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Zadar Croatia

Article Length: 541 words Photographer: Paul Williams Author: Paul Williams  
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Zadar Croatia | Magazine Article Content Syndication - Images by Paul Williams
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FEATURE SERIES: Quintessential Europe "Zadar, Croatia"

If you sit on one of the cafes terraces in the forum square in Zadar, Croatia, you will be able to see evidence of every major civilization in Europe for the last 2000 years. The square is surrounds the old Roman Forum of Zadar which was built by Augustus in 33 BC. The remains of Roman pillars and Roman burial sarcophaguses in the square are part of the largest Forum in the Eastern Adriatic.

Zadar came under the rule of the Ostrogoths in the fifth century after the sacking of Rome but in 553 Justinian, Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantium, re-conquered Zadar. One the earliest and most important pre-Romanesque churches in Croatia, named after its bishop St Donatus, stands in the square. Built in the circular design of Royal Byzantine churches, it has 2 vaulted galleries and 3 apses facing east. The marble stones and column drums that can be seen built into its foundations are from the pagan temple of Juno which preceded the church.

Zadar became a powerful Adriatic port siting between the great powers of Venice & Constantinople. Many fine Romanesque churches were built in Zadar like the church of St Mary on the east side of the square. The Venetians saw Zadar as a rival and regularly attacked the city without success. In 1202 the wirily Doge Enrico Dando agreed to help the fourth Crusade with ships in return for which the Crusaders helped sack and destroy Zadar. The Crusaders and Doge then moved on to take Constantinople and what was left of the town was retaken by the Croatian king.

In 1409 a bloody civil war swept Croatia and the Venetians, seeing that King Ladislas was about to be defeated, offered to buy Dalmatia for what was the tiny amount of 100,000 ducats. The deal was struck and the Venetians swept into Zadar to claim their new acquisition. The Venetians turned Zadar into the most fortified port on the Adriatic with massive walls and gun fortifications. A moat separating the town from the mainland was dug making Zadar surrounded on all sides by water. The defenses were so good that they even held out against the all conquering Turks. The Venetians were not liked in Zadar and were always under threat from the Croatian inhabitants so they built a fortified Venetian quarter to the north of forum.

In 1797 Venice fell and Zadar became part of the Austro Hungarian Empire. From The Forum Square it is possible to see the Neo-classic buildings and seaside promenade that the Austrians built, turning Zadar into a fashionable resort.

After World War I and the collapse of the Austro Hungarian Empire the Italians ruled Zadar until the end of World War II when Croatia became part of the SFR Yugoslavia. Zadar underwent extensive post war reconstruction with new buildings like the Socialist style Museum on the eat side of the square. In 1995, after the Yugoslav wars, the new Republic of Croatia was formed and Croatian flags today proudly flutter on buildings around the square.

It is rare to be able to take such a long historical journey whilst sitting in one place but that is the magic of Zadar and its enchanting historical buildings.

 

© Paul Williams 2011. All Rights reserved. Unauthorised copying prohibited. Please contact us for usage license.

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