Once the largest city-fortress in the entire Republic of Venice, Zadar’s walls allowed it to retain more of its independence than most of its neighbouring cities, and meant that it was never captured by the Turks.
Once the largest city-fortress in the entire Republic of Venice, Zadar’s walls allowed it to retain more of its independence than most of its neighbouring cities, and meant that it was never captured by the Turks. Previously, there were even more fortifications than there are now, but the ones that are left are put to good use, with delightful parks and promenades on top of them. Take a look inside doors such as the one on Five Wells Square - you can see huge empty spaces inside once used as military storage facilities. On top of the bastion above the Bridge Gate is a promenade called Muraj - a peaceful vantage point over the mainland opposite and the people crossing the bridge. The one of the large yellow building up on the promenade belongs to one of Zadar’s old newspaper presses.
The city walls have had several entrances knocked through them at more secure points in Zadar’s history. Some of them were walled up for good, but six remain as vital links between the town within the walls and the sea outside them. Some sections of the walls were built during the Middle Ages, and some were built by the Venetians much later as fortification against the Turks, who mounted relentless attacks on the city. Today only portions of the walls and eight gates remain.
The most impressive of these is the Land Gate - then the main entrance into the city - in the little Foša harbour, built by a Venetian architect Michele Sanmicheli in 1543. It is considered one of the finest monuments of the Renaissance in Dalmatia, and has the form of a triumphal arch with a central passage for wheeled traffic, and two smaller side arches for pedestrians. It is decorated with motifs such as St. Chrysogonus (Zadar’s main patron saint) on his horse, and the Shield of St. Mark (the coat of arms of the Republic of Venice). Previously, the area had been highly defensive, with a surrounding moat.
Near the bridge on the north side is the neo-Renaissance Bridge Gate, the newest opening in the wall, built through to Narodni trg and Kalelarga by the Italians in the 1930s.
The St. Rocco Gate, named after the St. Rocco Chapel and built in 1570, is situated by the City Market. Between the ferry port and the Church of St. Chrysogonus is the Sea Gate - also known as St. Chrysogonus’ Gate, because of its proximity to the church of the same name. It contains parts of a Roman triumphal arch, erected by Auniana Melia in memory of her husband, but it was redone by the Venetians in 1573 to celebrate the Christian victory over the Turks at Lepanto. Above the Roman cornice on the gate´s land-facing side there is a great renaissance panel that talks about the naval battle at Lepanto and a fine relief of St. Chrysogonus above it. The gate is adorned with a relief of St. Mark´s lion on the side facing the sea.
An earlier medieval gate existed on the site of the St. Demetrius Gate, which had been walled up for a long time and reopened again in 1873. Further west, by the old Arsenal, is the sixth and smallest gate, named the Chain Gate, opened during the Austrian rule in 1877, also on the site of an earlier medieval gate. It connects Three Wells Square with the harbour area.