Archaeology Architecture Civil Society Cultural Heritage Cultural Landscapes

Defense and leisure attached to water and sea (sneak peak to Heritage Days)

Croatia is rich in wild landscapes fused with the legacies of various inhabitants such as Greeks and Romans, Byzantium, Ilirians, Slavic tribes and European influences from Italiy, Hungary and Austria with which we were in the same Monarchy – Hasburg and later Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. We were also part of south Slavic states which existed in different forms from the end of 1st WW till the 1991.

On the other side it’s a land spread beteween the Danube River and the Adriatic Sea. It’s a land where you can change three climates in 1 hour; from mediterranean to alpine in just 6 km crossing the tunnel.

Croatia is not only surrounded by water, but it’s also infused with it. Rivers, springs, lakes, and the sea shape the landscape as well as invite people to build nearby. Croatia’s turbulent history is told through the following heritage sites.

These „walk on“ through locality will partly illustrate our turbulent history and just present you some topics which were represented on Croatia’s Heritage Days this year dedicated to cultural landscapes.

Old town Kostajnica was first mentioned in 13th century. We assume it was built in that time but for surely gain significance with an increase of Turkish threats. This is geopolitically very interesting part – river Una which today divides Croatia and Bosnia also was 1st line of defence against the Ottoman Empire. Ottomans conquered the fort in mid 16th century and it was under their occupation for next 132 years. But when the fort was returned under Habsburg crown in the late 17th century it remained a significant stronghold on the Military Frontier – a province established by the Habsburgs against incursions from the Ottoman Empire (1553-1881). The greatness of this pretty simple castle is it’s authenticity and preservation. Quality of construction with it’s 3 strong towers assured steadiness from the strong river current.

Spa centre in Lipik, Croatia – pictured in beggining of 20th century

Spa complex with belonging park in Lipik is one of many complexes in North Croatia which gain significance during ancient time but revitalised under the Austrian rule. These kind of complexes combining healing and leisure were very popular in 19th century. This spa center was built in neorenaissance style on a termal spring with with warm 65◦C mineral water. This part was once part of roman provincee Aquae Balissae – Thermae Iasorvenses but in that time it wasn’t spa complex.

Spa centre in Lipik today – hotel

Another spa complex in Varaždinske Toplice aslo known as Aquae Iasae existing as thermal destination since Roman times (1-4th century AD). As such was significant termal center in the Roman province Upper Panonia. Inside the complex were temples dedicated to Junona, Minerva and Jupiter with a basilica. The ancient complex was destroyed during second Migration Period in 7th century.  In the 13th century on old foundations formed settlement Toplissa which survived Ottoman expansion due to fortification system which became baroque castle and later a hotel after liberation of Slavonia from Ottoman Empire (end of 17th century). The picture below shows the spa in the 19th century. Nowdays, the complex is enlarged with bigger contemporary buildings near the archeological zone.

Spa centre in Varaždinske Toplice known as Aquae Iasae; pictured in beggining of 20th century

Former spa centre in Varaždinske Toplice known as Aquae Iasae – archeological site (1-4th century AD)

In another part part of Croatia, in the National park a Brijuni few years ago started an international workshop dedicated to military architecture. Brijuni is an archipelago and national park near Pula, off the coast of the Istrian Peninsula. It was also the private residence of Josip Broz Tito during Yugoslav times. But before that Brijuni, geograficaly on North Adriatic very near the shore, was an optimal place for the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy to build a naval base. In the years between 1813-1918 a fortification system was divided on 16 defence districts. The biggest fort was the 3rd one on Small Brijun. Local legend tells that all these forts (big forts, 8 artillery battalions, 60 batteries, trenches) are linked with underground tunnels which some are going under the sea bottom. According to the weapons of the time, the forts were built to withstand each attack. They were mostly circular or ring-shaped in order to defect shells.

Croatia, Fortification on Small Brijun – one part of fortification system of Austro-Hungarian Navy

Another fort – Saint Nicolaus built in 1543 stands in the sea canal in front of Šibenik. Together with another three big forts which are on higher position above town this one stands in sea channel in front of Šibenik. Till today it saved it’s original  triangular shape.The main idea was to build a narrow fort invisible from the open sea on which is able to attach cannons on each side so when ship enters in cannel it can’t escape from artillery. Šibenik was a strategic town defending major part of Adriatic after Ottomans conquered Corfu island.

Saint Nicolaus fort in sea canal in front of Šibenik

It’s quality and function was well know among its contemporaries. Architect Sanmicheli were notable Venetian architect from Verona. The greatest biographer Giorgio Vasari who wrote about biggest renaissance artist called this fort marvelous. This year in July, the fort was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as part of the Venetian Works of Defence between the 16th and 17th Centuries.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *