Tuesday, April 1, 2014

107. The Klis Fortress

For my last outing in Split I bus it high up into the majestic limestone hills that circle the city to the North East, to visit the ruins of the medieval Klis Fortress. 

From its origin as a small stronghold built by the ancient Illyrian tribes around 9AD, to becoming a royal castle in the middle of the 9th century that was the seat of many Croatian rulers, to its final development as a large fortress during the Ottoman wars in Europe, the Klis Fortress has guarded the frontier, being lost and re-conquered several times throughout its more than two thousand year-long history. 

The Fortress - overlooking Split, several ancient Roman settlements along the coast and most of the central Dalmatian islands - is perched on an isolated rocky eminence, inaccessible on three sides, and historically, the fortress has controlled access to and from Bosnia, Dalmatia and inland Croatia. The importance of such a position was felt by every army that invaded, or held possession of this part of Croatia. 

The Klis Fortress has been of major strategic value in Croatia throughout history as a point against which many invading armies directed their attacks, and it has been remarkable for the many sieges it has withstood over the centuries. 

During the late Middle Ages, the fortress was governed by the Croatian nobility and remained in Hungaro-Croatian hands for several hundred years, until the early 16th century, when it served as a defense against the Ottoman invasion of Europe. 

 The Croatian army held the Fortress against the Turkish invasion and siege that lasted for more than two and a half decades – ultimately however, the defenders were defeated and the fortress was occupied by the Ottomans in 1537. 

After more than a century under Ottoman rule, in 1669, Klis Fortress was besieged and seized by the Republic of Venice, thus moving the border between Christian and Muslim Europe further east and helping to contribute to the decline of the Ottoman Empire. 

A quaint chapel is an added addition - probably last century ...

21st century contribution to the Fortress ..

The cylinder-shaped corner structure is the soldiers' privy - 
the square hole and the stained wall underneath 
bear testament to a lot of use during battles !!! ...

From 1669, Klis Fortress was in the possession of the Venetians, and it remained so until the fall of the Venetian state. The Venetians restored and enlarged the fortress during their rule. 

After the seventh war with the Turks from 1714 to 1718, the Venetians were able to advance up to the present Bosnian/Croatian border. Thereafter the Turkish menace was laid to rest and Venice had no serious challenge to its authority in Dalmatia, that is, until Napoleon extinguished the Venetian Republic itself in 1797. The border between Christian and Muslim Europe had been moved further east, and the fortress lost its main strategic importance. 

Subsequently, Klis was taken by the Austrians, and the last military occupation of the Klis Fortress was by the Axis powers during World War II.

The city of Split and the Adriatic Sea beyond ...

Today the only other visitor to the Fortress was this old soldier - Klis Kat - who followed me around regaling me with tales of mighty battles and ancient heroes ...