Dalmatian fortresses

Dalmatia is one of the oldest historical regions on the Adriatic. A stripe of land along the central part od 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, the coastline and the 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 throughout its history. The mighty city walls, built mostly from 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 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 fond 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 its important strategic postion, Klis fortress had a long and interesting history from pre-Roman times. From a prehistoric settelment to Roman castrum, this fortress changed numerous owners due to its strategic postion on the road from Split to hinterland.

Nowadays, the best preserved parts are those originating from Venetian and Austrian-ungaric preriod. The fort comprises of three enclosed parts with separate entrances.

Knin Fortress

One of the biggest military fortifications in Europe. This fortification is monumental not only due to its dimensions but also due to 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 connecetd to the medieval city walls. It was proably built before 1066. when city of Sibenik is mentioned for the first time. 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 due to the danger represented 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 in the sunset.

St. Nicholas’ Fortress is an impressive Renaissance military building standing on the sea entrance to Sibenik. Due ot 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. They are allowed to use them only as tourist, by paying admission tickets.

Besides these mentioned fortresses there are still many more of them scattered throughout Dalmatia. Some are ruined, some are in mint condition. We will write about them in some other blog post.

All photos are made by Boris Kačan, besides aerial photos of St. Michael’s, St. John’s and Barone in Šibenik, which were taken from official website Fortresses of Culture Šibenik.