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St Vitus – patron saint of Rijeka

 

 

Saint Vitus is a patron saint of Rijeka, he was born on Sicily and he was a persecuted Christian, probably around 304/305 year under the rule of Emperor Diocletian. Around 600 the first legends and stories about Vitus’ life were told, in fact the first church in his honour was built in Rome. In 756 his remains were transfered to St Denis in Paris. Later, the Slavic countries took the cult of St Vitus and likely replaced the ancient Slavic cult of Sventovid due to the similarity in names. That is the reason why St Vitus’ honored churches were always built on the top of the hill, because Sventovid (St Vitus) could see everything. Because Vitus or Vid in Croatian means „sight“ he also became a patron saint of human sight and city Rijeka. He was found on the Rijeka’s oldest coat of arms and even in the older name of the city which was  “Rika svetoga Vida” (St Vitus’ Rijeka). The first church from Middle Ages that was dedicated to St Vitus was a small and one-sided, romanesque. It had a semi-circular apse behind the altar, and covered porch. With the arrival of the Jesuits in Rijeka, the Cathedral as we see it today was founded in 1638. First, it became the Jesuits’ church. When the town of Rijeka became the center of the diocese, and then in 1969 the center of the archbishopric and metropolit, the representative Jesuit’s Church of St. Vitus became the Cathedral of Rijeka. It’s a rotunda, which is unusual in this part of Europe, with elements of Baroque and Gothic, including fine baroque statuary inside. Ever since, the city of Rijeka has celebrated the day of its patron saint St. Vitus, every year. So 15 June became the Day of the City of Rijeka, which is celebrated both with religious and popular feasts.