due to this resistance. The Archbishop of Split seized control over the church, leaving Gregory of Nin without influence or power, yet his legacy of championing the Croatian language and culture remains undisputed.

Grgur Ninski As A Tourist Attraction

Positioned near the northern walls of Diocletian's Palace, a paramount archaeological site in Croatia and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the statue's location makes it an accessible and frequent destination for tourists.

A widely held belief associated with the statue suggests that touching the statue's right toe brings good fortune, rendering the toe polished from countless touches.

Artistic Features of the Statue

Ivan Meštrović, the statue's creator, is among the most notable Croatian and global sculptors of the 20th century. His works adorn numerous public spaces in Croatia and worldwide. The statue of Grgur Ninski in Split conveys emotional power and spiritual devotion, traits common in Meštrović's works. Grgur Ninski, towering over four metres tall, commands his surroundings. 

City Tours featuring the Statue of Grgur Ninski

The statue represents a significant historical figure and has become a symbol of resistance and the fight to preserve national identity. Moreover, it is part of the broader cultural and historical legacy that Ivan Meštrović has left to Croatia and the world.

The presence of Grgur Ninski in Split signifies more than just a monument to a great historical figure; it's an artwork reflecting the deep cultural and historical layers of the Croatian people. It serves as a testament to the rich history and culture that the cities of Split and Croatia offer.

City Tours featuring the Statue of Grgur Ninski

A Walking Tour of Diocletian's Palace and the Old Town

These tours often include a visit to the statue of Grgur Ninski as part of a broader exploration of Diocletian's Palace and surrounding historical landmarks. 

Cultural-Historical Tour of Split

Such tours highlight the key features that define Split as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, including the statue of Grgur Ninski as a symbol of resistance and national identity.

Tours Focused on Croatian Greats: Several agencies offer tours centred on significant historical figures in Croatia, with Grgur Ninski being a focal point due to his importance for the Croatian language and culture.

The Significance Of Grgur Ninski To The Residents Of Split Is Noteworthy

Grgur Ninski stands as a pivotal figure in the preservation of the Croatian language and identity, especially during a time when Latin was the liturgical norm. People view his determination to conduct mass in the vernacular and his advocacy for the right to use the Glagolitic script as fundamental achievements in shaping Croatian national identity. The people of Split, like many Croatians, view Grgur Ninski as a symbol of resistance and national pride. 

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

Who was Grgur Ninski?

  • Grgur Ninski was a bishop in the 10th century who advocated the use of the Old Church Slavonic language and Glagolitic alphabet in religious ceremonies, playing a key role in preserving the Croatian language and culture.

Why is the statue of Grgur Ninski popular among tourists?

  • The statue is popular for its historical and cultural significance and the belief that touching its toe brings luck.

When was the statue of Grgur Ninski erected?

  • The statue was erected in 1929, a masterpiece by the renowned Croatian sculptor Ivan Meštrović.

What does the statue of Grgur Ninski symbolise?

  • It symbolises the fight for national identity and the right to use one's own language and script in religious ceremonies.

How did Grgur Ninski influence Croatian history?

  • Grgur Ninski played a crucial role in preserving the Croatian language and identity during periods dominated by foreign influences, becoming a symbol of resistance and national pride.


The statue of Grgur Ninski is not just a monument; it's a beacon of national pride and cultural identity for Croatians, especially those in Split. It reminds us of the enduring struggle to maintain one's culture and language in the face of dominating forces. This statue, much like the man it represents, is a testament to Croatian history.
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Marjan Hügel


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Saturday, 15 June 2024