Dalmatian fortresses

Dalmatia is one of the oldest historical regions on the Adriatic. A stripe of land along the central part of Adriatic coast including the related islands.

Dalmatia as a region within Croatia today

It is geographicaly bounded with mountains Velebit, Dinara and Kamešnica and divided into three parts: islands, coastline and hinterland.

Due to its long and turbulent history Dalmatia changed its area throughout time. Today, Dalmatia is a part of Croatia. Its northernwest boundary is the entrance to Kvarner and its southern boundary is the Oštro cape on the very entrance to the bay of Kotor.

There are numerous fortresses in Dalmatia, partly ruins, partly well preserved, silent witnesses of its tumultuous and interesting history. Here is a short list of one of the most beautiful and most preserved forts nowadays.

Dubrovnik – worldwide famous fortifications

Dubrovnik was a city-republic, mostly indipendent during its history. The mighty city walls, built mostly between 13th – 17th century, are still standing. It is one of the most beautiful and well preserved fortification systems in the world. Minčeta tower and fortresses Revelin and Lovrijenac are probably among the most notable Dubrovnik’s monuments. The old city of Dubrovnik has been registered on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1979.

If you want to find out more regarding history of Dubrovnik city walls, please take a look here.

Ston – city walls and fortress

Beautifuly preserved small fortification town, built in 14th century. Its pentagonal fortification walls are still standing along with the tower Veliki kaštel. The defense walls are 5,5 km long and consist of 41 towers and 7 bulwarks. Ston was a part of Dubrovnik Republic and it was important due to its strategic postion and for production of sea salt. Here you can find out more about its history.

Omiš – city of pirates

A small town on the mouth of river Cetina with partly saved medieval fortifications and town gates. The most memorable are tower Mirabela from 13th century and fortress Fortica from 15th century. Fortica is actually built on the top of the mountain surmounting the city. The view from up there is breathtaking.

Interesting fact about this city. In medieval times (12th and 13th century) its inhabitants were pirates that controlled the sea traffic from Dubrovnik up to Split. All the ships passing near Omiš were obligated to pay tribute.

Klis Fortress

Due to the importance of its location, Klis fortress has a long and interesting history going back to pre-Roman times. From a primitive settlement to Roman castrum, this fortress changed numerous owners because of its strategic postion on the road from Split to hinterland.

Nowadays, the best preserved parts are those originating from Venetian and Austro-Hungarian period. The fort consists of three enclosed parts with separate entrances.

Knin Fortress

One of the biggest military fortifications in Europe. Knin fortress is monumental not only for its dimensions but also for its highly preserved state. It is divided into five parts – the upper part (also the oldest one), middle part, lower part, Korlat and Belveder. It used to be the center of medieval Croatian state and its rulers.

Fortresses in Šibenik

St. Michael Fortress is the oldest one in Sibenik. Named after the town’s patron saint and connected to the medieval city walls. It was probably built before 1066 when city of Sibenik is mentioned for the first time in history. Today, it is turned into an open open air stage used for cultural and musical events.

St. John’s and Barone Fortress were both built in the middle of the 17th century as a result of a threat by the Ottoman empire. St. John’s Fortress was built first, in less than two months. It has a star shaped ground plan. Local people call it Tanaja due to the word tenaglia/tenaille – a special architectural shape used for defense, resembling pincers. Barone Fortress was built immediatly afterwards. Initially it was built as a small fortress but it obtained its final shape in 1659.

Both fortresses are restored and are opened for visitors. The dense pine forest grew for decades on the premisses and around these fortresses. Unfortunatly, the greenery was completely cut down in order to show the fortresses walls. Due to the lack of shade in summer, the only reasonable time to visit these fortress is at dusk or early in the morning.

St. Nicholas’ Fortress

It is an impressive Renaissance military building standing on Sibenik’s sea entrance. Due to its unique architectural shape and well preserved state, it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as part of Venetian defense system built between the 16th and 17th century. Take a look at our blog post about St Nicholas’ Fortress.

All Sibenik’s fortresses, except St. Nicholas, were recently reconstructed and are used in tourist and cultural purposes – Fortresses of Culture Šibenik. The downside of these projects is that local people are not allowed to freely use these urban spaces as before. Locals can use them only as tourists, by paying admission tickets.

Besides these fortresses we’ve mentioned, there are still many more of them scattered throughout Dalmatia. Some are ruins, some are in good condition. We will write about them in some other blog post.

Boris Kačan is the author of all photos, besides aerial photos of St. Michael’s, St. John’s and Barone in Šibenik, found on official website Fortresses of Culture Šibenik.