Located in front of the church of Saint Donat and the Archbishop´s Palace, it was the centre of the entire public life, the largest forum on the east coast. It is a municipal square from the Roman era, built from the 1st century BC to the 3rd century AD, 45 by 90 metres in size. It represents a very developed example of the forum complex, and is one of the most important among the Adriatic ancient cities. It was commissioned by the first Roman Emperor Augustus, the inscription with the name of Augustus´ proconsul for Illyricum, Tamfil Vaale, carved on the well of the Forum, testifies that the complex construction was started in the second decade of the 1st century BC.
It’s central, open section provided a magnificent appearance: three sides closed two-story portico with colonnades, opened to the upper part of the magnificent temple, dedicated to Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. There was initially an about 2 metre high capitol on its south-western section. Today only the original pavement and stairs remain, as well as two monumental columns one of which is still on its original site. In the Middle Ages it was uses as pillory (“Pillar of Shame”, where offenders were publicly humiliated), evidenced by chains from that period. At the reconstructed part of the Capitol, at the wall that separates the elevation from the square, remains were found of an ritual sacrificial altar. On the pavement you will notice shallow, narrow and elongated recess. The blood of the sacrificed animals would flow into the ground through this recess.
In the period of late antiquity, the foundations of Christian buildings were laid. They later developed into an episcopal complex with the basilica and annexes, and were joined by the rotunda in the Early Middle Ages, eventually destroying the complex of earlier erected buildings. In the course of history, the whole complex was reduced to rubble and the medieval square with a Renaissance cistern was built.
With the current arrangement (since 2011.), the “Poljana pape Ivana Pavla II.” (Forum) has become an active public space in the historic center of Zadar – as an outdoor living room with the permanent exhibition it hosts various events (concerts, film festival, other commemorative events). Not a lot of the original forum endures, but Roman artifacts laid out in the area in front of the Church of St Donatus allowing visitors and locals to experience Zadar’s forum to the fullest as they walk among it freely.