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The Citadel in Ražanac

The Citadel in Ražanac

The building of the citadel against Turkish incursions in the area of Ražanac at the beginning of the 16th century was a part of a broader process of fortifying individual places in the Zadar hinterland. This was particularly intensified after the Battle on Krbava field in 1493 and the Venetian-Turkish war from 1499 to 1502.A contract agreed upon on May 2, 1507 bears witness to the construction of the citadel. On that day noblemen from Zadar, members of the Carnarutis, Grisogono and Ventura families, as owners of the land on which the citadel was to be built, met with representatives of the villages Ražanac, Brus, Jakanac and Čakavac and agreed to build a citadel nearby Ražanac, on a cape alongside the sea at a place called Pesak.

By 1510 the fortification was completed. It consisted of two smaller and one larger tower connected by a wall which blocked the approach to the peninsula. This appearance of Ražanac was inscribed on the famous map of North Dalmatia and Lika which was drawn up by Mateo Pagano during the thirties of the 16th century. The land lots for building houses within the protected space were quickly used up so that the settlement which arose there eventually numbered some hundred houses.

The fortifications of Ražanac gave shelter during the incursion of Turkish forces into the Zadar area in 1520, then during the Cyprus war (1570-1573) and at the beginning of the Candian war in 1645. Nevertheless, in 1464, under orders issued by the general provveditore, the fortification was abandoned and burned down so that it for a period of time fell into Turkish hands. After the Morean war (1685-1699) the Turks no longer posed a threat so that the role of the Ražanac fortification was changed. After a certain lapse of time, houses rose up on the other side of the wall which became a good shield from the northern wind for the settlement which wholly adopted to the new location.All of the three towers and the defensive wall were pretty much preserved up to the 20th century. The first extensive damage was inflicted when a part f the wall alongside the western tower was broken through in order to ensure a road approach to the harbor. Part of the wall between the main and the eastern tower was used as a basis for building houses while a part of it was demolished in order to ensure communication between the eastern part of the village and the harbor. Still the eastern tower, now surrounded by the sea, was the most endangered part. The northern wind took down a part of it and it was finally brought to the ground in 1973.

The remains of the citadel in Ražanac still represent one of the best preserved fortification wholes from the period of the Turkish incursion in the Zadar area. However, centuries-long neglect and extreme weather conditions threaten to permanently and irreparably lay havoc to this important historical and cultural edifice.

Prof. Emil Hilje, The building of the citadel in Ražanac in 1507