A World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as of special cultural or physical significance.
At the moment there are ten Croatian sites on the World Heritage list, including the two which received the status in July 2017: the Saint Nicholas fortress in Šibenik and the city walls in Zadar.
Both of these were built by the Venice Republic for the same reason – protection from the Ottoman Empire.
The Saint Nicholas Fortress in Šibenik
Where is the fortress?
St. Nicholas fortress is located in the city of Šibenik, at the entrance of the St. Anthony channel, on the small island Ljuljevac. This channel is the only entrance to the city of Šibenik from the sea.
Before the fortress was built, there was a Benedictine monastery and a church on the island. The monastery’s mentioned in the 10th century documents, but by the 14th century only its ruin remained. We still don’t know what the monastery looked like.
Why was it built?
The people of Šibenik, scared by the possible attacks from the Ottoman Empire, asked for help from the Republic of Venice. The Republic of Venice agreed to build a fortress because they believed that “the one who owns Šibenik, rules that part of the Adriatic”.
After the building of the fortress has been approved, it took 18 years for it to begin. The fortress was designed by two great builders Michele Sanmicheli and his nephew, Gian Girolamo, in 1539. It has been completed in 1544.
The fortress was never attacked. It’s believed that the attackers were reluctant to attack the fortress because of its intimidating appearance.
Some interesting facts ...
- The triangular shape of the fortress is very rare. There only three fortresses of that shape in Europe. The other two are the fortress Zarzanelo in Italy and the fortress in the city of Sisak in Croatia.
- The Croatian post printed the picture of the fortress on the stamps in 2015.
- There are friendly dolphins in the Adriatic. One of the oldest stories about friendly dolphins has been written in 1621. It describes the friendship between the people of Šibenik and the dolphin.
The city walls in Zadar
Joining the Republic of Venice
Zadar’s uprising was a threat to the Republic of Venice which tried to win over the city several times. On 9th of July 1409 the Republic of Venice finally succeeded when they bought the city of Zadar and the entire Dalmatia from the Ladislaus of Naples for 100.000 golden coins.
Why were the walls built?
In 1537, Michele Sanmicheli arrived in Zadar to inspect the state of the existing walls and to see how they can be improved in defence against the Turks. He built the pentagonal bastion in Zadar.
In 1566 the Republic of Venice sent military commander Sforzo Pallavicin to build even stronger walls for protection of the city. During the building of the walls many churches and houses had to be knocked down (an entire suburb of the city has been destroyed in the process!) which, in the end, completely changed the structure of the city.
The construction of the walls has been finalized in 1570. when the city of Zadar became the most significant fortress-city in the Venice Republic. When completed, the walls surrounding the city of Zadar were 3000 meters long. Three quarters of the wall still exist.
Some interesting facts ...
Around the year 1660 a Turkish writer used the following words to describe the walls of Zadar:
“It is the city build from the cut stone, that is like a flint… the walls are protruding to the outside like a tortoise shell… the walls are long and wide… they are shining like a white pearl… truly, I have never seen a city this strong.”