This channel is a natural phenomenon that impresses with its genuine beauty all those who can see it, experience it while walking along the newly constructed walkway or sailing around its rocky shores. Apart from its natural beauty, due to the history of the city of Šibenik and its great significance, the channel has been surrounded by structures of religious and fortification architecture, which today represent the cultural and historical heritage. Unfortunately, some structures do not exist anymore; they have been pulled down due to historical circumstances, but numerous graphic descriptions of the channel from different time periods (16th – 19th centuries) contain the following structures: St Nicholas’ Fortress, the medieval Church of St Andrew on a small island on the west coast of the channel, the cave in which the Church of St Anthony used to be and the ruins of two towers located at the entrance of Šibenik Bay. None of the graphic descriptions contains the Benedictine Monastery of St Nicholas on the island of Ljuljevac because it was pulled down and the fortress was built there in the 16th century. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the following structures were built on the coasts of the channel: the lighthouse on the west side, near the Church of St Andrew, the summer residence of Giovanni Dalle Feste’s family, the barracks in Minerska Cove and the undersea tunnel cut into the hill, which was intended for patrol boats. In 1911 a semaphore station was constructed on St Nicholas’ Fortress and it regulated navigation through the channel along with a similar station on St Michael’s Fortress.
The St Anthony Channel represents remnants of what once was the bed of the Krka River, which flew into the open sea. After the sea level had risen by about 100 metres, a channel was formed and it connected Šibenik Bay with the open sea. The channel is about 2500 metres long. The narrowest part at the entrance of Šibenik Bay is only 150 metres wide. The channel used to protect the entrance to Šibenik Bay while making it one of the safest bays on the eastern Adriatic coast. On the north side of the bay, at the foot of a 70-metre-high hill, the Croats founded a coastal settlement in the Middle Ages. Unlike other cities on the eastern Adriatic coast, Šibenik is a native Croatian city. Zadar, Trogir, Split and other cities were already present when the Croats came and started to gradually settle them. When the Croats settled the area of Šibenik is unknown. It certainly occurred before the first mention of the city in 1066. It is assumed by some historians that in the Early Middle Ages this strategically important location was a pirate nest from which the Croats intercepted and plundered Venetian galleys that navigated along the eastern Adriatic coast. Thanks to its exceptionally favourable location, the settlement continued to develop both socially and economically in the bay that could be reached only through the channel named after St Anthony of Egypt. It regained its importance of a military fort after the change in political power, i.e. when the Byzantine rule in Dalmatian cities was replaced with a Hungarian and Croatian ruler. At that time Šibenik was an important fortified camp (castrum) that grew fast as the foot of the fort was inhabited by a large number of settlers, thus becoming a settlement equally important to other Dalmatian cities. The formation and development of the settlement and its growing importance were certainly affected by its important strategic location. The channel has a significant role in the history of Šibenik. Its importance in protecting the bay has been emphasised by a number of historical sources. In addition to the fortifications that were built in the channel in order to control the entrance to the Šibenik port, some religious structures can be found there as well. All of them are part of the cultural and historical heritage that, along with the natural beauty, makes the channel particularly attractive.
The Benedictine Monastery of St Nicholas, which was located at the entrance of the channel, was mentioned in the 11th century. In 1095 the abbot of the Monastery of St Nicholas participated in the church council in Zadar. When the monastery was built remains unknown. The only known fact is that it stood at the entrance to the channel until the 15th century when the monks who lived there moved to Šibenik. Due to the dilapidated condition of the monastery buildings, the Benedictines in Šibenik erected the Church of St Nicholas and Benedict (present-day Church of St Barbara) at the beginning of the 15th century. Today there are no physical traces of the former monastery on the island of Ljuljevac.
On the maps dating from the 16th through the 19th century, on the west side of the entrance to the channel, there is a small island with the medieval Church of St Andrew. That same location was suggested by the military engineer Malatesta Baglioni as a site for another fort that would prevent enemies from entering the channel.
The idea was to construct two fortresses facing each other, thereby recreating the past situation with the Big and Small Towers at the entrance to the port. As is known, the fortress on the small island of St Andrew was not built due to lack of money. This was also the reason that the medieval church remained intact. It gradually fell into decay and eventually collapsed. Its appearance with a gabled roof can be seen on some graphic descriptions dating from the 17th century. At the beginning of the 18th century the church was just a ruin.
Today the walls of the church are partially preserved and used as parts of the outbuildings of the lighthouse. The site enables us to recognise a small church that had a rectangular layout with a rectangular apse. The front wall was completely destroyed, whereas parts of the side walls and apse are preserved.
The church was mentioned in historical sources at the beginning of the 15th century (in 1402).
After Skradin had fallen under Turkish control in 1521, it was feared that the Turks might also establish a sea route to Skradin. This would enable the Turkish fleet to enter Šibenik Bay, thus jeopardising the safety of the city. In 1526 the military engineer Malatesta Baglioni was sent to Šibenik to present plans for the defence of the city, especially if attacked from the sea. In order to prevent the Turkish fleet from entering the bay, Baglioni suggested constructing two fortresses at the entrance to the St Anthony Channel. One of them was intended to be built on the site of the former Monastery of St Nicholas, whose ruins were still visible, while the other one was intended to be built near the Church of St Andrew on the opposite side of the channel. This project was not realised at the time but it was started again in 1539 when Gian Girolamo Sanmicheli was appointed to carry out the same plan. It was his idea to construct a fortress on the site of the former Monastery of St Nicholas.
St Nicholas’ Fortress was a major construction challenge for Šibenik as well as for the Venetian authorities that ruled Šibenik from 1412. At that time Šibenik was one of the most strategically important cities on the eastern Adriatic coast. The Venetian Republic used to stress its importance, particularly the strategic value of the port that was safe and virtually impregnable. In the 14th and 15th centuries, navigation through the channel was controlled from the turrets that were built on both sides of the channel at the entrance to the port. There was also a huge chain that was stretched between two sides of the channel in order to prevent enemy ships from entering the port, especially at night. In 1540, on the site of the former Monastery of St Nicholas, the construction of an imposing fortress began, as designed by Gian Girolamo Sanmicheli. Gian Girolamo designed a strong and safe building that followed all the trends in the construction of military facilities. If compared to the contemporary fortifications in the Mediterranean, St Nicholas’ Fortress boasts all the achievements of the cinquecento in designing and constructing fortifications. Indeed, some solutions implemented there appeared in Europe for the first time. Among them there is the construction of pliers, which are located between the demibastions towards the south of the fortress; a curtain wall keeps them connected to each other. The lower part of St Nicholas' Fortress was built of stone slabs. Above the belt built of stone, the fortress is mainly covered with brick. The mantle shows signs of the reconstruction dating back to the 1830s, during the period of Austrian rule.
St Nicholas' Fortress has a triangular layout. The north side of the fortress is semi-circular in shape with orecchioni facing each other, which resembles a mushroom (torrione). On the south part there are two demibastions with a pair of pliers between them.
The fortress has three levels. At sea level, below the vaults of the fortress there are some relatively large spaces. In the mushroom-like part of the fortress (torrione), there is a semi-circular space with the most cannon ports. This was originally a single space without the partition walls that were built later. The semi-circular space leads into a large rectangular space, which was also originally built without the partition walls. A series of cannon ports directed towards the channel were built here. A smaller space under the vaults was built eastwards from this section of the fortress. A room was later built here and it was used as a dungeon. Two cannon ports directed towards Škar Cove were later closed and converted into solitary confinement cells. Between these two longitudinal spaces there is a smaller one that has a trapezoidal layout. Next to this space there are some rainwater storages. In addition to the cannon ports in the thickness of the fortress walls, the space was aired by using a ventilation system vertically through the thickness of the walls as well as the skylights that were in the floor of the upper terrace, over the vaulted section. A slightly inclined vaulted ramp links the vaulted spaces at sea level with the level that has the entrance area into the fortress. The ramp is paved with brick, placed vertically and laid in a herringbone pattern with low stone steps.
The fortress can be entered through the gate located on the eastern curtain wall facing Šibenik. The gate is the most valuable architectural and sculptural detail in the fortress. It was constructed in the manner of Sanmicheli's gates; some of them can be found in Venice, Verona and other cities. The gate as well as the whole fortress were designed by Gian Girolamo Sanmicheli. All the carving and the construction of the gate was entrusted to two Croatian masters – Dujam from Split and Frane Dismanić from Šibenik. On the gable stone of the arched gate a statue of St Nicholas was carved. In this same stone, in the thickness of the gate, the coat of arms of Luka Zorzi was carved.
The architrave strongly reflects Renaissance decorative features. On the architrave there are some triglyphs and metopes and in the soffit of the architrave there is a rectangular decoration, a moulded cassette with oak leaves. On the metopes there is the motif of the bucranium, a circular medallion with astragals and in the middle there is a medallion with the lion of St Mark. Above the architrave there is a moulded garland reflecting Renaissance features. The garland has alternating spaces with a cassette in which a rhombus with a flower in the middle was inscribed and a cassette with a typical Sanmicheli's decoration of cylindrical stone elements emerging from the base of the stone slabs. The gate becomes complete with an attic containing an inscribed text that is missing today.
In the entrance hall, on the wall facing the gate, there are four coats of arms carved in stone. Three of them are positioned next to each other, with four fluted columns framing them. Above these coats of arms there is an empty niche, where once was the Venetian lion. The coats of arms were placed in honour of the doge, Pietro Laudo, the prince and captain of Šibenik, Jakov Alviz Venier and the first castellan of the fortress, Gaspar Moro. Below these three coats of arms, there is the coat of arms of the castellan of St Nicholas Fortress in 1584, Domenico Lombardo.
A ramp enables access from the vaulted entrance hall to the upper plateau of the fortress, which is, as the whole fortress, triangular in shape with a semi-circular mushroom-like part on the north side. Along the edges of the terrace there are cannon ports and battlements, which completely surround the terrace. Today there aren't any structures on the terrace. In the 16th century some single-storey buildings were constructed on the plateau and they were used to accommodate the crew. The Church of St Nicholas was built on the part extending towards the turret. The buildings in which the crew were accommodated follow the walls of the fortress with cannon ports. In the 17th century the fact that the level of demibastions was raised caused the denivelation of the fortress as a whole.
St Nicholas' Fortress, or, more precisely, its upper level was reconstructed in the 19th century. In the first half of the 19th century the facilities used to accommodate the crew were pulled down. In the part of the fortress near the demibastions, between the wellheads, a bulding that was used as a barracks was constructed. It was a vaulted building with thick walls. At the and of the 19th century large defensive cannons were placed; they appeared after 1867. The ports were constructed along the western edge of the fortress and, after the dykes were removed in the demibastions, in that part of the fortress.
At the beginning of the 20th century the fortress ceased to have an imoprtant military role and some other facilities were constructed there. The Austrian barracks on the terrace was destroyed and a semaphore station that regulated the entrance to the channel was built in 1911. Low structures were built for military purposes.
Along with the Benedictine monastery from the 14th or 15th century, in the channel there is a cave / church dedicated to St Anthony of Egypt. The cave can be accessed via sea; from a small pier just head to the steep stairs that lead to the plateau in front of the cave. The plateau has a rectangular shape, with the retaining wall facing the sea. There is an explored tomb on the plateau. To the west of the cave there is a rock that was recently drilled, thereby discovering a small and narrow room that has a T-shaped layout. The room used to have a door and it provided everything necessary for the cannon that was placed in the cave. To the right of the entrance, in a natural alcove there is a stone basin, which is always filled with water dripping from the cave walls. The stone basin has a rectangular shape. There is a hardly legible inscription engraved in it: MERS NE MERS HOTO PIMO MCCCCLI ... Opposite the stone basin, in the cave wall, there is an altar comprising a shallow niche engraved in the cave wall so that an altarpiece could be placed on it.
Opposite the entrance to the cave there is a vandalised Baroque altar. The retable of the altar was thrown off the mensa and some parts of it are preserved along with the base of the altar. The preserved parts reveal that the retable had an arched niche. On top of the niche there is a moulded decoration that can also be seen on the windows of the houses in Šibenik in the 16th and 17th centuries. According to K. Stošić, in the cave “there is a beautiful little altar with two marble columns. At the bottom of the altar there was an inscription that read: Amadeo Ballerini restauro 1907 per l’ordine e spese d.sign. Tereza Baricich (?). Ballerini, an amateur painter, restored the painting of St Nicholas that dr Luka Jelić saw around 1910 but it is not there today. A small statue of St Nicholas was located in the cave for some time but it was transferred to St Nicholas’ Fortress”. This information lets us conclude that the stone altar and the altar painting were renovated in 1907.
Recent archaeological research and historical documents are not sufficient to determine when a natural cave became a church. The report on the archaeological research near the church reveals that the earliest burial ceremony dated back to the period between 1275 and 1310. The data on the time of death of the deceased cannot be used to determine when the church was first used for religious purposes due to the fact it was a secondary burial. However, the religious purpose of the church cannot be excluded because it is quite possible that the bones of the deceased were moved from the inside of the cave when the works around it were in progress. Based on written sources, the cave has been used as a church since the beginning of the 15th century. In 1415 Juraj Ratković left eight ducats to the church. Petar Kovač, son of the late Cvjetan, left part of his property to the church on 17th April 1471. This church was a place where hermits lived. According to historical sources, apart from these hermits, some distinguished citizens of Šibenik were buried in the church or in front of it; in their will they demanded to be buried near the Church of St Anthony in the channel. Some of the hermits that lived in the cave are known from historical documents. A Zadar nobleman Jeronim Detrico lived in the cave and was buried there on 28th November 1615. One of the well-known hermits was Fr Paul (frater Paulus heremita s. Antonii), who was buried in the cathedral on 14th May 1638. The third hermit was priest Peter (Piero eremito di s. Anonio). The fourth hermit’s name is unknown but we know that in 1710 he gave a stipend for masses to the prior of the Dominican monastery in Šibenik. The masses were said in the Church of St Anthony.
It is obvious that services were held in the Cave of St Anthony; the church was occasionally renovated and new facilities were added to it. The niche on the side wall in which an altar of the medieval typology is placed seems to be the oldest intervention in the space of the cave. The wall of the altar contained an altarpiece but today there are no traces of it. The altarpiece might have been dedicated to St Anthony of Egypt. In the width of the niche an altar mensa made of monolithic stone was placed. The altar was accessed by a step, which was completely destroyed. The method used to construct the stone basin facing the altar was typical for the time – it was chiselled out of stone with an engraved year that enables us to date it but also with an inscription that is illegible. The inscription dates from the 15th century, which can be related to the activities of the church. When the wall that transforms the cave into an articulated space of the church was built cannot be determined. Today the wall shows recent interventions but also part of the layer that can date back to the 15th or 16th century. Between the two world wars (in 1930), the church lost its religious character and was converted into a cannon nest. A cannon of an unknown calibre was placed in a bunker that was built later in the church behind a façade. The construction of the cannon stand resulted in the devastation of the floor and the entire church.
Hitler’s Eyes is the name of an undersea tunnel that was built for warships. The tunnel has two openings with a segmental arch. A ship would enter through one of them. Under the hill, in the tunnel a ship could be serviced and hidden from the enemy and it would leave the tunnel through the other opening.
A narrow footpath was constructed to follow the walls of the tunnel. The construction of the tunnel took place during World War II.
The construction of the tunnel was started by the Germans after the surrender of Italy, at the time of intense Allied bombing.
Works on the tunnel were resumed after World War II when they were completed. Since larger ships were turned out in the 1950s, the tunnel has not served the purpose it was built for.
The Šibenik museum was established on the 20 th of December 1925 to mark the thousandth anniversary of the Croatian kingdom. The museum is located in the former Duke's palace that's in the vicinity of the cathedral.
The duke's palace is part of the town's costal defensive system; it was built in the 13 th c and 14 th c. The two wings of the once much larger building have been preserved. In this building lived the utmost representative of administration in Šibenik (the town Duke).
The south wing stretches along the coast from the square tower to the polygonal tower. The square tower known as the Duke's tower is the largest building on the coast, and derives from the 14c. Between it and the Bishop's palace is the renaissance town gate from the 16c. In the middle of the ground floor of the Duke's palace, from the south wing, there is a passage with the town gate. Above this gate there is an emblem with the town patron on it (St Michael).
The west wing of the palace faces the vestry of the cathedral. On the south wing of the palace there are 2 doors with simple stone door ways, and between them a niche, with a baroque sculpture of the town duke Nikola Marcella.
In 1975 reconstruction of Duke's palace was finished, and it allowed the museum to function to its present date.
The museum of the town of Šibenik can be divided into two sections: the archeological, and the historical and ethnological. The museum's prime task is to collect, preserve, conserve and present the historical heritage of the Šibenik region.
In its collections the museum keeps a variety of objects that are essential for analyzing Šibenik history.
The holdings of the museum are divided into collections: the archeological (Prehistoric, Ancient, Middle Age, and underwater findings), cultural-historical (collections of stone monuments, graphics, weapons, photographs and archival material.) and the gallery. The museum has 150,000 artifacts.
The most significant results the museum has accomplished are in the exploratory activities, exhibitory and publication activities. Many archeological sites have been explored in the region and in local waters. 200 exhibitions have been organized which were followed by the according catalogs. Adjacent to that there have been many editions that have shed light on the history of Šibenik ; the oldest Croatian town on the Adriatic coast, which was all organized by the museum and its staff.