Fort of St. Michael (Sibenik)


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Fortress of St. Michael in Šibenik (since the 1990s), also known as Fortress of St. Anne (from the 17th century to the end of the 20th century, widespread among the people of Šibenik) rises at the top of the old city agglomeration, on a rocky hill 70 m above sea level and throughout its turbulent history it has often changed its name. This fortress is a kind of epicenter of Šibenik, a place where the oldest evidence of the existence of civilization in the Šibenik area was found. Today's Šibenik began its life first as a tribal Croatian fortress - castrum - after the Croats in great migration descended to the Adriatic shores and built at the mouth of the river Krka in the middle of a spacious natural harbor on a steep high cliff castle, below which on the slopes to the sea builds a town, today the areas of Gorica and Dolac. According to the chronology of Šibenik by I. Livaković, Castrum Sancti Michelis was first mentioned in 998, and according to J. Ćuzela in 1105. It was built to control and defend the entrance to the Šibenik Bay and the Krka River Canyon, which could be used to sail to the then most important town of Skradin, which has existed since ancient times. Throughout history, it has been the dominant point of the Šibenik fortification system. Over time, the fortress was extended and modernized, demolished and rebuilt, and in the Middle Ages it received its final form. Today, the fortress is viewed as a complex of functionally connected parts: Kaštela sv. Mihovil (citadel), antechamber along the south and east sides of the castle, barbican (sub-wall) on the west and north sides and "double ramparts". From 2012 to 2014, infrastructural works were carried out on the fortress area of ​​2600 m2, which included arranging a summer stage with an open-air auditorium and arranging the underground part where the museum collection is located and several auxiliary rooms with various facilities.


The name of the fortress
According to historical sources from 1359, we learn that the oldest church in Šibenik was located in the area of ​​the castle, so it is stated: "in castro Sibinicensi in ecclesia sancti Michaelis". She wore the title of St. Mihovil, so according to her, the fortress in the XIV. century called Castrum Sancti Michelis. The last Croatian-Hungarian commander, Petar Mišlin (1387-1437), undertook significant works on the castle, and the fact that the fortress was named after him in your time speaks volumes about the size of the works. Castrum Petrum de Mislgien (Peter Mišlin Fortress) is mentioned when concluding the surrender contract. At the beginning of the XV. century the church is called Marie e sti Michaelis de castro, and in the second half of the XV. century you are Marie fortilicie Sibenicensis, because in the church there was a "miraculous" image of Our Lady of Health or of the castle they worshiped. The arrival of the Venetian garrison in 1416 made undisturbed worship difficult, and it is recorded that the painting from 1450 is in the Cathedral of St. Jacob which was then being built. Throughout the 16th century, the church was called "Chapel of the Glorious Mother of God from the Hill" and "Chapel of Our Lady of Kaštela". At the end of the 16th century, the castle under the name of St. Mihovila. When lightning struck the gunpowder in the fortress in 1663, the church in it and the "miraculous" image of Our Lady of Kaštela were destroyed. During its repair, a statue of St. Ana, and since then both the church and the fortress began to be called St. Anom. The church was built in the pre-fortress area along the east side of the castle because the permanent military crews prevented access inside the castle itself. The Austrian administration made the decision to demolish the church in the castle in 1802. But even after that year, we find it on the floor plans of the fortifications. It is believed that the remains of the church of St. Mihovil inside the castle was demolished by Austrian soldiers after 1818. In that year, Emperor Francis I visited Šibenik and described it in detail in his diary, stating: "The city is surrounded by high walls that include the castle of St. Anne."


In the depictions of Šibenik from the 16th and 17th centuries. only Il Castello stands next to the castle. In the ground plan of the fortifications of V. Coronelli made around 1667, when the construction of Tanaj and Barone were already underway, the castle is called Castello Vecchio (Italian: Stari kaštel) as well as in the ground plan of G. Juster from 1708 All "situational" plans from the time of Austro-Hungary bear the name Castel St. Anna. Name Tvrđava sv. Ana stands on all plans of the city throughout the twentieth century. Mihovil from the 16th century, although for centuries there has been no sacral object of this saint on it, and in order to revive the worship of the city patron, after whom no object in Šibenik was named at that time, sacral or historical. After the fortress was arranged for sightseeing at the beginning of the millennium, the tourist board set up brown pedestrian signposts with the inscription "Kaštel sv. Mihovil. Mr. sc. Josip Ćuzela", who has a master's degree in medieval fortification architecture from Šibenik, in his book "Šibenik fortification system" separates the concepts of the Fortress of St. Mihovil and Kaštela All Mihovil so that within the section "Fortress of St. Michael" there is a subsection "Castle of St. Michael" as one of the parts of the unique system of the Fortress. Dr. sc. Andrej Žmegač, who teaches the elective course Croatian Fortification Architecture at the undergraduate study of art history in Split, in his book "Bastions of Adriatic Croatia" uses only the name Kaštel sv. Mihovil, and not the fort as he calls St. John and St. Nicholas. However, since the revitalization of the castle as a summer stage began in 2011, only the name St. Michael's Fortress appears in all official documents of the project and on the official website. But many people from Šibenik because of the church of St. Ana and the eponymous cemetery located within the fortification is traditionally called the fortress of St. Anne as it has been called since the XVII. The fortress of St. Ana can also be found on the city map on the official website of the city of Šibenik and the online edition of the Croatian Encyclopedia also uses the name "today's fortress of St. Anne"

Remains of material culture, pottery from the Iron Age of prehistory have been found in the northeastern part, so it is certain that the Croats built the fortress on the site where there was once a hillfort of the ancient Illyrians. The citadel has experienced complete or partial demolition one or more times. On the preserved walls of the castle, one can read the stratification in the construction of certain parts of the fortress. It was determined that it was always rebuilt within the same floor plan dimensions. The oldest parts of the walls are from the XIII. century, and next to them we find those built in the XIV. century, and a considerable part of the walls of the XV. and XVI century Restorations undertaken after two demolitions by gunpowder explosions in the XVII. and XVIII. century are also legible on the wall.


The earliest recorded demolition of the castle was carried out by the Venetian doge Ordelafo Faledro in 1116. We know nothing about the appearance of the castle at that time. It was demolished again in the XIII. century, by the citizens themselves with the intention not to be inhabited by the Templars who came to Šibenik between 1221 and 1227, so the demolition can be dated to that period. They probably only demolished the buildings inside the castle so that the Templars would not inhabit them. In 1378, Šibenik was attacked by the Venetian Admiral Vettore Pisani with a fleet of 36 galleys, who, thanks to weak walls on the sea side, managed to reach the town, but not the castle, from which he was twice repulsed. The furious Venetians, unable to occupy the castle, plundered and set fire to the city. In XIII. and XIV. the square towers and part of the curtain on the east side are certainly dated to the 16th century. At the end of the XIV. and early XV. century, by order of the Croatian-Hungarian King Sigismund, and according to the project of Peter Mišlin, the citadel was added to the western sub-wall (barbican) located next to the castle of double ramparts. On this occasion, a small door was opened on the northwestern part of the curtain. They provided access to the promenade of the sub-wall. In 1409, when Dalmatia was sold to the Venetians, Šibenik did not peacefully agree to Venetian rule. The people of Šibenik began preparations for the defense of the city, restoring and strengthening the city walls and towers with stone intended for the construction of the cathedral. After a 38-month long siege, the Venetians managed to enter the city in 1412. According to point 6 of the surrender agreement, the people of Šibenik demanded that the Fortress of Petar Mišlin, as the castle was then called, be completely destroyed and that the Venetians not build any fortifications in the city and its district in order to limit Venetian rule to political rather than military. The Venetians began demolishing the citadel, probably the southern and eastern walls between the towers so as not to open a hole in the fortification system of the city. However, with skilful diplomacy, they managed to persuade the citizens to give up point 6 because of the contract for their safety, so the Venetians began the reconstruction of the castle in 1416. The reconstruction was carried out in a few months, so it is obvious that in the previous three years they delayed the demolition of the castle under contract. The coat of arms of Biaggio Dolphin, the prince and captain of Šibenik between 1415 and 1417, has been preserved on the eastern wall of the castle, so it is assumed that the curtain between the eastern carriages was restored and a new castle door was broken through. They made a direct connection with the sea by building a "double rampart" due to distrust of the citizens and the secure supply of the fortress. At that time, two water cisterns were built inside the castle. Immediately after the reconstruction of the fortress, it had a crew of sixty Venetian soldiers, and in 1419 it fell to forty soldiers due to less danger from the Croatian-Hungarian troops stationed in the district. We can follow the constant upgrading and strengthening of the fortress through the reports from 1421 and 1422 with regard to the development of weapons. We also know that the works were not finished even in 1440, when the report of the prince of Šibenik mentions that some walls of the castle are still wooden. And in 1454 the municipality asked the Venetians to approve the reconstruction of the tower on the castle from the mainland. The tower needed a promenade and a crown and a roof. In addition, two cisterns were renovated at that time.

Today's fortress has the shape of an irregular quadrangle in the ground plan. The perimeter walls of the castle are fragmentarily preserved, while the southwestern part of the castle is missing. Two square towers have been preserved in the eastern part, and two polygonal towers in the northern part. In the XV. century had a floor plan similar to today's, with the addition of polygonal towers on the north side in the 16th century. The mentioned towers on the east side are connected by a high curtain. At the top of the curtain ends with a recent wall. It was built after the northeast square corner tower, and logically, leaning against it. The entrance to the castle is located on the curtain next to the south tower. It is made in the Gothic style, in the form of a broken arch without decorations. Above the door is a coat of arms with a triangular shield on which are placed three parallel dolphins of the Venetian family Dolfin. Closer to the middle of the curtain, at a higher position than Dolphin's, the coat of arms belonging to Moisi Grimani, who performed the function of the prince of Šibenik in the period between 1430 and 1432, has been preserved. Above the coat of arms there is a rather relief depiction of a Venetian lion. To the left of the Venetian lion is the coat of arms of Antonio Micheli, the prince and captain of Šibenik in the period from 1561 to 1563. To the right of the lion is the coat of arms of A. Correra, the castellan of the fortress during the reign of Antionio Micheli. Then two polygonal towers were built on the north wall of the fortress. By the same construction technique it was concluded that they were performed simultaneously. At the northwest corner of the fort, a door was subsequently opened.


The explosion of gunpowder in 1663 destroyed mostly buildings in the interior of the castle. The one that happened in 1752 was so devastating that rocks flew all the way to the sea. It also destroyed part of the northern curtain, which was later remodeled with a different construction technique. The southern wall of the fortress was largely destroyed, only a small part of the square tower on the southeastern part of the fortress has been preserved. According to depictions from the second half of the 16th century, we know that the southern curtain had a crown and three square towers. On the east side of the castle, two corner towers of a square shape have been preserved. A cistern has been preserved in the interior of the north-west one. Traces of demolition and rebuilding are visible on the southeast corner tower. It is less well preserved. The parapet wall on the promenade was built in the 19th century. The fortress was reconstructed in the period from 1822 to 1832. In 1911, a traffic light station was built on the southeast tower, which regulated the entry and exit of ships from the port of Šibenik.

Pre-fortress space
The pre-fortress area was built next to the castle on the edge of the cliff to the east and south. The width of the space is small and is defined by the castle wall on one side and the edge of the cliff on the other. And the wall canvas also reveals several stages of construction. The entrance door to the fortress lobby is on the east side of the wall, facing north. The wall facing west ends at the southwest corner of the castle in a semicircle. At the very end to the north, another entrance door was built to the foyer of the fortress. On which stands the year 1832, but judging by the design, they are considered to be much older.

Western and northern barbican
The western sub-wall occupies an important place in the spatial organization of the castle defense. This strong fortification was built west and southwest of the castle, with high walls and towers. The least defended side of the castle was the one that stretches to the north and west. At the northwest corner, the castle did not have a tower, and the defense of the castle was further hampered by hilly terrain. It is logical that the gently laid terrain was accessible to the enemy. Precisely to strengthen the defense, a northern sub-wall was built, defined by a high wall that stretched westwards from the northwest corner of the fortress, and then went almost at right angles to the sea to a cliff forty meters away from the sea. At the place where the wall was closest to the sea, a gate was built that led to the sub-wall from the direction of the port, so they were in the function of indirectly connecting the fortress with the sea. Stairs carved into the living rock led to them from the level of the sub-wall. They are not fully preserved. Today's remains show that they had a broken arch with Gothic characteristics. The time of construction of the western sub-wall dates to the end of the XIV. and the beginning of the XV. On the north side, under the walls of the castle, there is a north sub-wall that stretches from the north-west tower to the west to the former entrance to the vestibule below the polygonal tower of the west sub-wall.

Double ramparts
The Venetians sought to establish a direct connection with the sea. For this purpose, a wall was built which, parallel to the existing city wall, forms a space in the form of an access road to the castle, which we call a "double rampart". In its floor plan of the castle of St. Mihovila Coronelli calls it "strada del soccorso", which means "road of salvation". The construction of the walls of the double ramparts was an extremely difficult construction project due to the steep rocks that suddenly collapsed. In the 40 m long double ramparts it was necessary to overcome the height difference of 28 m. Due to the great slope, the builders built the wall in steps, and the promenade of the wall has several levels interconnected by stone steps. It is interesting that the research of the "double walls" did not find the remains of the staircase. Emperor Francis I, who lived in Šibenik in 1818, states that the castle on the hill was approached by stairs between two walls, and it was obviously a wooden structure of the staircase. The construction of "double ramparts" significantly improved the defense of the castle, especially in the event of a rebellion of citizens because it provided the castle with food and weapons from the sea, and could serve as a retreat in case the castle was conquered.


For a long time, this fortress was under military administration and was relatively recently opened to the public. The project of arranging the fortress is an idea from the 1950s, for which the funds of the former self-contribution were even allocated. Architect Harold Bilinić, who was responsible for the post-war reconstruction of Šibenik in the period from 1948 to 1954, and especially the waterfront and the reconstruction of the City Hall, made the first known sketch of the summer stage project in the sub-wall in the form of a Greek amphitheater. In the 70's, work began on cleaning the fortress and in the 80's of the XX century, there were ideas to convert the fortress into a summer stage, but they were stopped due to archaeological research.

4/28/2012 Reconstruction with funds from the pre-accession EU fund IPAIIIC - BRI in the amount of 60% and the City of Šibenik has started. The plan was to come to life in the summer of 2014 as an open summer stage, of the amphitheater type, ie the type of Greek theater with 1,077 seats, according to the project of the architect Tomislav Krajina and associates. There is also an underground part in which there is a museum collection and several auxiliary rooms with various facilities that are all interconnected. In the basement of the fortress are built water cisterns, which are the only fully preserved underground halls and are passable and bridged with a wooden bridge with a glass fence. The fortress has thus become a recognizable cultural heritage monument accessible to visitors and a place that promotes cultural tourism by organizing various cultural, musical and scenic events.

The revitalization itself did not pass without problems and criticism. Initially, it was a political skirmish between the HDZ, which was in opposition at the time, and the SDP, which had a mayor and deputy mayor, Franko Vidovic, who conceived and worked on this project the most. , said the conservator Josip Ćuzela, who accused the investors, that is, the City and the contractors, of devastating the cultural property that had been preserved for centuries, only to be desecrated today, adapting to the project. He believes that a culturicide took place at the fortress and that, instead of the content that is being built on it being adapted to the fortress, the opposite is happening, that this historical fortress from the 13th century is being adapted to the new content. Conservator Miro Škugor rejected all accusations of devastation because "such interventions on cultural monuments are normal everywhere in the world and that what is happening is a" layer "that will leave the fortress today," which has often collapsed, built, upgraded over the centuries. , lost and gained content. Well-known cultural worker Pavle Roca also called the project a culturicide and opposed the already started proposed project, proposing a prefabricated stage that would not change the appearance of the fortress so much. Doubts were also expressed about the possibility of maintaining the complex and the cultural program that will be held there. He was also critical of the fact that the building will no longer be public, although the entrance to the fortress was charged even before the revitalization. In the middle of the campaign for the local elections in 2013, serious accusations continued, so a few days before the second round for the election of the mayor, news appeared about the devastation of archaeologist Tijana Jurković to various international institutions that care about culture. After the close election victory of the HDZ's candidate for mayor, Željko Burić, the criticism stopped, the works continued and some unplanned contents were added to the project, such as an elevator for the disabled and equipment.

The grand opening took place on July 7, 2014. musical-scenic spectacle in which more than 70 performers participated, among whom were Josipa Lisac and Maksim Mrvica, in front of a symbolic (for Šibenik) 1066 spectators. The fortress was opened by President Ivo Josipović, who said on the occasion: "With the opening of this stage, Šibenik got a real airfield of the soul, a place that once served for war, now belongs to artists."

At the renowned Croatian Tourism Days 2014, organized by the Ministry of Tourism, the Croatian Chamber of Commerce and the Croatian Tourist Board, St. Michael's Fortress was named "Tourist Attraction of the Year" after more than 100,000 visitors visited the fortress in just four months.