St. Michael's Fortress

Šibenik, Croatia

St. Michael's Fortress is a medieval fort situated on a steep hill above the old historic center of Šibenik. The location was more or less continuously occupied since the Iron Age, as is witnessed by numerous archaeological findings from the era. St. Michael's Fortress was named after the oldest church in Šibenik, St. Michael's church, which was located inside its walls.

One theory suggests that the church was built during the first wave of Christianization of Croatia, from the late 8th to the early 9th century. The first source that mentions St. Michael's church is a 12th/13th century hagiographic text Vita beati Ioannis episcopi et confessoris Traguriensis.

In 1412, after a three-year siege, the city of Šibenik fell under the rule of the Venetian Republic and remained its part for a little less than four hundred years. Under the terms of the peace treaty, the fortress was to be demolished, but after only a year or two, the citizens asked their new government to fund its renovation. In 1663, the church, along with a large part of the fortress, was destroyed when a lightning strike caused an explosion of a gunpowder magazine. During the renovation, a statue of St. Anne (the protector from storms) was brought to a small 16th-century church located below the southeastern walls of the fortress. This church came to be known as St. Anne's church, and the surrounding area became the city graveyard in 1828. As the centuries passed, and the fortress got permanently closed as a military facility, the citizens of Šibenik began calling it St. Anne's Fortress, after the often-used public area nearby.

Most of the fortress' structures can be dated to the early years of Venetian occupation, the early 15th century, but its numerous adaptations and interventions can be traced to mid-16th, early and mid-17th, mid-18th, and even early 19th centuries. As is typical for military architecture, St. Michael's Fortress contains only a few stylistically distinctive parts, for instance, the Gothic arch above the main entrance gate. The walls of the fortress are decorated with several coats of arms belonging to the city rectors or fortress' castellans that carried out certain construction works. Access to water, a key requirement of military life, was enabled via two cisterns that have been preserved to this day.

The fortress consists of several elements: a castle/citadel, the northern and southern faussebraye, a lower western platform (place-of-arms), and the extending double walls that descend to the sea and were used for retreat or for providing supplies for the soldiers.

St. Michael's Fortress was revitalized through an EU-funded project and re-opened in July 2014. Since the opening, its open-air summer stage has become an important part of Šibenik's cultural life. Today, it is the second most-visited heritage monument of Šibenik, as well as the second most-visited fortification object in Croatia.

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Founded: 15th century
Category: Castles and fortifications in Croatia

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