European Culture Route Fortified Monuments - FORTE CULTURA®

Fortress of Culture Šibenik Croatia

The Guardians of Šibenik

Experience history in a modern way

Šibenik is one of the oldest Croatian indigenous cities, located in the natural harbour at the protected mouth of the river Krka. Besides being surrounded by two national parks and home to two UNESCO World Heritage sites, Šibenik is also known as the 'city of fortresses.' Once the defenders (guardians) of Šibenik, the fortresses have transformed from dormant beauties into vibrant locations in recent years. Thanks to revitalization projects, the fortresses have been equipped with a wide range of leisure and educational functions.

Today, three revitalized fortresses – St. Michael's, Barone, and St. John's – are managed by the Public Institution Fortress of Culture Šibenik. Founded in 2016, Fortress of Culture quickly became an example of excellence in cultural heritage management due to its innovative approach to cultural heritage preservation and event organization. Numerous concerts and events, exciting multimedia content such as VR, 3D mapping, AR, multimedia exhibitions and guides that are today implemented at the fortresses leave visitors with little to be desired. All these attractive features and programs have turned the fortresses into a Adriatic hot spot of history, culture, and music.

The institution also manages two more sites: House of Arts Arsen (renovated former cinema), a mixed-art venue hosting concerts and stage events, cinema screenings, plays, exhibitions, and the Croatian Coral Centre, museum located in a small island in Šibenik’s archipelago – Zlarin.
Museum is dedicated to corals and the centuries-old tradition of coral harvesting. Today, this almost forgotten story is presented in an innovative and interesting way through modern technology of VR, AR, interactive tools and interesting kinetic sculpture. The museum is also a centre of island’s cultural life as it is a venue for movie screenings, workshops, book promotions and more.

Furthermore, Fortress of Culture is now recognized as a model of successful cultural heritage management, contributing directly to the institution's affirmation on both national and European scales. Through various innovations and forward-looking investments, Fortress of Culture ranks among the best European practices in the field of sustainable development of historic fortress buildings.

With FORTE CULTURA discover the Guardians of Šibenik - St. Michael's, Barone, and St. John's Fortress, enjoy events in House of Arts Arsen and find out about centuries long tradition in Croatian Coral Centre Zlarin.

Experience World

St. Michaels Fortress


Šibenik is the oldest indigenous town on the Eastern Adriatic coast. It was first mentioned in one of the royal charter signed by King Petar Krešimir IV. Since the king and his entourage settled here, we are sure that St. Michael's Fortress has already been built, what makes the fortress the first monument of time and a place where the city of Šibenik was born.

Built during the Middle Ages on a hill in the middle of the town, the Fortress became a key component of Šibenik's defence fortification system, comprising walls and other fortresses. The Fortress derives its name from the Church of St. Michael, which once stood within its walls. Although the church itself hasn't survived, the Fortress has retained the name in honour of the patron saint of Šibenik. Throughout its turbulent history, the Fortress underwent numerous repairs and reconstructions, and it now stands in the form of an irregular square.

After losing its military significance, St. Michael’s Fortress was closed and unavailable to citizens for centuries. However, after its revitalization in 2014, this oldest monument in the city was finally brought to life. Every visitor can now create a personalized route using multimedia audio guides, and in the VR cabins, they can engage in digital games that explore the historical context. Inside the Fortress, on the walls of 15th-century cisterns, 3D mapping light projections transport visitors to the most significant historical events, as if in a time machine.

But what truly distinguishes St. Michael's Fortress today is its prestigious open-air stage and amphitheatre with 1077 seats, where shows, concerts, and various evening events take place. A fantastic program, along with breathtaking views of Šibenik and its surroundings, guarantees visitors unforgettable experiences and memories.

Barone Fortress


Barone Fortress was built in the summer of 1646, in parallel with the nearby St. John’s Fortress. They were constructed by the citizens of Šibenik in just less than two months to strengthen the defence of their city against the Ottomans. Baron von Degenfeld was the commander of the defence, thanks to whom the attacks were repelled, and the enemy retreated with heavy losses. Grateful citizens named the smaller Fortress after its constructor and their hero, Baron von Degenfeld - Barone.

In 2016 (after revitalization project) the Fortress was declared the cultural attraction of the year thanks to the digital content available on it. The main feature on the Fortress is an augmented reality (AR) platform, which allows visitors to experience the story of the dramatic circumstances that led to the construction of the Fortress and the successful defence of the city. In augmented reality, the user meets their guides - boy named Jure and Frane Divnić, historian from the 17th century and eyewitness of the Ottoman attack - who lead them through the historical narrative. The segments combine character portrayals and actions from augmented reality with 3D animations that depict the appearance of the city, the Fortress, and the battles. This innovative technological concept provides a contemporary museum experience.

Within the Barone Fortress, there is a small, intimate stage where concerts, dance productions, performances, and various other programs are held. The stage also transforms into an open-air cinema in the summer, where cinephiles can watch award-winning feature films, documentaries, and animated films from around the world. The fortress is also a favourite place for families with children. While kids enjoy the playground, parents can relax in a bar overlooking the entire city and the canal.

St. Johns Fortress


St. John's Fortress was built during August and September 1646, on a 120-meter-high hill north of the core of Šibenik. It owes its name to the church that had been there for centuries before its construction. The citizens of Šibenik, with their own hands and resources, constructed the Fortress in just 58 days, according to the design by the engineer from Genoa, Fra Antonio Leni. Along with the nearby Barone Fortress, it was the focal point of the new defence system of the city just before a major attack by the Ottoman army during Candia War.

In the peaceful centuries that followed, St. John's Fortress fell into disrepair. However, after the revitalization project, the largest and most complex land fortress in Šibenik was officially opened to public in June 2022. Through the revitalization of St. John's Fortress, two sections of the fortress were renovated and equipped - the northern part known as 'Pliers' and the southern part known as 'Star'.

The educational campus, equipped with interactive classrooms, presentation rooms, and sleeping quarters, located in pliers underground, serves as a place for networking between culture, education, and tourism sector with the aim of creating high-value-added content and improving the strategic management of cultural heritage, positioning Šibenik as a cultural and tourist attraction that successfully combines tradition and modern technology.

St. John’s Fortress is also a favourite promenade for the local people and tourists. Alongside the great view, visitors can relax in a bar or take a lasting memory of their visit in a souvenir shop with rich and original range of souvenirs Furthermore, the fortress hosts different cultural events and workshops for kids who especially enjoy fortress’ treasure hunts.

Croatian Coral Center Zlarin


The Croatian Coral Center Zlarin is museum dedicated to corals and the centuries-old tradition of coral harvesting on Zlarin. Coral harvesting is an activity that Zlarin is famous for and it represents the most important cultural heritage of the island. The first written records about Zlarin coral hunters date back to the 15th century, and red coral branches intertwine with the life, history, and tradition of Zlarin.

The museum follows the past, present, and future of the "red gold" presented on four floors of this fascinating historical house.
The story of coral cultivation is presented in an innovative and interesting way through modern technology of VR, AR, interactive tools and interesting kinetic sculpture.

Zlarin bears the title of the "Island of Corals" due to its history and tradition of extracting, processing, and trading corals. With the opening of the Coral Center, red coral becomes the driving force behind the island's development in a completely different way. Instead of exploitation, the focus shifts to the attractiveness of red coral and the need to preserve biodiversity.
Interestingly enough, Zlarin is also the first plastic free island in Croatia thanks to initiative that has prompted many to think and change their habits and no longer use single-use plastics.

The museum is also serves as a venue for movie screenings, workshops, book promotions and more what makes it a centre of island’s cultural life.

House of Arts Arsen


The House of Art Arsen is located in renovated hall of former cinema Odeon. It is placed in the city center, right on the coast, in a building designed by one of the greatest protagonists of Croatian modern architecture Zlatko Neumann in 1950s. The Odeon Cinema was opened in 1961 and operated until the end of the nineties. From then time stood still for Odeon Cinema all to 2013 when the renovation started.

The House of Art Arsen opened in 2021, and today is a venue where cultural and educational programs for audiences from “7 to 77” take place all throughout the year. The program alternates between cinema screenings, concerts, events for children, dance performances, exhibitions, multimedia arts and audience development programs.

The hall within House of Art Arsen is a unique space in Croatia, thanks to the modular flooring that allows for quick and easy transformation of the space. The almost limitless potential for interior design adaptation provides the potential of implementing of various programs, whether it involves cultural and artistic content or hosting organized private events. Bar Arsen is an integral part of the venue, open daily during regular working hours.

Tour Offers and Information

Guided tour of Barone Fortress

Guided tours in Croatian and English are available for organized groups, subject to appointment and reservation. The group is led by Fortress of Culture employees, certified guides that take visitors on approx. 30 minutes long tour.

Visitors discover circumstances and method of construction, by whom is named, who lived in the fortress and why. They are encouraged to take AR tour to see what was the life in 17th century Šibenik like.

The visitors are briefly introduced to other fortresses that can be seen from Barone Fortress walls and introduced to prominent historic figures and residents of Šibenik.

Guided tour of St. Michael’s Fortress

Guided tours in Croatian and English are available for organized groups, subject to appointment and reservation. The group is led by Fortress of Culture employees, certified guides that take visitors on 30 to 45 minutes long tour.

Visitors discover after whom the fortress is named, who lived in the fortress and why, the purpose of underground water tanks and bread oven. They are showed the oldest fortress’ wall and are told about some of exciting events, such as explosion in the gunpowder room. The visitors are also briefly introduced to other fortresses that can be seen from the St. Michael’s Fortress walls.
To sum up, the guide jump to present time and share a few words about open air stage and concerts held here.

Guided tour of St. John‘s Fortress

Guided tours in Croatian and English are available for organized groups, subject to appointment and reservation. The group is led by Fortress of Culture employees, certified guides that take visitors on approx. 30 minutes long tour.

The tour is set on the southern part of the fortress, so-called ‘star’. Here visitors can learn about the construction of the fortress and fierce Ottoman attacks form hinterland, and also discover where the Church of St. John was located. After that, the guide takes visitors to see the machine gun nest (bunker) from World War II, located on the western part of the fort, and finish the tour in front of gunpowder depot that is today converted into souvenir shop.
The tour can extend to of the northern part of St. John’s Fortress and last up to 60 minutes.

Croatian Coral Center Zlarin

Guided tours in Croatian and English for organized groups are available upon prior reservation. The tour is led by Coral Centre employee and lasts approx. 45 minutes.
The tour follows the past, present, and future of the "red gold" presented on four floors of museum. It.starts on the ground floor, with ancient history – the legend of coral formation and the start of life on island of Zlarin. From here visitors follow the centuries of coral harvesting tradition, learn about everyday life of islanders and see how corals are treated today. The tour ends on the museum highest floor where visitors learn about an important role that coral play in preserving marine life and biodiversity.

House of Arts Arsen Visit

The House of Arts Arsen is opened to all visitors (no admission) during regular working hours; the tickets for programs are sold separately.
The visitors are welcomed by hosts who provide them more information about the venue and the person it is named after - Arsen Dedić (Croatian poet, musician and a composer born in Šibenik). The visitors can explore a corner dedicated to this great artist: a wall filled with Arsen's portraits - photos and drawings by established Croatian authors; his most famous quotes, books, poetry and a bust of Arsen made by the famous Croatian musician. If there are no events, visitors can sneak a peek to the main hall.

Monument and History


The city of Šibenik was mentioned for the first time in 1066 in a charter issued by Croatian king Petar Krešimir IV. It had developed on the coastline below the rocky hilltop which was a fortified observatory point since pre-Roman times, well-positioned to control the maritime approach towards the Šibenik bay and further along the Krka river towards the hinterland.
Šibenik frequently changed its nominal masters from 12th to 14th century (Hungarian-Croatian kings, Venice, Byzantine Empire). The loose central government enabled the development of an urban mercantile elite, and the establishment of a communal system not unlike the one prevalent in Italian cities of the same era. The citizens retained their autonomy and escaped the fate of being a feudal possession. Šibenik also became a separate bishopric in 1298. In 1412, after a 3-year siege, Šibenik signed a contract of “protection” and entered the Venetian Republic. The Venetian rectors will rule and oversee the city for the next four centuries.

The fortifications of Šibenik today include four fortresses and several remains which range from medieval period to 20th century. The oldest one, set atop the Old city, is St. Michael’s Fortress, named after the (earlier?) St. Michael’s church. The archangel was Šibenik’s patron from the medieval times, and this church was the oldest in the town, until it was demolished by Austrian army in early 19th century. From its beginnings as an Illyrian and early medieval outpost, the fortress developed as an irregular rectangle, its shape finalized in the first decades of Venetian rule. One of the most interesting features is a rare example of strada di soccorso, an escape route connecting the fortress to the coastline. It was built by the Venetians in 1420’s. The city walls, which in some shape or form existed in earlier centuries, were completed and perfected by the Venetians in mid-to-late 15th century.
Šibenik bay is connected to the open sea with a somewhat narrow (150-300m), 3km long St. Anthony’s Channel. The medieval maritime defence relied on two opposite forts constructed on the eastern side of the channel, one of which is still clearly visible. In mid-16th century, under pressure by the growing Ottoman naval power, Serenissima built a series of coastal fortresses. One of them – St. Nicholas Fortress – was constructed on a small island on the western entrance to the channel. Its unique layout and architectural details are among the reasons why it was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2017, along with other Venetian fortresses.
In 16th and 17th century, the border with the Ottomans was just a couple of kilometres towards the hinterland. The medieval fortifications of Šibenik were not well adapted to the artillery warfare that developed in that period. With the outbreak of a new war in 1645, the city faced a great challenge. A large Ottoman army descended to Dalmatia and threatened its cities. The citizens of Šibenik took the initiative and started to build a new fortress on a nearby St. John’s hill above the old town. Venetian officials pitched in, and in just 58 days, a new defence was waiting the invaders. The siege in 1646 was repulsed, as was the one in summer of 1647, even though it was larger and better prepared. During the next 10-15 years, St. John’s Fortress – the focal point of new defence – was adapted and enlarged. Barone Fortress, 250m toward the southeast, guarded the eastern approach to the city. Several fortified trenches and redoubts were built around the suburbs. Two large bastions were added onto the city walls.
With the lapse of the Ottoman power in early 18th century, the fortresses became less important. Venetian Republic was terminated in 1797., and after the Napoleonic wars Dalmatia was incorporated into Austria. Barone Fortress was soon abandoned, but Austrians kept the three other fortresses. Šibenik became a city of major naval importance, along with Pula and Kotor. Austrians started with the construction of concrete fortifications and bunkers, which continued until the mid-20th century.
During the War for Croatian independence, Šibenik was an important strategic point and was besieged by the Yugoslav People's Army. The Croatian forces steadfastly defended Šibenik. During the Battle of Šibenik on 16-22 September 1991, many historical buildings were damaged. The fortresses were then used – we hope – for the last time.



St. Michael’s Fortress
was built as an observation point above the bay of Šibenik and the mouth of the river Krka, and as a refuge for the surrounding population. The position was used as a fortification since the pre-Roman era, but none of these early walls were preserved. Archaeological findings from Roman, Late Antique and early Medieval era were also excavated on the fortress. Since the 11th century, this location became the nucleus of the city of Šibenik. As the central defensive point, it was often besieged and attacked, as well as repaired and rebuilt.
St. Michael's Fortress is a monument whose layered historical development is visible in the currently preserved state. The central part of the fortress is a castle, an interior courtyard enclosed by towers connected with a high wall. The castle is circled by other fortification elements from all sides. North-east from the castle, towards St. John’s Fortress and along the whole southern side towards the city core, there are two faussebrayes. These front areas were built as an additional obstacle for the enemy, to prevent an easy approach and mining of the walls. They were well connected with the castle and other spaces of the fortress due to the need for quick communication. By the 16th century at the latest, a spacious artillery platform (place-of-arms) was established in the north-west. The platform was bordered by two towers and one of them is preserved. Next to the second, demolished tower, there is a recently discovered fortified position which controlled the coastal suburb of Šibenik.
The double walls (strada di soccorso) connected the fortress with the coast. From the historical point of view, some other spaces were included in the fortress complex, like the Madonna tower (cavalier), a high platform built in 1639, southeast from the castle, or the defensive wall towards St. John’s Fortress built in 1657. Generally, the castellan of the fortress directly managed almost one acre of walled structures, differently levelled areas and interior facilities.

Barone fortress
was built in 1646 on Vidakuša, the 80-metre-high hill above the town, and its building was financed by the people of Šibenik after several requests for help from the Republic of Venice were rejected. In the spring of 1646, the Ottomans began to gather their army in Bosnia and the Dalmatian hinterland. The construction of the new defence system of Šibenik began on 1 August 1646, under the direction of Baron Christoph Martin von Degenfeld. The works were completed after only 58 days. Barone was originally a redoubt, a smaller fortification guarding the approach toward the city. In 1659, the fortress was extended and enlarged under Antonio Bernardo (Governor of Dalmatia). Demi-bastions with thick ramparts were added to the northern wall. A new main entrance was built, and in the southern part, towards the city, auxiliary facilities were erected.

St. John’s Fortress
was built in 1646 on a 120-metre-high hill north of the old town of Šibenik. It was also built in only 58 days as the main point of the new defence system of the town, just before a large attack of the Ottoman army. The fortress was built by the inhabitants of Šibenik with their own hands and means according to the design of the Franciscan engineer Antonio Leni from Genoa. This first version of the fortress had the shape of a "star". To control the area, a tenaille was built on the northern side. Only a few days after completion, the first attack took place and the following summer another one with tens of thousands of soldiers. A month-long siege followed, with St. John's Fortress in particular being heavily damaged by Ottoman gunfire. Nevertheless, the defences held.
St. John’s Fortress is a complex fortification monument which was expanded and adapted several times in its first decades. The first work on Leni’s cramped and almost improvised fortress began nearly right after the rejected siege in 1646. The fortress was then significantly expanded towards the north and the west. After the second siege, the damaged fortress bastions were reconstructed with tufa and additionally expanded. The external fortifications towards the north and the west had also gone through several transformations from 1647 to 1664. The original tenaille and several secondary fortification elements were finally replaced with a line of three sequential hornworks. Since then, the main contours of the fortress have not been changed. St. John’s Fortress was connected to other fortification structures in the city with defensive lines.

Since 2012, St. Michael’s, St. John’s and Barone Fortress have undergone extensive renovations and transformation into modern adventure sites with diverse leisure, experiential, and educational functions. These efforts have been made possible through EU funds. These fortresses are today managed by the Public institution Fortress of Culture Šibenik whose sustainable approach to cultural heritage preservation and event organization represents one of the best practices in the development and management of fortified monuments in Europe.

It is relevant to mention that along with the three described fortresses; in the City of Šibenik area there is one more, fourth fortress – which is under the management of the Public Institution Nature of Šibenik-Knin County:
St. Nicholas Fortress
was built on the island of Ljuljevac, guarding the entrance of the St. Antoniu Channel from the Adriatic into the Bay of Šibenik. Designed and constructed in the 16th century by the Venetian architect and builder Giangirolamo Sanmicheli (nephew of Michele Sanmicheli), the fortress of St. Nicholas stands as one of the most valuable and best-preserved examples of defensive architecture in Dalmatia. Armed with 32 cannons and constructed of bricks with stone foundations, the structure served various armies over the centuries and underwent several renovations. Since 2017, the Fortress of St. Nicholas has held the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the defence system of the Republic of Venice between the 16th and 17th centuries.


Nature Experience

Walk along the promenade in The St Anthony's Channel is about 4.4 kilometres long and designed in the natural harmony of the protected area. It takes about two hours to walk along the whole promenade, which proves to be a great experience accompanied by the opportunity to enjoy awe-inspiring panoramic views of Šibenik and the Šibenik archipelago from several locations. It also takes you to an island in close proximity to St. Nicholas Fortress.

Šibenik is also the starting point for various boat tours across the bay, through the St. Anthony Channel towards the sea, often combined with swimming, snorkelling or diving.

A short car drive from Šibenik takes you to Krka National Park, famous for its waterfalls, lakes, and lush greenery. The river Krka springs near Knin and flows into the bay of Šibenik after only 72 kilometres. With hikes to the famous waterfalls, canoe trips and much more, nature lovers have a wide range of activities at their disposal. Less adventurous can take a boat trip from Skradin to explore the park's stunning natural beauty.

From Šibenik you can also take a tour to the offshore islands or Kornati National Park. It comprises of more than a thousand islands, islets and reefs what makes it the densest group of islands in the Mediterranean.