The Klis Fortress - bulwark to the Split peninsula

The Klis Fortress - bulwark to the Split peninsula

The first point of our sightseeing program was scheduled early the next morning, which was to lead to the castle and fortress of Klis. The fortress has always played a crucial role in the eventful history of Split and the surrounding area, as it was the first place to pass if you wanted to get from the hinterland to the coast.

This was true for both the Illyrians and later the Romans, because from here the road from Salona to the interior could be easily monitored. Later, when it was of little importance during the migration period, Klis Castle was rebuilt in the 9th century by the Croatian Prince Trpimir I. In the following centuries, the place repeatedly served as a residence for the Croatian kings.

Klis owned by the Croatian noble family Šubić

Burg von Split 007After some in-depth explanations about the 2014 olive harvest, which was almost completely cancelled due to the climatic conditions, as well as the possible economic effects for the entire region, we then went steadily uphill on side roads to the parking lot below the fortress. The many phone calls that Robi made during the journey were almost Turkish. Only later would we find out against what background this happened. We set off on the short climb to the fortress, listening carefully to Robi's explanations.

In the 13th century, Klis came into the possession of the Croatian noble family Šubić. As the family with Mladen III. Šubić died out in 1354, the Bosnian Ban Tyrtko was supposed to take possession of the fortress for the Hungarian king. He was preceded by the Serbian Tsar Stephan Dušan, whose troops occupied Klis in 1355. After Dušan's death in the same year, Klis was alternately under Hungarian and Bosnian rule, but was always given as a fief to a Croatian noble.

Ottoman Empire in 1463 Bosnia

Burg von Split 019In the meantime, another person had arrived at the castle gate and so we found out the background to some of the phone calls. The castle gate was locked and the colleague brought the key. To shorten it: In the coming days we were to experience a few surprises in the organization, which were briefly clarified over the phone, so we had access to the various museums, city archives, and even the monastery.

Once you entered the first gate of the fortress, it became clear that the location of this castle complex was considered almost impregnable. Two more gates followed, with things going steadily uphill on a narrow gradient. The floor plan is a very narrow but elongated complex, which is a maximum of 30 meters wide. Very easy to defend if there are enough provisions available. Robi also had a lot of details about the Ottomans and often jokingly talked to Seher about the "enemies", of which she was one. In short, the visit to the fortress, as well as all the other short stays later, turned out to be absolutely informative without the flow of information ever becoming too much. But more on that later.

Split Burg Seher 007After the Ottoman Empire conquered Bosnia in 1463 and a little later also Herzegovina (1482), attacks on Spalatines in the city's countryside increased (according to the name of the city of Split in Roman times "Spalato/um"), its residents called themselves Spalatinians). Although Venice was able to force the Ottomans to make peace in various wars (Third Ottoman-Venetian War 1499–1503), the raids on Spalato and other Venetian protectorates continued.

In 1522 the Ottomans tried to take the fortress of Klis above Spalatos, which was repelled with the support of Archbishop Tommaso de Nigris (Toma Nigris). The Spalatin humanists Marcus Marulus Spalatensis (Marko Marulić/Marco Marulo) and Franciscus Natalis (Franjo Božičević Natalis) underpinned the anti-Ottoman sentiment in the city. Petar Kružić (Peter Krusitsch), captain of the Klis Fortress, had fended off Ottoman attacks for more than 20 years when he fell in 1537 in the course of the Fourth Ottoman-Venetian War (1537–1540) and with him the fortress, which was henceforth known as Ottoman served as an outpost for attacks on Spalato.

The most important trade route ran from Split via Klis to Sarajevo

Split Burg Seher 011In the course of the Fifth Ottoman-Venetian War (over Cyprus) in 1571, parts of the city's land area, including Solin and Kamen (Sasso di Spalato), fell to the Turks. An attempt to recapture it failed. At the beginning of the 1570s, a Jewish-Sephardic community was founded in the city, in the northwestern part of the palace district, whose cemetery on Marjan, which was laid out in 1573, still exists today.

The Ottomans built a mosque and made Klis the centre of a sanjak. From Klis, Ottoman troops threatened Venetian Dalmatia for a long time. In 1596 the Venetians succeeded in conquering Klis for the first time; However, they had to vacate the fortress again after a short time. Despite the often-hostile relationship between the Republic of St. Mark and the Ottomans, trade between the Dalmatian coast and the interior of the Balkans was never interrupted for long. The most important trade route ran from Split via Klis to Sarajevo. Both Dalmatian and Turkish merchants travelled this route with donkey caravans. In 1648, the Venetians were able to conquer Klis again during the War of Candia under the command of Leonardo Foscolo. While Crete had to be abandoned at the same time, the Republic of Klis was preserved under the peace treaty of 1669.

Fortress builder Alessandra Maglio built mighty bastions

Split Burg Seher 043The plague killed 7,000 of the 10,000 inhabitants at the end of the 16th century; after another epidemic in 1607, only 1,400 Spalatinians remained. Further wars (Sixth Ottoman-Venetian War (over Crete), 1645-1669, and Seventh Ottoman-Venetian War (Great Turkish War), 1684-1699) affected Spalato's development and contributed to the decline of Venice and its possessions. After all, in 1645, General Leonardo Foscolo managed to wrest the Klis fortress from the Ottomans, which from then on was able to prevent Ottoman incursions into the city's countryside. But in 1657 Hersekli Ahmed Paşa once again penetrated the countryside right up to the city walls. The fortress architect Alessandra Maglio then built mighty bastions and ramparts around the city, as mapped by Giuseppe Santini in 1666.

Split Burg Seher 050With the gradual pushback of the Ottomans in the early 18th century, the threat also moved far away from Spalato's land area. With the end of the Republic of Venice, which Napoleon brought about in 1797, Austria took over its Dalmatian possessions, including Spalato. But this did not last long, because in 1806 General Lauriston captured Spalato for the French Illyrian Provinces (1807–1813). In 1806 and 1807, on the orders of Auguste Viesse de Marmont, the demolition of the ramparts and bastions began, which was completed in the following Austrian period.

During the first tour we had already received a rough overview of the historical processes, for which we were very grateful. People increasingly had the feeling that they could better identify the connections between the historical buildings, the natural landscape and their inhabitants. From now on it should be about antiquity and what could still emerge in the region around Split.

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