Cres Town in History, 400 Years Ago and Today (Photos)

Total Croatia News

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Refugium Cres Facebook

Did you know that Cres town, the main hub on Croatia’s biggest island, used to be enclosed by defensive walls? 

These days, taking a stroll along the waterfront of this quaint harbour town wouldn’t lead you to guess the bay was once lined with majestic fortifications, built in the 16th century when Cres island was under Venetian rule.

Only a couple of fragments of the former defensive complex have survived to this day: the rounded tower in the northwestern part of town, and three city gates – the southern gate Bragadina, the northern gate Marcela, and the main city gate with a clock tower, located on the main square.

While the town of Cres used to be enveloped in walls as early as in the Middle Ages, the Venetians have renovated and expanded the original fortifications during the 16th century. After the fall of the Venetian Republic, the walls were gradually demolished as time went by, leaving only the mentioned remnants to bear witness to a bygone era.

An interesting visual was published earlier this week on the Refugium Cres Facebook page, showing the original state of the Venetian walls in Cres at their former location. The author stated they tried to overlap a panoramic photo of Cres town with a sketch of the fortifications which surrounded the town until the beginning/middle of the 19th century, with some of the surviving objects visible in the photo. You’ll notice the round fortified tower in the upper left corner:

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Refugium Cres

Let’s build on this with some more facts and images to help us visualise what Cres used to look like back in the day. Inspired by the photo-manipulation above, another Facebook page came out with some interesting bits of information.

Cres and Lošinj: The Insiders’ Guide published a couple of drawings created by Luigi Tomaz (1931-2016), a resident of Cres who poured all his knowledge about the town’s history into a book titled Walls, Towers, and Gates of the Magnificent Cres Commune. Even though Tomaz and his family had left Cres island after the end of World War II, he continued to visit his former home, his love of Cres inspiring many of his other works as well.

The first image shows a reconstruction of the historical walls, spanning along today’s breakwaters. The walls had a total of five fortified towers; four were rounded, while the single square tower later gave the name to Turion Street.


Luigi Tomaz / Cres i Lošinj: Vodič za znalce

As he couldn’t find any historical evidence on Turion’s original outlook, Tomaz based his design on construction techniques which were in use in the 16th century:


Luigi Tomaz / Cres i Lošinj: Vodič za znalce

On to the gates: you can see the Little Gate (Porta Bragadina) in the upper part of the following image, with the Gracke Gate (Porta Marcella) at the bottom, built in 1581 and 1588 respectively. The gates were kept closed and monitored by guards, as the Gracke Gate used to open to the central street in Cres town which led to the harbour:


Luigi Tomaz / Cres i Lošinj: Vodič za znalce

Supposedly taken in 1912, the following photo shows a group of local kids passing through the Gracke Gate and along the city walls:


Cres i Lošinj: Vodič za znalce

And the Little Gate (Bragadina) in the present day:

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The only surviving tower is perched on a small hill located a bit outside the town centre. Here’s what it might have looked like as part of the original structure:


Luigi Tomaz / Cres i Lošinj: Vodič za znalce

Until a couple of years ago, the tower used to be open for visitors, housing a view point at the top and a shop packed with local delicacies. We’re definitely keeping our fingers crossed for this valuable historical monument to open for public once again; in the meantime, you can see what the tower currently looks like in the following video:




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