He sounds like a character from Lord of the Rings, but unlike other fictional characters that have permeated the collective psyche of humanity, Gregorius of Nin actually existed. If you are in Split and walk around the outer walls of Diocletian’s Palace, you can’t help but run into a huge statue of Gregorius of Nin, and if you are a local, you will rub his toe for good luck. If you are a traveler, rubbing his toe will ensure your return to the city. All of this toe-rubbing made me wonder what all the fuss was about.
Gregorius [or Gregory] was a medieval bishop from Croatia who, in no uncertain terms, very strongly disagreed with the Catholic Pope at the time [Papa IOANNES Decimus or Pope John X], his decisions, and the dogma of the Church. Gregorius introduced the vernacular Croatian language into the daily religious services after what is called the Great Assembly of 926. This was counter to the Catholic doctrine of the time – that all services were to be held in Latin [clearly so that no one could understand them]. Gregorius’ move attempted to elevate the Croatian language [and ironically given the Church reaction] religion within 10th century Croatia.
Unfortunately, Gregorius was not victorious. The Pope pressured King Tomislav [the founder of the first united Croatian state who ruled from 910-925 C.E.] and the rest of the Dalmatian bishops to prevent this from happening. Gregorius was effectively isolated, and lost his position in the Church. As a result, church services in Croatia were conducted in Latin until the 1960s.
While there are fully three statues of Gregorius of Nin, this the largest and most famous one was created in 1929 to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of the use of the Croatian language in religious services, or at least the attempt to do so. This statue represents a local hero, but also represents the attempts of one man to break the monopoly of conventional dogma at a time when doing so meant risking everything.
We sure do need more guys like Gregorius of Nin.