Zadar, the city with a history that goes back more than 3000 years, founded in the central area of the Croatian coast, surrounded by islands, with a wealthy hinterland and a natural protective port has been destroyed in wars and earthquakes and each time rebuilt, becoming ever more attractive and wealthier. The first inhabitants made first written reports about life in the Jadera settlement in the area of today’s Zadar – the Liburnia tribe in the 4th century B.C. The settlement developed through the ages and took on the features of a city under Roman rule in the 2nd century A.D. In traversing the historical changes it was re-named Issa and then Zara, becoming the capital city of Dalmatia and the administrative seat of the Byzantine theme .
The succession of rulers throughout the centuries: ranging from Turks, Venetians, Napoleon, Croat-Hungarian kings, Austrian and Italian rule, right up to the annexation into the Federative Yugoslavia, made the city constantly change its character and function. Thanks to the readiness of its populace to preserve the city’s identity throughout the centuries, Zadar has managed to survive and become more beautiful and stable at each instance. For centuries the capital city of Dalmatia and today the centre of the region. A city with a rich heritage of world importance, visible at every step. The Roman Forum from the 1st century, St. Donatus’ Church from the 9th century is the most famous medieval basilica and trademark of the city. The reconstructed Romanesque St. Grisigono’s Church from the 12th century and the St. Mary’s bell tower from the year 1105; the St. Anastasia’s Cathedral from the 13th century; the People’s Square with the City’s Lodge and Guardhouse from the 16th century, as well as the mighty fortification walls with first class Sea(farer’s) and Land gates from the 16th century followed by the Three and Five Wells Squares and many palaces, villas and other historic monuments. Its attractiveness is due greatly to its fantastic natural position in the very middle of the Adriatic coast, and to the four National Parks surrounding it: Plitvica Lakes, Paklenica mountain, the unique Rivera Krka waterfalls and a string of wondrous islands called Kornati. No less attractive are the nature Parks of Telascica, the canyon of the Zrmanja River and the largest natural lake in Croatia -Lake Vrana in the vicinity of Biograd.
It is possible to reach the central Zadar Riviera region equally easily from all directions and by all means of transport. Cities usually have but one patron saint, however, owing to the violence of invasions past, Zadar appointed no fewer than four patron saints that, the inhabitants believed, protected it from destruction. – St. Šimun (Simon,Holder of God) – the most popular patron saint of Zadar. According to legend he held Jesus upon his birth in Jerusalem, and is therefore considered the child bearer’s patron and the patron saint of mothers wishing to bear a son. The body is to be found in a gold and silver coffin today originating from 1380 and situated above the main altar, which Queen Elizabeth had made, after giving birth to three daughters, so that she might give birth to a son. The coffin is the most valuable sample of medieval goldsmith workmanship in Croatia. It is opened on St. Simon’s Day, 8th October. – St. Krševan (Grisogono) – is the main patron saint of the city. St. Krševan’s day, 24th November, is also the City of Zadar Day. In the form of a knight in armour on horseback he is to be found on the city’s coat of arms and flag, as well as on a number of monuments and buildings within the city (The Land Gate, The Sea(farer’s) gate, the Town Hall…). The Church of St. Krsevan is one of the most beautiful monuments of Romanesque architecture in Croatia, and the relics are a part of the Permanent Ecclesiastical Art Exhibition. – St. Stošija (Anastasia) – In Biograd and in Zadar she is celebrated on the 15th January but as the day of her martyrdom falls on Christmas day, it is believed that she was the midwife at Jesus’ birth and is therefore presented with a pair of scissors in hand.
Owing to this symbol she is also believed to be the patron of newspaper censorship, and, in more modern times, she is appealed to in cases of headaches and chest diseases. In Greece, it was believed that she relieved poisoning and the Slavs believed that she broke chains to set one free. – St. Zoilo – a less renowned saint of Zadar. He was a priest in a city close to Aquila in the 3rd century A. D. After St. Grisogono had died his martyr’s death it was he who retrieved the body from the sea, which had, mysteriously, been reunited with the severed head, and he buried the body at his own home. Due to all his good deeds his body was moved to Zadar where he is worshipped as one of the patron saints. The city of Zadar was the first town on Croatian soil to have a University in 1396. (It was founded by the Dominican order on the grounds of their Monastery of St. Dominic). In 1536 the first Croatian novel entitled ‘Planine’ (Mountains) by Petar Zoranic was published. The first newspaper in the Croatian language was printed in Zadar, and called “Kralj Dalmatin”.
The first modern city waterworks were constructed in Zadar in 1838. In 1829, during Austrian rule, the first public park was fashioned and is to this day called the Park of Queen Helen of Madiae. There are 200,000 olive trees on the island of Ugljan. Empress Maria Theresa kept a lace maker at the Viennese court, who produced Pag lace for the needs of the court. The only Benedictine Monastery in Croatia is situated on Mt. Cokovac near Tkon on the island of Pasman. Zadar Maraschino liqueur was exported to almost every European country in the 18th century, and it found its place on the tables of all the famous rulers – the English King George IV, Napoleon Bonaparte and the Russian Czar Nikolai I….