Sibenik and Knin County covers about 1,860 square kilometers, including the islands, coast and hinterland. Sibenik and Knin County has 242 islands, islets and above-sea reefs. Most of this archipelago is in the Northwestern part of the Sibenik’s waters. It is very indented, bare and sparsely inhabited. The area of Sibenik has only 10 island settlements. The most numerous group of islands are the Kornati, known for their bizarre shapes and splendid natural beauties.
You can reach open sea and islands by the 300-1200 metre wide and 10 km long Sibenik Bay, through the narrow, winding channel. Although the coastal Sibenik area reaches only a few kilometers inland, to the Trtar mountain range and Mt. Svilaja on the Southeastern part, 66 % of all its population live here. After World War II, it underwent very rapid urbanization. Almost all manufacturing plants, business activities and economic forces of the Sibenik County are concentrated here. This region is characterized by limestone mountain crests, small valleys (Gornje polje and Donje polje) and plateaus, that are the base for agriculture. Vegetation is mainly consisted of sparce in the hinterland and maquis in the coastal areas and in the islands. Sibenik region has Mediterranean climate with hot summers, cooled by the mistral and dry winters.
Sibenik, the oldest native Croatian city in the Adriatic, is located in the most protected natural harbor, in the centre of the Eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea, at the mouth of the beautiful Krka River, at the very sources of Croatia’s abundant history. Probably, it was a place where some of the original Croatian settlers first saw the blue sea, as capricious as it is beautiful. Sea protected and defended them, fed and took care of them for as long as they could remember. Today, Sibenik has 47,274 inhabitants (2011.) and it is the capital, as well as the cultural, educational, administrative and economic centre of the County of Sibenik and Knin.
Among all Croatian towns on the Adriatic coast, Sibenik is distinguished by its unique location in a picturesque and open bay, at the mouth of the Krka River. Initially, it was created as an ancient Croatian castrum, a fortification or encampment, at the bottom of St. Michael Fortress, that still dominates the town. Sibenik was mentioned for the first time in 1066, in a document issued by the most important Croatian ruler – the king Petar Kresimir IV. Sibenik obtained the status of a native Croatian town in 1290, after establishment of the Diocese of Sibenik. The view on Sibenik reveals the unique harmony of the urban poetic of the town and its natural surroundings.
The harbor, connected to the open sea by the St. Anthony Strait, has been an initiator of town’s maritime affairs development, trading and the overall economic prosperity for centuries. At the entrance into the Strait, there is the fortress of St. Nicholas, the most important renaissance fortress on the Eastern coast of the Adriatic. Fortresses of St. Michael, St. John and Subicevac surrounding the town represent a symbol of the centuries old Sibenik’s continuous resistance. That fact was once more confirmed in the recent Croatian War of Independence.
Sibenik’s St. James’ Cathedral, built more than a century ago, represents testimony of the persistence, sacrifice and beliefs of generations of Sibenik inhabitants. It is unique for many things – not only Croatian, but also European architecture: it is built entirely of stone. Its uniqueness is in use of stone slabs and ribs brave structures, built without using any binding materials. It is also distinguished by its trefoil front facade among Renaissance churches. Finally, it is unique in the harmony of its architecture and the series of 71 realistic sculptural portraits around the apses. Building of the cathedral among its Renaissance churches was continued with contributions from the entire community. Among them was a number of individuals too, including a large number of domestic stone-dressers, builders and artisans. The most important among them was Juraj Matejev Dalmatinac, originally from Zadar, who was commissioned by the town in 1441. as the protomaster of the Sibenik’s cathedral. The cathedral and the nearby Renaissance town hall, as well as the nearby churches, palaces and the Prince’s Palace presently housing the County Museum, probably represent Croatia’s Heritage most beautiful square.
Sibenik’s St. James Cathedral – built in 1536., it represents a testimony of the persistence, sacrifice and beliefs of generations of Sibenik inhabitants. It is unique for many things – not only Croatian, but also European architecture: it is built entirely of stone. Its uniqueness is in use of stone slabs and ribs brave structures, built without using any binding materials. It is also distinguished by its trefoil front facade among Renaissance churches. Finally, it is unique in the harmony of its architecture and the series of 71 realistic sculptural portraits around the apses. Building of the cathedral among its Renaissance churches was continued with contributions from the entire community. Among them was a number of individuals too, including a large number of domestic stone-dressers, builders and artisans. The most important among them was Juraj Matejev Dalmatinac, originally from Zadar, who was commissioned by the town in 1441. as the protomaster of the Sibenik’s cathedral. Visiting the cathedral is one of the most important things to do in Sibenik for every visitor.
A must see destination on the way to Krka waterfalls and Sibenik, especially if you are travelling from Split it’s the oldest Croatian town on the Adriatic coast – Šibenik.
The biggest treasures of art and architecture from Šibenik are dated back to city’s golden era, which lasted from the end of 14th to the middle of 17th century. Among many different sites, there you can admire an impressive building, called also Šibenik’s Cathedral which was made in that period.
The cathedral of St James in Sibenik was being built from 1431 to 1536 and the construction was divided into three phases. The first phase was a bit clumsily led by masters of Venetian Republic for around a decade, after which Juraj Matejev Dalmatinac (Giorgio Orsolani / George the Dalmatian) took over the construction, who was one of the Europe’s greatest builders and artists of that time and gave the biggest contribution in architectural and sculptural way.
Dalmatinac got his education in statuary and art in Venice, where he also mastered carpentry techniques which he daringly used during the assembly of the stone blocks. Stone is the only material used in the construction of the basilica, which actually makes this cathedral a unique example in the whole world.
Juraj Dalmatinac gave his contribution in many details, like friezes on the building’s apses with 71 portraits of his contemporaries, sculptures of St. Peter and St. Paul, located on the northern portal and, of course, the baptistery, a masterpiece of the Croatian sacral art.
What is more, very interesting characteristic of this monumental building is the western trefoil apse followed by three barrel vaults of this three-nave basilica, which is contributed also to Nikola Firentinac (Niccola da Fiorenze), who continued the construction very successfully after Giorgio’s death in 1475. His other contributions include the beautiful sculpture of St. Michael (Mihovil) on the northern arch of transept, as well as the impressive, unique in the world, stone dome.
On the main western portal you can see depiction of 12 apostles, as well as engraved lunette depicting the Last Judgment, work of the first master mason, Bonino da Milano which also did the most of the northern “Lion Gate”. The bronze door wings on both entrances are the work of the local sculptor Grga Antunac.
On the sides of the main entrance you can admire two sarcophagi, one of Ivan Lučić Štrafilič and the other one of bishop Juraj Šižgorić. Going further, on the left side there is the tomb of Bishop Srećko Badurina with the engravings by the sculptor Kazimir Hraste from 1997. On both sides along the apses, you can see numerous altars, dedicated to many saints and Gothic crusifiction by Juraj Petrović from 1455.
The main area for conducting the holy ceremonies has been raised because of the usual religious or customary practice and as an adjustment to the existing ground relief. In the niches, you can notice the depictions of prophets Elisha and Elijah. On top of the arch of the middle apse, there is a depiction of Holy Father’s bust, a work of Niccola da Firenze, and in the sideway apses there are engravings showing Christ and the dove of Holy Spirit. The northern apse holds the organ, and the southern one holds the Renaissance wooden statue of St. Peter.
On the right is the baptistery, which itself is the most important work of art and architecture in this already magnificent masterpiece of a building. The baptistery in its base is a small, four-sided round room located beneath the floor of the southern apse. It is a must see location in Sibenik city Croatia.
On the slightly curved vault, divided by Gothic decorations into 4 areas, Juraj Dalmatinac created an engraved image of Holy Father and dove of Holy Spirit. They are surrounded by Renaissance archangels and heads of cherubs. In the middle of the room there are three winged cheerful boys, so called Putti, who illuminate the way for the soul and carry baptismal well for the christening.
Due to all these merits, in year 2000, UNESCO listed the cathedral of St James Sibenik on its list of World Heritage Sites and we highly recommend to visit this destination on our Krka Waterfalls tours!
The Sibenik City Museum The Sibenik Museum was founded in 1925. in the name of the thousand year anniversary of the Kingdom of Croatia. It is situated in the former Prince’s Palace, in the cathedral’s vicinity. The Sibenik City Museum is a complex type of museum. It consists of archeological, cultural-historic and ethnographic department. Its duties are collecting, preservation, elaboration and presentation of the Sibenik region cultural-historical heritage. Its collections consist of a number of valuable items, significant for the study of Sibenik’s history, from the ancient times till present days.
The Sacral Arts Museum – St. Barbara’s Church – The Museum of Sacral Arts is located in the St. Barbara’s Church, near the Cathedral of St. James. The museum exhibition features, among other items, the triptych of St. Barbara with St. Nicolas and St. Grgur from XVI century, as well as Renaissance stone statues of St. Peter and St. James on the side wall of the cathedral of St. James. The display also includes the works of Oracio Fortezza, the great goldsmith, who worked in Sibenik.
Treasury of Benedictine nunnery of St. Luce – The Treasury collection contains religious objects for liturgical use, as well as paintings and sculptures. Most captivating part of the exhibition is a painted clay Madonna, dating from XIII century. A stone inscription above the entrance honors XVII century benefactor Nikola Buronja, who donated three of his houses to help the monastery after its foundation.
The St. Nikolas Fortress – The building of this impressive fortress on rock, surrounded by the sea at the entrance to the Sibenik’s channel (which has a triangular shape with three defensive points) lasted from 1540. to 1547. (its architect was Gian Girolamo Samichaeli from Verona, a military engineer). It was built of big, stone blocks in foundations and above the bricks, with the exception of the sculptural, very pretty and valuable stone entrance gate. The brick was imported from Venice. It has an advantage over stone, because the brick better amortizes the hits of cannon balls. This fortress has preserved its original shape till today (it was restored and preserved in the 80’s of the XX century).
St. Michael Fortress – This fortress was built on top of the hill (70 m above the sea) in the Sibenik city centre. It was mentioned for the first time in 998. It was destroyed several times (in powder-magazine explosions) and finally renovated in the XV century. Fortress enlargement was performed in the XVII and XVIII century. Today’s fortress was built of dressed stone during the period between XV and XVII century and it encompasses 2,600m².
The St. John Fortress – It was named after the chapel, situated at the same place. Fortress was built at the top of the hill (115 m above the sea level) above the city. The citizens of Sibenik built it in only two months (in August and September of 1646.), according to the project of the Franciscan engineer Antonio Leni from Genoa. On his drawing, it has a shape of a star with built tongs towards the North. This fortress defended the city in a month-long siege against 20,000 Turks during fierce battles from August, 17th to September,16th 1647. (4,000 Turks died in those battles).
The Subicevac Fortress – It is situated on a hill (80 m above the sea level), a bit lower than the St. John Fortress to the East. It was also built in 1646. for the same purpose – to defend the city against Turkish invaders. It’s a bit smaller, but more accessible for visitors. Today, it provides a wonderful view of the city (there is an asphalt road through the forest, that goes to the fortress entrance) a specious harbor, channel and numerous islands.
Regatta Kornati Cup / Murter – The legend says that, when God created the Earth, some stones fell into the blue sea, and when he turned around, he was so impressed by its beauty, that he decided to let it be. That was the creation of Kornati, a labyrinth of 152 island, islets and reefs and one of Croatian national parks. The idea about the Kornati Cup Sailing Regatta rose spontaneously on the Day of Our Lady in 1984, when a group of sailing enthusiasts set out with three boats from Murter towards Piskera. In the next year, 1985, the first regatta in Austrian-Croatian co-production gathered 27 boats and became the traditional one in the Easter time. In 1988, there were 118 boats participating in the Kornati Cup. It became one of the biggest regattas on the Eastern side of the Adriatic.
International Medieval Fair in Sibenik – Beside the international manifestation for children, Sibenik is known for another international happening – International Medieval Fair in Sibenik. It was organized for the first time in 2005. and, since then, every year at the end of September town brings back the spirit of the past Medieval times in the honor of St. Michael (The Patron’s Day). For three days, people in traditional clothes, jugglers, clowns, some with fanfares, archers, knights, organists and many other circle the town and entertain people and, at the same time, the Sibenik artisans demonstrate the traditional ways of wood, metal, undergrowth and stone processing.
Music Evenings – Known as the best singers in Dalmatia, the inhabitants of Sibenik are especially proud of their Evenings of Dalmatian songs. Traditionally, they are scheduled for the end of August and they offer special experience of the Dalmatian traditional song. The Jazz Festival in Vodice is traditionally held every year in July for two evenings, offering unforgettable jazz atmosphere by the sea, gathering Croatian and foreign jazz musicians. For many years, the traditional Fest of Vodice is one of the most visited and biggest local fests in Dalmatia, known for its great music program and famous midnight firework.
Events with nautical tourism – Guests, who are nautical fans, will enjoy in the Adriatic Boat Show, an especially important event, held every September in Sibenik. It emphasize little ship building, which makes it unique. For all of the sea and maritime activities fans, there is also the Big Game Fishing in Jezera on the Murter island. The regatta “Latinsko idro” is also unavoidable event, one of the symbols of the Murter island. Nautical tourism represents one of the most attractive forms of tourism in Croatia. Croatian coastline, full of numerous islands, beaches, natural resorts, ports and bays, attracts attention of many nautical enthusiasts.
Customs of the Sibenik’s Area – For all fans of old traditional customs and tasty food, there are several interesting festivals: the Eco-Ethno Fair held in the smallest town of the Sibenik region – the town of Skradin; the Festival of the Rural Culture in Knin; the Evening of the Homemade Dishes in Pirovac, as well as the Customs of Primosten – an area, known for the production of one of the Croatian best red wines, the Babic red wine. There is also the Traditional Donkey Race in Tribunj, bringing the smile to the faces of the grown ups and little ones.
By plane – Nearest airports are in Split (54 km) and in Zadar (67 km).
By bus – Bus station is just southeast of the city centre on obala Hrvatske mornarice.
By car – Take the exit Sibenik on motorway A1 (Town Sibenik is 8 km far away from motorway).
By ferry – The main coastal ferry doesn’t call at Sibenik, there are four daily departures to Vodice calling at the minor islands of Zlarin and Prvic.