Fort near the Osridak hill (15th century)
Osridak hill is a natural plateau strategically positioned so wider area can easily be observed. A natural route, which is actually a canyon, leads to it and at the same time connects the coast with rural villages. There are two towers sharing the name Osridak in this location, which is not a common occurrence. Archaeologists believe that the whole plateau was well organized to provide guards and the army with everything they needed for a longer period of time. These two towers were not functional at the same time; Venetian tower was built after the late antique tower was no longer in use, or it was just easier to build a new one, rather than rebuilding the old one. Right next to the towers, remains of stairs were found as well as the wall which could have served for defense and protection from strong winds. A lot of building material is found around the site and only further research and clearing of the surrounding area will provide a complete picture of the entire Osridak plateau. Recent archaeological research confirms that this location was very important at the end of the middle Ages. The discovered remains of old fortification, which consisted of several rooms built in several stages, confirms the specific location used for the control of access and personnel and goods. In addition, the weapons found suggest that this was a well-armed military garrison.
Jusuf Mašković khan (17th century)
Mašković khan is the most western monument of civilian Islamic architecture in Europe, taking the first place in the degree of preservation and architectural qualities among the few monuments from the time of Turkish domination. Construction began in 1644, ordered and funded by Jusuf Mašković ,a high dignitary at the sultan’s palace and admiral of the Turkish fleet.
Khan was supposed to be a personal villa or residence of Mašković, upon his return from Constantinople to homeland. Khan was designed as a luxurious and modern monumental building which has all the necessary comfort, including a Turkish bath – hamam. Large sums of money were invested for the construction of khan, with as many as 500 workers working daily on it. Khan is located in Vrana, on a slope just fifty meters south of the medieval old town. Location was predisposed by the availability of water, a very important element of the Islamic world. By natural decline water flowed from the nearby spring Pećina to the northern corner of the khan, where it was distributed inside the building by a stone canal system. In 1645, with 60 000 warriors, Mašković conquered Crete and became its marshal. Mercy and generosity shown towards defeated Venetian soldiers and local citizens made him one of the most respectable warriors of all times, in the same time rousing the ire of Sultan who invited him to the court sentencing Mašković to death. His tragic fate left a mark on the khan, which was not completed in the form as intended, but in a much more humble form. After more than 370 years, khan was finally finished in 2015 when it was completely renovated.
Peninsula Babin škoj (3000 BC – 16th century)
Before Prosika canal was dug in the 18th century and the lake level dropped, Babin škoj used to be island and still is today, but only during high water levels. Babin škoj is a great historical site, first findings date back as early as 2000 years BC.
This part of the Adriatic coast was inhabited by the Liburnians at the time, the Illyrian tribe that built a very strong defensive system on peninsula Babin škoj which used to be an island, taking advantage of the very nature of the island – open but naturally isolated place. In this case, lake serves as a source of fresh water, but also as an excellent barrier, which is why defensive walls are found only where Babin škoj is closest to the land (connected with it today). The small peninsula is perfectly positioned for long-term defence and accommodation of local population, livestock and food supplies and was therefore in almost continuous function for several millennia. Graves, burial mounds, or tumulus can be found on top of Babin škoj, where most prominent members of the community were buried, covered with stone plates and rocks. The position and size of this stone pile tells us about the social status of the deceased – larger pile meant a higher social status. Stone pile was usually constructed over one grave, but eventually, other dead, members of the family were also buried next to the first, central tomb. Various objects, which the deceased owned during his lifetime, were placed next to him in the grave, such as weapons, clothing, clay pots with food and various ornamental objects, so Babin škoj is a valuable archaeological site.
Venetian watchtower (16th century)
Two-level watchtower, preserved in about 70% of the original state, is a witness to turbulent history between Turkish and Venetian Dalmatia. Border guard towers are fortifications built for effective protection of territory and its inhabitants from military invasions. The towers, built in the 16th century, represent very important strategic facilities, and they are located along the border on an elevated and safe place from where guards could freely observe surroundings. While Turkey occupies stronger old Croatian forts deeper in their part of the territory, the Venetian Republic is constructing a series of buildings all along the land border, next to the border line. The border, which was passing through the middle of Vransko Lake until 1699, was controlled by the Venetian military squads. One army unit had around 80 men from 18 to 36 years, capable of weapon use, which were paid in cash or in biškota (dry bread) for their guard duty. Watchtowers also served as custom houses for goods exchange and mail, where officials worked on documentation for import and export of goods, also collecting custom duties on imported goods. They regulated trade while making sure goods and livestock brought from the east was not infected by deadly diseases that were very common at the time, like plague for example.
Old town Vrana – Benedictine monastery (9th-16th century)
Old town of Vrana has long guarded the symbols of authority, insignia of the Croatian kingdom, which is why the coronation of the Croatian – Hungarian King Koloman was held in Biograd, a nearby royal residence. Built in the 9th century as a Benedictine monastery dedicated to St. Bishop Gregory, the old town of Vrana controls grand land holdings and a rich treasury containing a silver casket with the holy relics of St. Gregory, crosses, chalices and two gold crowns decorated with precious stones.
For the occasion of his coronation in Solin 1075/76, King Zvonimir hands the building, along with all the possessions and wealth to the pope, so Vrana becomes the first permanent Vatican residency on the eastern shore of the Adriatic. A hundred years later in Vrana, the Templar Knights, with Pope as the owner of the property, strengthen their position by building strong walls and towers. As early as the 13th century, the Templar Order dissolves. Known as the “Monastery of the Monasteries” held by St. John order, the city retains a first-class political position during the rest of the Middle Age.
In the 16th century the Turkish empire transforms the building to a military fort for an army of 150 horsemen and 100 foot soldiers, only for the Venetian army to thoroughly destroy its strong walls, during Vrana liberation in 1647, diminishing its strategic importance for all times.
The glorious past of the former center of ecclesial, political and military power is today overgrown with brambles, still waiting for its numerous rulers’ secrets to be revealed through archaeological research.
Traditional field shelter – beehive hut (20th century)
Stone houses cannot be found everywhere, they are in some unusual, yet undetermined regularity, scattered on the Adriatic landscape. Beehive huts served farmers as shelters in the field from sudden bad weather, very important at the time when medical care was not developed nor easily accessible. Many were built during the winemaking fever in the 19th century, when phylloxera pest destroyed the French and Italian vineyards, but spared Dalmatia for few more years. On the European market wine became very valuable and expensive, which allowed vineyard owners to become rich after just few harvests, so ripe grapes had to be watched over all day and night.
Stone houses have many different names (kažuni, komarde, čemeri, pudarice, poljarice, trimi, torete…), but they all have the unique structural solution of corbel arch and were built entirely of stone (without any mortar) and without the wooden roof structure, which makes them a valuable part of cultural heritage.
Modrave olive groves
Modrave, area on the karst isthmus between the Vransko Lake and the sea, was firstly cleared for the grape vine planting. Stone removed from the soil was used for the construction of dry stone walls, which separated land plots and served as paths when wide enough. After the phylloxera pest destroyed vineyards at the end of the 19th century, farmers from Murter and Betina in less than 50 years cleared and settled the karst, planted about 180 000 olives and formed this gorgeous olive grove on the area of 12 km², which produced 60 tons of precious oil per year. In 1956 strong winter caused the freezing of over 90% of olives, causing the gradual abandonment of Modrave. Although a large number of olive groves are still abandoned and overgrown, through workshops on olive tree pruning and dry stone reconstruction, owners are encouraged to olives groves renewal.
Viewpoint at Majdan hill