The city Šibenik is one of Croatia’s more historical cities whose main claim to fame are the four fortresses that lie within its vicinity. Situated at the point along the Dalmatian coast where the Krka River flows into the Adriatic Sea, Šibenik today is one of the country’s leading industrial, transport, educational and now, tourist hubs.
Šibenik is unique in amongst Adriatic towns in that unlike other urban centers in the region, it was actually founded by Croats. Most of the other present-day population centers of Croatia’s western Adriatic coast were founded by Illyrians, Greeks, Roman and other ancient peoples. The city is also known as “Krešimirov grad,” meaning Krešimir’s city after the Croatian King Krešimir who once held his court here. Due to its strategic location at the mouth of the Krka River, the city was fought over by Venetians, Byzantines and Hungarians, especially during the 11th and 12th centuries. In 1412 after much fighting, the Venetians took over the city and controlled it until 1797 when it was brought into the Habsburg Empire of Austria-Hungary, the latter ceasing to exist after World War I. Taking advantage of the post-war political vacuum along the Adriatic, the Italians overran the city and kept it until 1921 when they relinquished their claim to the newly-founded Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Šibenik would remain part of Yugoslavia until Croatia’s independence in 1991.
Today the city is one of Croatia’s more interesting historical spots with several sites of interest for visitors, a few of which are listed below.
Fortresses of Šibenik
Fortress of St. Nicholas (Tvrđava Sv. Nikole)
Once a small monastery, the little island of St. Nicholas was slowly transformed into a 32-cannon medieval battle station. This triangular island-fortress was built in the 16th century to help defend Šibenik from Ottoman attack. Now over 500 years old and in a state of restoration, the fortress is open to the public for tours.
Fortress of St. Michael
Supposedly founded in the 11th century by the Croatian King Petar Krešimir, St. Michael’s Fortress was constructed to protect Šibenik from his enemies and later upgraded during Venetian rule of the city to repel possible attacks by the Ottoman Turks. If you have the motivation and energy, you can climb up the fortress’ 200 or so steps to get an amazing panoramic view of the city and surrounding areas. At intermittent times during the year, St. Michael’s also features small concerts in its newly renovated entertainment area which seats over 1000 people.
Šubićevac Fortress (a.k.a. Barone Fortress)
This fortress was built in during the 17th-century Candia Wars between the Ottoman Turks and the Venetians, a time when Šibenik was on the war’s front line. The fortress is currently being restored and transformed into a tourist attraction that will feature an interactive audiovisual display depicting what life and war at the fortress was like during its heyday.
St. Anne’s Fortress
The Fortress of St. Anne is the oldest of the fortresses in Šibenik. Situated on a hill overlooking the city, most of the original parts of the fortress were destroyed after lightening struck a munitions dump and set the place ablaze. Today it’s basically a ruin that looks great from afar, though one can climb the hill to the top of the fortress for good views of the city below.
Cathedral of St. James (or St. Jacob)
The Cathedral of St. James (a.k.a. the Katedrala Sv Jakova) is one of the most recognizable and grand cathedrals in all of Dalmatia as well as an exquisite example of the Tuscan-Renaissance architecture that permeates much of the region. Construction started 1402 but was not completed until 1536. During that time, the construction of the cathedral was overseen by several people including Niccolò di Giovanni Fiorentino, a Venetian architect who was very famous in his time. Most of the Cathedral is built of limestone from nearby mines with the marble used coming from the Croatian island of Brač.
The cathedral is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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