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THE TALE OF THE CITY

Zadar's main characteristic which makes it very special in the history of this region of Dalmatia is its urban structure which has continually existed for two thousand years. This makes it one of the oldest cities in Croatia as well as in the whole Adriatic region. Its long and dinamic history is like a mirror of the fate of mankind's existence on the eastern coast of the Adriatic. The first findings of early culture date from the older Stone Age while the first settlements date from the Neolithic period. Settlements of an ancient Mediterranean people from whose language very probably comes the word of the settlement itself: Jader, Jadra or Jadera are known to have been made here even before the Illirian tribes came. The first writings can be found in the 4th century B.C. in the descriptions of the eastern coast of the Adriatic in which the Greek geographer Skaraianderis writes about the settlement of Jader and calls the settlers Jadasins. In the middle of the 2nd century B.C. the region of Zadar was conquered by the Romans. In that period the city was regulated according to Roman urban conception rules. Five horizontal and a large number of vertical streets formed the urban network of communication. The main square - the Forum was built along the border of the network of streets west of the peninsula. Next to it a Capitol with a temple was built. A new religion developed in Zadar in the period from the 4th to the 6th centuries - Christianity.

In the 6th century there was an earthquake in Zadar and whole complexes of monumental architecture were destroyed. Fragments of this architecture were used in the 9th century to build a monumental structure on the Roman Forum itself, the Church of the Holy Trinity, which, from the 15th century onwards, is called the Church of Saint Donat. Today, even though it is exempt of any religious functions, the church dominates the central urban nucleus and it is the symbol of the city of Zadar. St. Donat has extraordinary acoustical characteristics so that for 40 years now concerts have been taking place in it. The concerts are the international "Musical Evening in St. Donat" and the music played is mainly Medieval or Renaissance music.

The period from the 11th to the 14th century was the golden Age of Zadar. Medieval Zadar was a city of brilliant architecture. Some of the examples from the period:

  • The monastery of St. Grisogone now known as the church of St. Grisogone has an altar from the 17th century and this was built as an ex-voto of the citizens of Zadar against the plague. Inside the church there are four statues made of white marble representing the patron saints of Zadar: St. Anastasia, St. Zoilo, St. Grisogone and St. Simon.
  • The Convent of St. Mary, Benedictine order of nuns, was founded in 1066 by a noblewoman from Zadar, Cika. Some sources say that she was the half-sister of King Krešimir IV. A building was built, attached to the convent, which is a museum and is called the Gold and Silver of the city of Zadar. The collection is that of very special objects of art from the churches of Zadar as well as reliquaries made of silver and covered with gold. The museum is unique in its kind in Croatia and one of the best in Europe.
  • The Romanesque cathedral of St. Anastasia contains magnificent Gothic 15th century choir stalls made of wood. The cathedral also contains the marble sarcophagus of St. Anastasia from the 9th century, while the crypt of the cathedral contains the reliquaries of St. Agapta, Hlonia and Irene.

Even though the city of Zadar was devastated and plundered many times its monasteries still treasure works of art among which the silver coffer of Saint Simon must be emphasized. This coffer was ordered in the 14th century by the Austro-Hungarian Queen Elisabeth. At that time, in 1396, Zadar was also the first city with a university. The best Venetian builders, Baglione and Sanmicheli, as well as the army commander Pallavicino, build a whole system of fortifications with pentagonal bastions, defense canals filled with sea and big new town cisterns which made Zadar the biggest and strongest town-fortification in the Venetian Republic. Inside the fortifications the first Croatian novel called "Planine" was written by a writer from Nin, Petar Zoranic. The fortifications surrounded the town until 1868, when, by decree of the imperial authorities, Zadar stopped being a fortified town. The bastions and walls on the northern side of the town were taken down and a quay was built while on the southwest side a quay and promenade were built.

During the Second World War the city of Zadar suffered great destruction so that 65% of the city was ruined and burned. After the fifties, thanks to the vitality of its citizens, Zadar started developing quickly. Today there is the Adriatic road across Lika to Zagreb, the railway passing through Knin and the airport of Zadar, all of which have made Zadar integrate into the tissue of the Croatian fatherland. The building of a cargo harbour and the regular ferry connections with Italy have greatly improved Zadar's sea connections. Therefore, whichever way you come to Zadar, by land, sea or air, the city awaits you as a dear guest, a close friend and a good aquaintance. It is a great pleasure for Hotel President to be your host during your stay in this beautiful Mediterranean town.

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