Towers of Dalmatia – Rakitnica fortress near Vodice

Rakitnica ruins near Vodice: a place known by few and visited by fewer…

Located on a steep hill near the local road connecting Vodice and Gaćeleze village, this fortress is now just a set of ruined buildings and towers. So, as I have never been there before, I had to use this beautiful spring (Finally!!!) day for a small expedition to the unknown.

The tower

Actually, the fortress used to be called Gradina and Rakitnica was the name of a village in the foothil that is now gone. I managed to see walls portions of buildings in near the fields but those are now cowered by the heavy vegetation and trees… Rakitnice does not exist any more…

The fortress can be seen from the main road and much better from the side, dirt road passing bellow the hill. However, the climb looks much easier that it really is! The main problem is with the wire fences spread between the olive groves and the forest. It looks like the farmers are trying to stop some beasts from entering but all we heard were the sheep…
So, after we finally found our way up, we were pretty exhausted (blame it on the winter and too much good food :))
Bushes, old branches, rocky stone walls..all made the climb slow…

One of many buildings of Rakitnica

But once we reached the top, we had something to see!
What looks like one tower and few ruined walls, is actually a fairly big complex of walls, houses and towers and some are still in GREAT shape! This fortress has been erected in 1509 and here is what one house looks like:

The walls still standing!

As always, most damage to historic monuments of Dalmatia was done either by the Venetians ruining the military objects in fear of Turkish come back or by the local population using the objects as excelent quarries for their houses elsewhere…
There are several beautiful old houses in the foothill and those are most likely built from Raktnica stone…

Houses in the foothill of Rakitnica

In brief, history of Rakitnica is typical of most of the fortresses of Šibenik area – a very important area in the 14th through 16th century. Around 1509 on the hill above Rakitnica village, locals began building Gradina fortress, which is still well preserved today. Namely, back in the 15th century when Turkish conquests began to spread into this area, the Venetian authorities in Sibenik passed a regulation prescribing that observation forts had to be built on all major elevations near settlements to provide shelter for people and defend themselves more efficiently.
After war broke out between Venice and Turkey in 1570, Venetian authorities sent army to Gradina. However, Turks took over Rakitnica only a year after that, and most of its resident fled to Vodice. Turks remained in Rakitnica and on Gradina, even the Aga and Dizdar (Turkish officials) stayed there. Turks had the entire surrounding area on the palm of their hand from Gradina, all the way from Murter to Sibenik, and they began to threaten the coastal settlements more and more, including Vodice. They even tried to conquer the island of Prvic several times. Sibenik tried on several occasions to free Rakitnica, but they could not retrieve the building so well fortified. So Gradina remained in Turkish hands till the end of Turkish rule in this area (late 17th century)

The tower

Today, the entire Vodice hinterland is being “discovered” and more and more people are building small houses to escape the crowds in the summer. The fertile land is mostly covered by olive groves and vineyards although marasca cherry and almonds are quite common as well.

The fortress of Rakitnica is still shadowing the fields of a ghost village and it is well worth the climb if in this area!

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