Split during the French administration of Napoleon Bonaparte


August 22, 2022 – TCN is delighted to welcome Marko Lončar to the team. Marko will add a little historical perspective, starting with a look at Split under French administration at the turn of the 19th century.

“Impossible is a word only found in the dictionary of fools.”

Napoleon Bonaparte

In the wake of the French Revolution, the revolutionary ideas of liberty, liberty and equality spread across Europe like wildfire. Napoleon, in his war campaigns, ensured that these new values ​​were implemented in the conquered regions and for the benefit of the people in order to lay the foundations for a paradigm shift meant to replace old and outdated feudal laws and principles. that shaped a bygone world. The fate of the inhabitants of the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea was no different.

Even though France defeated Austria and signed the Treaty of Campo Formio in 1797, which ended the 1100-year existence of the Venetian Republic and placed Istria and Dalmatia under Austrian rule, it is not that after the Battle of Austerlitz, followed by the Peace of Pressburg in December 1805 that these provinces came under French governance and were included in the Kingdom of Italy, an entity under the full control of Napoleon through his son-in-law Eugène Beauharnais who acted as viceroy. (Kečkemet 2006) This early period of French rule lasted until 1809 and the formation of the Illyrian provinces and was marked by the governance of Vincenzo Dandolo, who was appointed General Superintendent of Dalmatia. (Keckemet 2006)

Dandolo, scientist, chemist-pharmacist and farmer, subordinate to Marshal August Marmont, held his post in the city of Zadar, then capital of Dalmatia. He was responsible for putting Marmont’s commands and directives into action – a set of ideas and visions all shaped in the spirit of the Enlightenment. He considered the region to be underdeveloped and was about to make improvements by building roads, introducing a system of public education, improving trade and commerce, and as he was an inveterate farmer, modernizing the primitive agricultural methods that prevailed in the region at the time. (Keckemet 2006)

Regarding Split, the focus was on the aesthetics, culture and social life of the city. Such was the decision to demolish the shabby old houses in front of the southern facade of Diocletian’s Palace. The foundations of the new public park, colloquially called Garden, Rumbling bastions were then established which encircled the core of the city and were built during the Venetian reign. The idea behind the deconstruction of parts of the bastions was to open up the city and make it more susceptible to growth and development outside the city walls, and to include the old quarters of the city Lučac , Manuš and Dobri to shape the social life of the city, but also to facilitate the possibility of defending the city in case of enemy threat. The decision to demolish the Venetian castle to the west of the palace and use the remaining material to enlarge the promenade on the west coast came from fears that Russian or British troops might seize it and use it as stronghold to lead attacks on the city. (Kečkemet 2006) Postal service improvements were also made and accompanied the construction and improvement of traffic routes. (Kečkemet 2006) Regarding social activities, raffles were organized in the theater, and part of the profits went to the “Comité de Charité Publique” which took care of the hospitals, orphanages, hospices and psychiatric hospitals that the French found in terrible conditions. , and since charity work, concern for the general well-being of citizens, as well as the encouragement to establish an egalitarian and more just society, was an integral part of the legacy of the French Revolution, it was therefore at the center of the concerns from France. governance, notably that of Marshal Marmont. (Kečkemet 2006) Marshal Marmont felt a special attraction for Split. He was enchanted by the scenic landscapes and landscapes but also by the city’s rich history, the ruins of Salona, ​​and especially the breathtaking palace remains.

When the French arrived, the city’s streets were neglected, dirty and starchy, with run-off drains and sewage running down its surfaces, including the one now named in honor of August Marmont. Having seen the scale of the problem this posed to public health care, the decision was made to pave city streets and redirect the flow of sewage, an undertaking that came partly at the expense of residents. and clergy. (Kečkemet 2006) The general idea of ​​participation and involvement of citizens in public projects has been encouraged, even imposed, and all with the aim of raising the level of consciousness of an individual and his role and influence on society as a whole. Along with the introduction of a public health system, Marmont strove to beautify the city by issuing a decree for the construction of public parks and gardens and forming a “Commission for the beautification of Split”. The task of the commission was to ensure that new houses on the coast were built according to the plans and plans of Basilio Mazzoli.

The egalitarian approach in revamping society caused noticeable resistance in certain classes of society, especially among the nobility, clergy, and commoners heavily influenced by the clergy. The redistribution of property that affected the clergy included the confiscation of church property and inventory in an effort to help fund further wars, but some monasteries were also used to house the French army and officers. The nobility lost some of their lands and estates. Some brotherhoods, which then numbered thirty-four in Split alone, were suspended from activity by the decree of Viceroy Eugene, dated 20e October 1808. “Fraternity of the Blessed Sacrament” and “Fraternity of the Good Death” remained unscathed, probably because their work included the burial of the dead, especially the poor. (Duplancić 2011)

Another noteworthy achievement was the full integration of the Jewish minority into society. The Jews were condemned to ghetto life, and the decision to bring down the gates of the ghetto as well as to proclaim religious freedom was greeted with enthusiasm by members of the Jewish community. (Kečkemet 2006) All citizens were considered equal before the law and the implementation of a new set of principles that belonged intrinsically to Napoleon’s most important work – Civil Code.

Although the French initiatives are generally perceived as anti-clerical, and secularism and secularism are infused in the changes they impose, Marshal Marmont holds members of the Franciscan order in high regard. He did not fail to see how influential the order was among the commoners and that it would be expedient to be sympathetic towards the order in an attempt to swing the disapproving attitude of the public in its favor. Those who felt inclined towards the revolutionary ideas of the French were mainly citizens, especially intellectuals who were not opposed to the adoption of new values ​​and ideas from the Enlightenment. (Keckemet 2006)

Since the founding of the Illyrian provinces in 1809 and the relocation of Marmont to Ljubljana to serve as governor-general, beautification activities in the city have slowed down, and many have never seen the light of day, and the implementation revolutionary ideas has slowed down. Marmont was busy leading war campaigns across Europe, being wounded twice but nonetheless going into battle with his head held high and brutally carrying out the will of His Imperial Majesty. Subsequently, disappointed with Napoleon and thinking that he had placed himself above France, he turned against him and parleyed to return Paris. (Keckemet 2006)

French governance over Dalmatia lasted until 1813 and the Battle of Leipzig, the decisive defeat of Napoleon’s army on the continent. (Britannica 1998) Although often seen as a usurper, especially among those most affected by the imposed changes, we can undoubtedly credit French governance with having done so much for the benefit of the people in such a short time. , especially for the introduction of -breaking libertarian ideas.

For more on Split today, check out the Total Croatia Split in a Page guide.


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