Peoples Square (original: Narodni trg) is the centre of public life in Zadar from the Renaissance until today. On the site of the Large Square, platea magna, the foundations of municipal institutions were laid in the early Middle Ages.
Afterwards, the City Lodge and the Church of St. Peter the New were erected here. They were destroyed by the authorities during the Venetian reign in the 15th century. The 16th century saw the building of City Guard (Gradska straža) with the city clock tower, while a new City Loggia was erected on the site of the old one.
On the northern side of the Square is the City Guard (Gradska straža) from 1562, designed by a Venetian architect Michele Sanmicheli in the late Renaissance style. The large central clock tower was erected at the beginning of the19th century with a surrounding stone barrier and railing with holes for cannons. The building once housed the Ethnographic Section of the National Museum, one of the most important collections in the country, and worth seeing for the rich colours of local national costumes, textiles (weaving and lace), jewellery, agricultural, fishing and household objects.
Next to it is the small, well preserved pre-Romanesque church of St. Lawrence (Sveti Lovre) with an atrium. It is the oldest preserved building dating from the 11th century; small and simple, but architecturally rich. It can be visited from behind the Cafe bar “Sveti Lovre”.
On the southern side of the People’s Square is the City Loggia (Gradska loža), first mentioned in the 13th century; it was rebuilt in 1565, similar in aspect to some other works of Michele Sanmicheli. This building once was the city’s courthouse, council chambers and library. It was restored after being heavily damaged in the World War II. With its huge windows and high ceilings, it nowadays serves as a stunning exhibition space, hosting events such as the international photography triennial “Man and the Sea” and the triennial of contemporary Croatian art “The Blue Salon”.
The Pedrini Baroque Palace was destroyed by the fascist authorities during the Italian rule, and today’s City hall building was erected in 1935. The Ghirardini Palace in Romanesque style with a balcony from the 15th century in gothic style stands to the east, just outside the square.