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.References:
German crusaders known as the Livonian Brothers of the Sword began construction of the Cēsis castle (Wenden) near the hill fort in 1209. When the castle was enlarged and fortified, it served as the residence for the Order's Master from 1237 till 1561, with periodic interruptions. Its ruins are some of the most majestic castle ruins in the Baltic states. Once the most important castle of the Livonian Order, it was the official residence for the masters of the order.
In 1577, during the Livonian War, the garrison destroyed the castle to prevent it from falling into the control of Ivan the Terrible, who was decisively defeated in the Battle of Wenden (1578).
In 1598 it was incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Wenden Voivodship was created here. In 1620 Wenden was conquered by Sweden. It was rebuilt afterwards, but was destroyed again in 1703 during the Great Northern War by the Russian army and left in a ruined state. Already from the end of the 16th century, the premises of the Order's castle were adjusted to the requirements of the Cēsis Castle estate. When in 1777 the Cēsis Castle estate was obtained by Count Carl Sievers, he had his new residence house built on the site of the eastern block of the castle, joining its end wall with the fortification tower.
Since 1949, the Cēsis History Museum has been located in this New Castle of the Cēsis Castle estate. The front yard of the New Castle is enclosed by a granary and a stable-coach house, which now houses the Exhibition Hall of the Museum. Beside the granary there is the oldest brewery in Latvia, Cēsu alus darītava, which was built in 1878 during the later Count Sievers' time, but its origins date back to the period of the Livonian Order. Further on, the Cēsis Castle park is situated, which was laid out in 1812. The park has the romantic characteristic of that time, with its winding footpaths, exotic plants, and the waters of the pond reflecting the castle's ruins. Nowadays also one of the towers is open for tourists.