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Viseslav (c.800 - c.810)

Viseslav is widely celebrated as the first Croatian ruler to be baptised. Although it is likely that Vojnomir was also Christian and baptised before him, Viseslav's baptism was more symbolic and distinctive as it marks the period in which the entire Croatian nation had adopted Christianity; the first of all Slavic nations to do so.

Viseslav's baptism took place at the Church of the Holy Cross in Nin around the year 800. A priest called Ivan commissioned a baptismal font for the occasion. The font, which is currently displayed at the Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments in Split, was carved from a single block of marble and large enough to fully immerse an adult. It contains an inscription on the outer rim, which reads:

This (water) source receives the weak and enlightens them. Here they are cleansed of their sins, inherited from their first parent, to become Christians soberly confessing the eternal Trinity. This work was piously created by Ivan the Priest at the time of Prince Viseslav, in the honour of St. John the Baptist, to intercede on behalf of him and his flock.

Viseslav's baptismal font.

The Church of the Holy Cross was specially designed so that the sun's rays would permeate the upper western windows and fall on Viseslav's font on the feast day of St Ambrose. Along with the Church of Sv. Nikola (St. Nicholas), which is also in Nin, it is the oldest preserved architectural monument of all Slavic peoples. The adoption of Christianity by the Croatian nation was not an instantaneous occurrence. Viseslav's baptism marked the culmination of years of missionary work. Croats first encountered Christianity 180 years earlier when they settled in their new homeland (620s). The first Croats to be converted were the Dalmatian and Istrian Croats, or more specifically those Croats who settled in or near the former Roman towns of Salona (Solin), Spalato (Split) and Zara (Zadar). Shortly thereafter the Pannonian (or Slavonian) Croats were converted, followed by the Croats of Bosnia.

Church of the Holy Cross in Nin (9th century)

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