Historical sources documented the Rector’s Palace dating back to the 13th century. The Rector’s Palace is mentioned for the first time in a document from 1288 under the name "Municipal Palace" as the residential home for the Rector's advisers. The documents of the 14th and 15th centuries speak of the meetings in the palace and also of its repairs. After was mentioned that the Council of Zadar Commune held their sessions in the hall of the Rector’s Palace (sala comitatis). Rector’s Palace was then called the Great Palace of Zadar. 

The description of 1421 created by Chancellor Teodor de Prandin mentions that the palace was built in stone and covered by hollow rounded tiles, and included taverns, storage rooms, a chancellery and 2 stables. The main room of the palace is the large hall, which was called the City Hall because this is where the City Council used to convene.


The central hall of the palace was used throughout the centuries for various functions, and so it was used as a courtroom in the 16th century, in the 18th century as a city theatre, in the 19th century as a hall for games and entertainment in the 20th century as a concert hall. As it changed functions, the palace also changed names and was therefore called municipal, court, governors, government, vicarious palace and Chamber of Culture. In the 16th century, the palace was extensively renovated for the first time. As it was expanded, repaired and rebuilt, it received new stylistic features.


First renovation was held in 19th century classicist architect Francis Zavoreo was given the task to redecorate the Rector's and Providur's Palaces into an apartment for the Austrian governor of Dalmatia. It represented the first accomplished classicist project in Zadar. 


After World War II, the Rector’s Palace enriched the cultural life of the City of Zadar for many years through its multiple functions as the public library, music and ballet school, concert hall, and it was the home of Radio Zadar, mixed choir Peter Zoranić and girls choir Juraj Baraković.


The Rector’s Palace was destructed during the Homeland War in Zadar. The war in 1991 caused enormous damage and incapacitated the building from any use.


The first demanding phase of the post-war reconstruction (static and building repairs) began in 1999. In 2006, the National Museum Zadar in cooperation with the City of Zadar made up the programme base for the Heritage Centre. In 2011, the National Museum launched a campaign for the temporary adaptation of several halls for exhibition purposes. An architectural installation by Zadar architects Iva Letilović and Igor Pedišić was set up which looked like »cages« that built spaces inside suitable exhibition space. Exhibition pontoons were interconnected by wooden bridges and tunnels, and also apart from the exhibition halls, a room where the Maritime collection is located was also set up. 

In May 2011, a part of the renovated space of several halls in the Rector’s Palace was opened for one of the most attractive city locations and has been the host of exhibitions, special exhibitions for significant anniversaries, concerts, plays, an international film festival, diplomatic and city receptions. 

In December 2011, architects Letilović and Pedišić won the prestigious award of the Croatian Architects Association "Bernardo Bernardi" for the architectural solution "Temporary exhibition hall, the Rector’s Palace in Zadar", in the category of the most successful achievements in the field of design and interior design in Croatia in 2011.


On October 2, 2014, the implementation of the project "Reconstruction and tourist evaluation of cultural and historical complex of the Rector’s Palace" began and was funded by the grant from the European Union structural funds.

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