The Benedictine Monastery of St Nicholas has been a part of the city of Trogir for almost a thousand years. Not only in a physical, but also in a spiritual sense. This is in accordance with the intention of its founders, who saw the purpose of its existence in spiritual support to and prayers for the inhabitants of the city and its environs. Founded on the firm rock of faith in Jesus Christ, as if to defy time and its essential constituents of inconstancy and ephemerality, it has endured without interruption from the moment of its founding in distant 1064. Since then, Benedictine female monks, known among the people as nuns, have lived, prayed and worked in it, according to the Rule of St Benedict. And yet the mission of this monastic union goes far beyond the boundaries of the city. It is open and addressed to the universal Church and the whole of the world, for the needs of which the community works and prays.
Rooted in the history of the city and its inhabitants, the monastery is incised into the memories of many generations, with which it has shared good and evil. With its very existence, it has always been a sign pointing to Jesus Christ and his message and, in both agreeable and disagreeable conditions, has always provided testimony through its residents to Him.
The history of the monastery
The existence of the monastery is closely connected with the presence, vocation and activity of St John of Trogir, a Camoldolese Benedictine from Osor and the papal legate. The congregation of the city and diocese recognised his charisma and holiness and elected him their bishop. At his urging, and with the consent of the city authorities, this Benedictine monastery was founded in 1064. Taking part in the founding act alongside Bishop John were the local patricians, representatives of the civic authority of the time. For this purpose, they donated to the monastery the Church of St Domnius by the city gate called the Lord’s Gate, alongside which the monastery developed. The same donors endowed the monastery with lands and vineyards necessary for its maintenance and governance.
The dedicatee of the monastery was at first St Domnius who, according to legend, hid here, and after whom the church was named. But since the monastery was located along the shore, close to the harbour, many fishermen and sailors came to the church, and were glad to make it donations and keep it in good repair. On the high altar, thus, they placed the image of St Nicholas, patron saint of travellers and mariners. Thanks to this influence, in the middle of the thirteenth century, the monastery acquired a second patron alongside Domnius, St Nicholas. But in the course of time the title of St Domnius tended to be dropped, and at the end, St Nicholas remained alone.
At the time of the founding, the monastery consisted primarily of two buildings: the church (of the then) blessed Domnius and a single house alongside it. But as it grew in age, the monastery gradually developed in an architectural and a spatial sense as well. After the renovation of the city walls in the fourteenth century, the monastic church too was reconstructed. Over the centuries, the complex took in the Cega Palace, the Vitturi Palace and later also the tower of the same family. These expansions were mostly thanks to donations of rich patrician families whose daughters entered the monastery, but were also bought by the monastery’s ruling body.
In the central atrium of the monastery, a bell tower was built at the end of the 16th century. The oldest Greek inscription, the first document of the Trogir archives in stone, is incorporated into the wall of the atrium. The buildings around the atrium, put up through the centuries, are Romanesque and Gothic in style.
In addition to the Monastery of St Nicholas, there were once three other Benedictine monasteries in Trogir; there were two for women and one for men, but only this one has survived. They were the Monastery of St John the Baptist, in which male, and of St Peter in the City and St Michael in Pasike, in which female monks lived.
The Church of St Nicholas
The Church of St Nicholas has in all things shared the fate of the monastery it abuts. It has changed its name, expanded and been open for the residents and congregation of the area. It acquired its final appearance of a single-nave Baroque church with stuccowork in the eighteenth century. At the same time, the choir was built, and by opening up the semicircular windows and the large window over the choir, the church was filled with light. There are two marble altars in the nave – the northern altar, dedicated to St Benedict, and the southern Altar of the Immaculate Conception.
Every day the high point of the monastic and liturgical day takes place: Holy Mass that the Benedictine sisters celebrate in community with other members of the faith that come.
Holy Mass is celebrated every day at 6 pm, and it is preceded by the prayin of the Holy Rosary beginning at 5.30 pm.