Significant historical sites

Archaeological sites

Five millennia of human activity left an indelible mark on Brijuni. Mild climate and favorable geographic conditions ensured the continuity of human activity on the island from prehistoric times to the present. Although the area of the archipelago is just over 7 km2, there are around 100 localities and archaeological sites dating from the period of the first neolithic semi-dugout settlements until the newer days of Brijuni history.
Bronze Age settlement

Gradina

Fortified Bronze Age settlement

The fortified Bronze Age settlement with preserved walls, entrance and necropolis on a hill bearing the same name, north of Verige Bay.

The strategically well protected elevated location was fortified with three concentric circles of walls adapted to the configuration of the hill. The central plateau covered an area of 80x90m, while the diameter of the largest wall was about 300 m. The walls were built of drystone large blocks, while the area between the inner and outer wall facade was filled with rubble masonry.

 

The shape of a labyrinth

Particularly important were entrances that were on several occasions annexed, assuming thus the shape of a labyrinth. The western so-called Gnirs entrance, at the beginning over three meters wide, at its end is not wider than one meter as to make the penetration of the enemy slow and more difficult. Many pebbles were found on the fortification walls, equally serving for protection, throwing or as artillery for slingshots.

Among the few bronze findings, typical for this period, we must mention the tip of the spear broken in some clash near the Gnirs entrance and the dagger found as a grave offering.

The hill-fort population buried their dead under the stone tumulus in a grave of stone slabs. Such graves with skeleton burials in a bent position were found on the surrounding hilltops Javornik, Antunovac and Rankun. In the mid Bronze-Age (14th century BC) which is when the necropolis at Gradina is dated, cemeteries were located along the settlement fortifications, and beside individual burials in stone graves there are also family graves.

Villa from the time of Christ

Roman villa in Verige Bay

Magnificent villa rustica

On the western coast of Brijuni, along Verige Bay, stands a magnificent Roman villa rustica. Its construction began in the 1st century BC, and it achieved its greatest splendor in the 1st century AD. Certain parts of the villa were used until the 6th century.

It consisted of several buildings for different purposes located on carefully selected locations in various parts of the bay.

 

Sumptuous summer residence

On the southern side of the bay stood a sumptuous summer residence, also with an economic function with two peristyles. An integral part of the complex were temples of the sea god Neptune, the Capitoline Triad and the goddess of love and beauty, Venus, situated at the end of the bay,. Dieta, palestra, thermae, fishpond and the economic part were situated at the northern side of the bay. By an interesting system of promenades stretching one kilometer along the sea, all the buildings were connected into a unique whole, in ideal harmony with the landscape.

From the seaside this complex was bordered by a shore built of large stone blocks which is today about 1 m below sea level. Access to the harbor was controlled by a chain (verige in Croatian) connecting opposite shores, after which the bay was named.

Besides this villa furbished with mosaics, frescoes, stucco decoration and precious marble, there were a number of Roman villas of mostly economic function on Brijuni, the villa on Kolci hill being the particularly interesting one among them.

The Roman villa in Verige bay is part of the Roman Emperors Route which has received a certificate of the Council of Europe and the European Institute of Cultural routes. The route is 3.5 thousand kilometers long and stretches through Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania and promotes archaeological tourism. It covers 20 archaeological sites important for the period of imperial Rome and related to the lives of 17 Roman emperors.

The richest site by its strata on Brijuni

Kastrum

The richest site by its strata on the Brijuni stretches on an area somewhat greater than 1 hectare. Findings from the period of the Roman Republic and Empire, Late Antiquity, Eastern Goths, Byzantium, Carolingian period and Venice testify to the longtime settlement 

The first villa in Dobrika Bay was built in the 1st century BC.

During the reign of Augustus, partly on the site of the first villa, a new villa rustica was erected (size 51x59 meters) with a central courtyard and equipment for producing olive oil and wine, as well as cellars, and modestly arranged housing units.

Life within the villa went on until the end of the 4th century when due to social changes the villa grew into a closely-built-type settlement with houses, olive and grapes processing plants, storage rooms, workshops, blacksmith workshops, ovens, briefly, all elements necessary for an independent life of a community. The settlement gradually grew, and strong walls were erected for its protection. Apart from the main, northeastern entrance, there were four other gates that were connected within the settlement, and smaller squares were also formed. St. Mary's basilica was erected in the close vicinity to serve the ceremonial needs of the numerous population of the castrum.

Feudal era

The Frankish rule at the end of the 8th century introduced a new feudal property. The walls of the Carolingian villa were articulated by lesenes, while oil, at the time, was produced in the rooms by the sea. The entire process of oil production, from grinding of olives in the mill to pressing in one of the three presses is depicted here.

Life in the castrum was last evidenced during the Venetian era.

A three-nave church from the Middle Ages

St. Mary’s Church

The three-nave church of square ground plan whose lateral walls have been preserved almost to their original height. The size of the church (11x 24 m) indicates a large population of the nearby castrum erecting this edifice in the 5th – 6th centuries.

The altar area is two steps higher and is divided from the church nave by a partly preserved triumphal arch. The altar basis is preserved in situ. The atrium of the basilica holds a small collection of stone monuments, exhibiting, among other, church findings, transennae, stone window grids.

In the open front part of the basilica and around it was an Early Christian cemetery 300 m long, stretching as far as the southeastern corner of the castrum.

Benedictine monastery by the church

The beginning of the 9th century saw the renovation of numerous churches, among them St. Mary’s. It was refurbished with new stone furnishing bearing the recognizable three-ribbon interlace pattern. The large pagan population must have caused missionary activities carried out by the Benedictines from the many monasteries. If not earlier, this is when the Benedictine monastery was founded stretching north and south of the basilica.

Basilica in the times of the Templars

In the 13th century the basilica belonged to the Templars. When their order was abolished in 1312, life in the monastery faded away.

Near this church, a smaller single-nave church dedicated to St. Peter was built whose floor was decorated by a tricolored mosaic.

Sacral building in a medieval settlement

St. German’s church

The St. German’s church is the largest sacral building of a medieval settlement erected along the main Brijuni port. The single-nave church with polygonal apse has distinct Gothic features: the portal with pointed arch is decorated with Gothic single braid rope and teeth. The arches of the window are also pointed, as well as the openings of the buttress where the year of construction, 1481, was engraved. A statue of a saint is located on top of the tympanum.

Gothic frescoes

The walls of the church were decorated with gothic frescoes that, together with the church inventory, had been damaged by fire in the late 19th century. The church was renovated in 1910 according to the concept of Anton Gnirs, when a polycromatic mosaic with a portrait of Jesus Christ with an open book in his hand was put in the lunette on the facade of the church. In the same year, a black and white mosaic from the dining area of the Roman villa in Verige Bay was built in the church floor.

Awaken the explorer in you and discover hidden archaeological sites on Brijuni. Get to know the rich Brijuni past through various cultural and historical periods; from prehistory, classical antiquity, late antiquity, Byzantine period to the Venetian period.
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