Šibenik, the oldest autochthonous Croatian town on the Adriatic is situated in the best protected natural port in the centre of the eastern coast of the Adriatic, the ancient Mare Adriaticum, on the mouth of beautiful river Krka, on the foundations of rich Croatian history. Today, Šibenik is the capital, cultural and educational, administrative and economic centre of the county of Šibenik and Knin with the population of 51 553 inhabitants (2001). Šibenik and Knin county is spread by coast between Zadar and Split in length of cca 100km, and its hinterland reaches mountain Dinara, which is remotely 45km away. The distance till the town Knin is 56km, till Zadar 60km, and till Biograd 47km. The relief is characterised by a very indented coastline and its melting with the extremely colourful outback. Its hills, the mountains, its fertile fields , the Bukovica plane (to the north) with Promina mountain and the rivers Krka and Čikola contribute to the diversity of the county landscape.
The county takes pride in its two National Parks – Krka and Kornati. The protector of the town is St.Mihovil (St.Michael). Its geographical position has given Šibenik a very important military and strategic role on the eastern coast of the Adriatic . Town walls, towers and fortresses had an essential role in the city’s defense. They are, to the day, the best-preserved examples of the mentioned architecture.
– Sv. Mihovil (St. Michael) Fortress – It is erected on the altitude of 70 m above the sea level. Judging from its size and exterior it belongs to 15th – 16th century. In the southeastern part, remains of material culture from the Iron Age in prehistory were found, therefore it is certain that Croatians erected their fortress on the place where there was once a hill-fort almost point of old Illyrians. The fortress was damaged two times (1663 and 1752) from explosion of the powder-mill, after which it was renovated.
– Sv. Ivan (St. John) Fortress – It is situated on 115 m high hill north of the historic town centre. It was built in 1646 according to the blueprint of Venetian military engineer Antonio Leni. It was a cause of heavy battles with the army of Turkish pasha Tekelija, who unsuccessfully tried to capture it in order to rule over the town of Šibenik
– Sv. Nikola (St. Nicholas) Fortress – In middle 16th century, Sv Nikola fortress was built on the entrance to the Sv. Ante Strait to protect the Šibenik port from Turks coming from the sea. It was built according to the blueprints of Venetian military architect Sanmichelli and it is one of the best-fortified coastal strongholds on the Croatian part of the Adriatic. It played an important role in defending Šibenik from Turks, especially during Cyprian war and Kandy war.
– Šubićevac Fortress – It was built in 1646, several hundred metres southeast of Sv. Ivan Fortress on a slightly lower altitude.
It played a huge part in resisting the attack on Šibenik in 1647. For a long time it carried the name of Degenfeld, after the commander in defence of Šibenik in 1647, a German serving in Venetian army.
– St. Jakov Cathedral – Because of its beauty, particularities in construction and characteristics of style it is not only the greatest and the most valuable building of the architectonic heritage of Šibenik, but it is also a unique monument of European sacral architecture, which was included into world’s heritage of UNESCO in 2001. The construction begin 1431 and with minor disruptions lasted until 1536. In the year 1441 Great City Council elected Juraj Matvejev Dalmatinac, at the time living and getting his education in arts in Venice , to be the main architect of the cathedral. Historical sources do not reveal the precise time of the Šibenik fortress foundation but it is almost certain that it took place in IX century, at the latest. Parallel with the development of medieval Croatian state an urban settlement was being built beneath Šibenik fortress.
Šibenik is first mentioned in deed of gift made by King Petar Krešimir IV (1058-1074), who at the time lived and discussed state matters in Šibenik. Croatia entered a state community with Hungary in 1102 after Hungarian King Ladislav’s military and politic intervention. With this act, Croatian and Hungarian kings became sovereigns of Šibenik as well. This period (XII -XV ct) is characterized by frequent changes in the town sovereignty, from Croatian-Hungarian leaders and home knights, over Byzantium and Middle Age Bosnian state to Venice (on several occasions). Despite these changes the town continued to grow and prosper. In 1298 pope Bonifatio VIII issued a bill proclaiming Šibenik a city and ordering for a diocese to be established. In 1409 Ladislav of Naples sold Venice his royal rights in Dalmatia for 100 000 golden ducats. Soon afterwards Venetians arrived before Šibenik demanding surrender. The town refused to give in to the ultimatum and managed to resist Venetian assaults for three years. 1412, exhausted by the siege, the town was forced to bring their resistance to an end and surrender. Under Venetian rule Šibenik was given the status of autonomous town commune. From XV ct. onwards, a new danger threatened Šibenik – the Turks and their expansion towards west.
Ottoman Turks tried to conquer the city on several occasions but failed each time. With the fall of Venetian state the town management decided to abrogate Venetian governing of the town and place it under the rule of Franjo II, Croatian-Hungarian king and Austrian emperor (Tsar). Under the Austrian rule Šibenik maintained its status of a district and county centre. Losing the war with France, Austria had to hand over its government in Dalmatia to France 1806. Following Napoleon’s fall at Leipzig , Austrian army moved on to conquer southern Croatia and by 1813 marched into Šibenik. Town grew and prospered: in 1879 water supply station was put in work, in 1883 hospital and in 1895 hydroelectric plan was built on the river Krka. In 1918 Popular Council declared the end of Austrian government and made Šibenik a part of the State of Slovenians, Croats and Serbs. In 1941 Germany and Italy attacked and occupied Yugoslav Kingdom . Italian and German troops marched into Šibenik without encountering resistance and occupied the entire area. With the establishment of Italian fascist government began the decentralization and Italianisation of Šibenik. In the town and surrounding villages more and more resistance and antifascist movements were being formed. After Italian capitulation in 1943 German troops invaded Šibenik and held it under their rule for fourteen months. Partisan troops entered Šibenik on 3 rd November 1944. The Second World War left Šibenik as a part of Croatian federal politic unit in communist Yugoslavian state.
In mid 60s Šibenik became one of the centres of industrial production and a large Adriatic port. As far as the economy is concerned, thanks to the beauties of Šibenik aquatorium and the river Krka, tourism flourished. After the referendum on 25 th June 1991, the Parliament suspended all ties to Yugoslavia and declared independency. Šibenik celebrated this historic event for Croatian people. Soon afterwards it was attacked by the strong Yugoslav army and Serbian paramilitary units. In August 1995 in a military action named “Oluja” (“The Storm”) Croatian army defeated Serbian forces and freed the occupied areas. Šibenik became a free city, which created the basic conditions for its post-war recovery and it continued to develop as the centre of Šibenik-Knin county.