Klis Fortress (Tvrđava Klis)

Klis Fortress Gate



Location: Klis Map

Open: Jun– Sep: 9am–7pm daily
Oct– May: 9am–5pm Sat–Sun
Cost: 10 kuna for adults
5 kuna for children
Constructed: 3rd century BC


Description of Klis Castle

Klis Fortress is situated on a cliff overlooking a village by the same name. Closest large city is Split. You will not have any difficulties finding the place since the directions are well marked. Additionally the site offers a free parking space. The price for entrance is 10 kuna for adults and 5 kuna for children. We would suggest taking a handout with a brief history of these military fortifications. The original Klis Castle on top of the mountain was constructed by Illyrian tribe of Dalmatae. The Croatian kings took over these lands and constructed their own citadel. Due to proximity to trading roads and safety of the mountain terrain many rulers used Klis Fortress as their main residence. During invasion of the Ottoman forces the region fell in the hands of the Turkish armies. New military technologies made these fortifications obsolete and fortifications eventually started to deteriorate due to lack of funding from the state's capital. The Republic of Venice took over the historic ruins of the castle along with surrounding lands. Klis Fortress changed hands again in the 19th century then the Austrian Empire captured ruins of the abandoned stronghold.



The immigration of Croats to these parts is undoubtedly an important event in Kliška's past, because two centuries later Kliška Fortress is a ruling estate, one of the centers of the Croatian state. In the 9th century, Klis was the seat of Croatian princes and kings from the Trpimirović dynasty, ie in that capacity it was the Croatian capital. Later it belonged to various Croatian feudal lords. When the Croatian national dynasty of Trpimirović died out at the end of the 11th century, Klis came under the rule of Hungarian-Croatian kings who often gave it to the rule of their princes and bans. At the beginning of the 1920s and 1930s, the Croatian nobleman Domald managed to take over Klis, but both times the Šubićs took it away and returned it to the king's rule.

Due to its prominent position, it was a difficult fortress to conquer for a long time. Medieval Klis was the seat of the Uskoks, Croatian fighters against the Turkish and Venetian invasions. With its conquest in 1537, the Turks managed to come and capture Solin and penetrate through Kaštela on the southern slopes of Kozjak, but they never managed to capture Split. The Turks fortified it and built a mosque with a minaret. For their authorities, it was the seat of the administrative unit of the Kliški Sandžak. The remaining Uskoks of Kliška, after the fall of the fortress, moved to Senj (Senj Uskoks).

Klis was liberated for a short time in 1596, and finally in 1648, for the duration of the Candian War, when it was conquered by the Venetians. They fortify the city and turn the mosque into a church. Today's appearance of Klis dates back to the time of the last Venetian restoration. The newer settlement was formed after the withdrawal of the Turks. There is an old Turkish fountain in the village. The historical collection from the Fortress was moved to the Museum of the City of Split.

The fort was built on a rocky gorge that stretches in a northeast-southwest direction and from a distance it is almost impossible to distinguish that it is a building, especially since the walls that rise in three belts cascading are built of limestone blocks on limestone rocks. It is inaccessible from as many as three sides - the only access is on the northwest side. The north side is extremely steep, while on the south side the terrain descends in a slightly gentle slope. These features definitely influenced a considerable number of failed attempts to conquer the fort. The key position for artillery attacks was the Reef Hill north of the fort itself. The fort is elongated and narrow in layout, which led to the upgrades destroying part of the earlier layers. An Illyrian hillfort existed on the site of the fort in antiquity. Much of today's appearance dates back to the period of Venetian and Austrian rule when the fort was modernized. During the Ottoman period there were no alterations to the fortifications. Parts of the fort dating from the period of Ottoman rule (1536-1648) are the mosque, today the Church of St. Vitus, and the fountain.

The period of Ottoman rule
The rule over Klis also meant the control of intensive trade between Split as the main port of central Bosnia and the hinterland towards Sinj and further towards Bosnia, which was in the interest of both the Venetian Republic and the Ottoman Empire. The fortress reached its glorious peak in the 16th century during the Ottoman-Venetian conflicts, and the most brilliant period is the defense of Captain Petar Kružić (1520-1537) from numerous Ottoman invasions - as many as fifty of them. During the Ottoman rule, Klis was one of the strongest fortifications on the entire western border of the Ottoman Empire, and it formed a defensive unit with three smaller surrounding fortifications: Donje or Lončarić (Gradina in Solin), Vrankovci (probably Vrankuk in Ozrna) and Kozjak. As for demographic changes, with the arrival of the Ottomans, a large part of the local population emigrated mainly to Senj and the central Dalmatian islands, and the Muslim population immigrated. In the first wave of immigration, the army of settlers settled, and only later other social strata - craftsmen, merchants, farmers, etc. This interrupted the continuity of life in the area, primarily economic. In the defters from that time, many villages are considered mezras - wastelands with traces of earlier population. The Klis suburb is located on the west side of the fort. In the defter from 1574, the Klis suburb has the status of a town - a trading post with a majority Christian population, and according to the defter from 1604, it acquired the status of a town - a trading post with a majority Muslim population. The Ottoman presence also influenced toponymy. To this day, the names of the settlements at the foot of the fort on the west side - Varoš and Megdan - have remained.


The mosque is located within the third defensive wall of the fort between the bastions of Bembo and Malipiero built during the Venetian rule. It has a square floor plan and small dimensions because it was intended exclusively for the crew of the fort. It was built immediately after the fall of Klis in 1537. In honor of the conqueror Klis Murat-beg Tardic, the mosque bore his name. The tradition was that mosques were named either after the currently ruling sultan (in Croatia they therefore mostly bear the name of Suleiman the Magnificent), or after the person who financed and encouraged the construction of the mosque, as is the case in Klis. Recent research has shown that the site was previously home to the early medieval church of St. Mary. The mosque is built of untreated stone, vaulted with a dome, and a very interesting solution is the transition from a square floor plan to a circular base of the dome with a double tambour - first octagonal with four spacious, somewhat clumsily executed trumpets, and then a ring tambour. On the trumpets we encounter an interesting decorative element called mukarna - a typical oriental decorative element that is regularly used to fill spherical surfaces - domes, dome, trumpets and the like. They are applied here in an extremely reduced form. Interestingly, with the later conversion into a church the mukarnas were not removed. However, with the necessary change in the orientation of the church, the old entrance to the mosque was walled up, and a new one was opened on the south-west side. Also, the minaret on the west side was demolished, where an apartment for Venetian officers was built, and only the foundations of it have been preserved. An interesting inscription is on the site of a former minaret niche, ie. above today's entrance: "What piety builds, piety also preserves." By the way of articulation of architecture and by the execution of certain constructive and decorative elements, we can conclude that this building is by no means a supreme architectural achievement. Finally, its function-dependent dimensions but also the location within the defensive fortification justify this. The mosque, ie the church of St. Vida, has been restored with recent restoration work.

Another preserved object is the fountain between Greben and Klis at the foot of the fort, which has remained in use to this day. The locals call the fountain Three Kings. This name is mentioned as early as the 17th century in Eraut's depiction of the fortress under the Fontana dei Tre Regi. The cistern is raised of stone blocks with an open porch and an oriental vault with pointed arches. It belongs to the type of "mihrab fountain" - a fountain with a niche. This is not the only example of a Turkish fountain in Croatia. A very large number of them have been preserved and most of them have remained in use. Water supply is a basic need of the Islamic community and is also important in the practice of religious life. Water plays an essential role in Islamic religious rites. Prayer is always preceded by ablution - a religious cleansing that uses water. The Shariah regulations of Fiqh describe as many as four types of water and eight types of impurities. However, water supply also played an extremely important practical role during long sieges. Loss of water (and food) would generally mean forced surrender. In addition to the fountain at the foot of the fort, there were several other cisterns that were built as needed.