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:
The Church of St Eustace was built between 1532-1632. St Eustace"s is considered a masterpiece of late Gothic architecture. The church’s reputation was strong enough of the time for it to be chosen as the location for a young Louis XIV to receive communion. Mozart also chose the sanctuary as the location for his mother’s funeral. Among those baptised here as children were Richelieu, Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, future Madame de Pompadour and Molière, who was also married here in the 17th century. The last rites for Anne of Austria, Turenne and Mirabeau were pronounced within its walls. Marie de Gournay is buried there.
The origins of Saint Eustache date back to 13th century. The church became a parish church in 1223, thanks to a man named Jean Alais who achieved this by taxing the baskets of fish sold nearby, as granted by King Philip Augustus. To thank such divine generosity, Alais constructed a chapel dedicated to Sainte-Agnès, a Roman martyr. The construction of the current church began in 1532, the work not being finally completed until 1637. The name of the church refers to Saint Eustace, a Roman general of the second century AD who was burned, along with his family, for converting to Christianity, and it is believed that it was the transfer of a relic of Saint Eustache from the Abbey to Saint-Denis to the Church of Saint Eustache which resulted in its naming. Jeanne Baptiste d"Albert de Luynes was baptised here.
According to tourist literature on-site, during the French Revolution the church, like most churches in Paris, was desecrated, looted, and used for a time as a barn. The church was restored after the Revolution had run its course and remains in use today. Several impressive paintings by Rubens remain in the church today. Each summer, organ concerts commemorate the premieres of Berlioz’s Te Deum and Liszt’s Christus here in 1886.
The church is an example of a Gothic structure clothed in Renaissance detail. The church is relatively short in length at 105m, but its interior is 33.45m high to the vaulting. At the main façade, the left tower has been completed in Renaissance style, while the right tower remains a stump. The front and rear aspects provide a remarkable contrast between the comparatively sober classical front and the exuberant rear, which integrates Gothic forms and organization with Classical details. The L"écoute sculpture by Henri de Miller appears outside the church, to the south. A Keith Haring sculpture stands in a chapel of the church.
The Chapel of the Virgin was built in 1640 and restored from 1801 to 1804. It was inaugurated by Pius VII on the 22nd of December, 1804 when he came to Paris for the coronation of Napoleon. The apse chapel, with a ribbed cul-de-four vault, has at its centre a sculpture of the Virgin and Child of Jean-Baptiste Pigalle that the painter Thomas Couture highlighted by three large paintings.
With 8,000 pipes, the organ is reputed to be the largest pipe organ in France, surpassing the organs of Saint Sulpice and Notre Dame de Paris. The organ originally constructed by P.-A. Ducroquet was powerful enough for the premiere of Hector Berlioz" titanic Te Deum to be performed at St-Eustache in 1855.