Hercules of Brac – in search of ancient quarries

Few weeks back, a friend of mine organized a group to go to Brac Island and learn more on the Roman quarries of Brac. The group was led by an authority on Roman quarries, Dr. Mate Parica who is THE person to go to if interested in ancient quarries. Not only that he has seen the most of the quarries in the region, he also did a lot of research on rock quarrying and ancient techniques. Brač is still the best place for getting quality stone and the tradition is ancient. Only a short ferry ride away, Brac  makes a great place for historic research and what better place to start from but the Museum of Brac at Skrip village.

The Museum of Brac at Skrip
The Museum of Brac in Skrip

We started at the museum as it has a lovely collection of Hercules reliefs – something very closely connected to ancient stone masons and quarry workers.

The thumb of mother of Constantine the Great.. at least a theory
The thumb of mother of Constantine the Great.. at least a theory

The workers  – usually slaves and prisoners of war – working at the quarries had to be tough and strong: just like Hercules. Thus so many representations and altars dedicated to this ancient hero.

Hercules
Hercules

Skrip Museum is a lovely place telling the story of the most ancient times on the island. There is also a megalithic construction behind the actual building. Probably an ancient fortress. All those unique layers, make Skrip simply a must see for everyone visiting!

And then we moved on in search of actual quarries and more Hercules statues…

The quarry of Rasohe
The quarry of Rasohe

The quarry of Rasohe was particularly impressive and it was interesting to see that local community made an effort to actually clan everything and put signs to it. This is the place where stone for Diocletian’s Palace was actually taken from. Hundreds of slaves must have worked at this place and quarries were probably the worse places to work at back in those days… I could think of few worse ones (like mines and underground aqueducts) but this was very difficult and demanding work. The Rasohe quarry is quite impressive but Mate told us of a quarry on Vrnik island near Korčula being much bigger and far more impressive than this one! A place to visit!

Mate Parica explaining basic techniques for excavating stone
Mate Parica explaining basic techniques for excavating stone

Mate also explained a lot on how the stone was taken out and transported to the sea and on the vessels to modern day Split. We were also explained the techniques and methods of getting the best stone. Quite fascinating as Roman engineers did not take any chances and were using only the best stone for the most important buildings. But we were not alone! Beautiful  four-lined snake (Kravosas in Croatian) was hiding and waiting for us to go away.

Europe's largest nonvenomous colubrid species
Europe’s largest nonvenomous colubrid species

Before we left, we had to see  Hercules of Rasohe Quarry. The image does not give a proper feeling of the beauty of this great relief and it simply has to be seen in real life to be appreciated. The art work is not the greatest and it is generally considered that this was done by one of the slaves, with basic tools and not too much time. . But the Hercules also suffered from the weather in all this 1700+ years it has been out there…

The Hercules of Rasohe
The Hercules of Rasohe

Our next stop was at beautiful Lovrečina bay. Not just another of many beautiful bays and inlets of Brač Island.

Lovrečina bay
Lovrečina bay

The remains of an early christian church (5. or 6th ct)  in this bay are one of the most interesting in the country for it’s baptistery and nicely preserved wall paintings. Nothing fancy – just a simple color pattern – but still a valuable evidence of original traditions. Brač is also known for numerous ancient churches and chapels scattered all over this beautiful island but we are leaving those for another visit.

Remains of an ancient church
Remains of an ancient church

Brač is a great destination for both culture and nature lovers. It is like a small continent with amazing wealth of all sorts of sites dating back to the first inhabitants of our Adriatic coast and continuing with Romans, medieval settlements, villages hidden deep in the interior hiding from the pirates and danger. It is also a place of great culinary traditions so we stopped at quite popular Kopačina restaurant, before getting back on a ferry, for some traditional food and great local wine.

Kopačina Restaurant
Kopačina Restaurant

Only 50 minutes back. Enough for a nap. The ferries connect Split and Supetar many times a day year round.

Ferry back to Split
Ferry back to Split

Another great visit to this beautiful island…

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Historical and Maritime Museum of Istria

I love maritime museums. A year ago I was in Pula and had some time on my own so I decided to visit their maritime museum. Pula was the most important military naval base of Austro-Hungary and that is my favorite part of naval history: late 19th century and WWI. Since 1961,  founded as the Museum of the Revolution on December 31, 1955, Historical and Maritime Museum of Istria is housed in the restored Venetian fortification on the highest peak in Pula.

Museum guarded by canons
Museum guarded by canons

Museum is “guarded” by an impressive collection of canons.

Habsburg coat of arms
Habsburg coat of arms
Over the former drawbridge...
Over the former drawbridge…

 

Now this is official list of their exhibits:

The Museum has several departments – Department of the history of Pula, Department of medieval Istrian history and the Department of modern Istrian history with adjoining collections (Cultural-historic collection of urban life, Collection of old postcards and photographs, Collection of maritime history and shipbuilding, Collection of economic development, Cultural-historical collection of suburban life, Collection of insignia, diplomas, seals and coats-of-arms, Coin collection, Collection of arms, uniforms and military equipment, Collection of film and video recordings, Collection of memoirs and phonographic recordings, Collection of significant persons and the recently established Collection of old maps. In the rich museum holdings (over 40,000 artifacts), particularly important is the collection of old postcards, maps and the collection of arms, uniforms, military and maritime equipment.

But, the museum collection is not attractively presented and the interiors are quite dated.

Old farmacy- K. u. K. Marinespital Apotheke
Old pharmacy – K. u. K. Marinespital Apotheke

The most impressive is – on permanent display – naval military pharmacy: K. u. K. Marinespital Apotheke. It was established in 1861. in a local hospital but only in 1990. it was transferred to the museum building and in 2005. it was opened to public. The pharmacy and all the artifacts on display are quite impressive!

My favorite part is, as mentioned,  the part that deals with maritime history.

Old figurehead
Old figurehead

The collection consists of numerous objects on display dating from the oldest time of Istria’s maritime history. The home port of the Austro-Hungarian Navy was the Seearsenal (naval base) at Pula where it was moved from Venice. Supplementary bases included  Trieste and Kotor in Montenegro.  Both Trieste and Pula had major shipbuilding facilities. One of the largest dry docks in the Mediterranean of that time was located in Pula as well. The city of Pula was also the site of the central church of the navy “Stella Maris” (k.u.k. Marinekirche “Stella Maris”), of the Austro-Hungarian Naval Observatory and the empire’s naval cemetery or k.u.k. Marinefriedhof).

Times long gone...
Times long gone…

Austrian rule in Croatia was not ideal but after them the Italians came also imposing their customs, language… The interventions to the museum building – which was still a fortress back then – were done by the fascist Italy.
A walk around the walls is quite nice!

Walk on the fortress walls
Walk on the fortress walls

Overall, the museum is well worth visiting if you are interested in history and like a casual walk in a historic setting. Heart of Pula is quite charming although I don’t hear many people saying so and everyone only talks about the arena or the temple.

A watchdog
A watchdog

Historical and Maritime Museum of Istria has a website with more information but the web site is in Croatian and Italian only.

Address: Gradinski uspon 6, 52 100 Pula
Tel: 052/211-566, 052/211-740
Fax: 052/211-566
E-mail: pmi(at)pmi.hr
URL: www.pmi.hr

Hours:
Winter (1. October– 31. March): 09:00 – 17:00
Summer (1. April– 30. September): 08:00 – 21:00

Entrance ticket is 10 kn (1,5 E) for adults and half that for children.

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Croatia tours

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gnalic Shipwreck Exhibition at Biograd City Museum

This year’s Night at the Museum we spent at home as it was too cold for a baby to go out. So, it is a perfect opportunity to present one of Croatia’s most exclusive museum collections located in Biograd’s own City Museum.

Biograd and view of Pasman Channel
Biograd and view of Pasman Channel

The shipwreck of Gnalic and it’s find was a major news back in the mid 60s when fishermen from Murter Island discovered the shipwreck by accident.  Back in 1967, not too many people were scuba diving so the shipwreck’s precious cargo was saved. From the Venetian records we now know a fact or two about the ship and the shipwreck: during a storm in 1583.  the Venetian merchant ship Gagiana sank near the rocky inlet Gnalic located few miles south of Biograd.
The Pasman Channel gets some pretty rough seas from jugo wind and it is sometimes quite hard to even see Gnalic covered in big waves. Experienced it personally myself once battling seas for hours to reach Vrgada which is only 2 miles south…

Venetian galley from that period
Venetian galley from that period

The shipwreck and its rich cargo were salvaged mostly between 1967. and 1974. and then the remaining smaller objects were located in 1996. while the last expedition took place in 2010 in cooperation with one university from Texas.
The salvaging operation was conducted by former Yugoslav military that only had the equipment for such an operation back in those days.

Anchors on Biograd riva. One of them is still standing in front of the museum...
Anchors on Biograd riva. One of them is still standing in front of the museum...

However, the operation was not so successful in all aspects as, during the lifting of one of the canons, the rope snapped…

Nine canons were found on the the sea bed
Nine canons were found on the the sea bed

and the canon fell back down…straight on a perfectly preserved chest full of murano glasses…

Remains of glasses
Remains of glasses

There was plenty more where that came from so the collection of glass is still impressive.

Thanks for this find, he City  Museum in Biograd was established in 1970 and the remains of the ship were exhibited to the public. Some of the finds were simply spectacular:
Twenty little wooden boxes were recovered in 1968, each containing a dozen leather-framed spectacles. By the design, it is most likely they were made in Nuremberg, Germany. The great majority of the frames were damaged because of the 400 years of direct contact with the sea. There are less than twenty-five leather-framed eyeglasses in the US and less than one hundred in all the known European collections making this the largest collection of leather-framed glasses in the world.
There were other great treasures preserved as well.

Cargo on display
Cargo on display

Most popular find are the nine bronze cannons – two of which were dated 1582, great numbers of brass chandeliers from Lubeck in North Germany, sheets of brass, coils of brass wire, tin bars, bell-shaped cinnabar and very expensive and colored purple most likely from Lucca, Italy. Besides the mentioned items, the cargo consisted of numerous items for daily use:  thimbles, sewing needles, pins, razors, glass, scissors, various wether-bells, two precision scales… Most of the cargo, however, consisted of raw materials and semi-manufactured products.

Canons
Canons

The most important finds were not metal but textile!

Textile found in an iron chest on the bottom of the sea
Textile found in an iron chest on the bottom of the sea

Textile items found : rolls – 54 m of silk damask, three long white shirts and eight woolen caps.  All these items were been cleaned and conserved in a private foundation called ABBEGO form Riggesburg near Bern.
The damask is the longest historic piece of that fabric still preserved and it is so precious that the conservation was paid for by 3 meters of the actual fabric!

Although the most important finds have been preserved and saved, the amateur divers still plunder the location of the shipwreck in search of small pieces. Some local diving clubs even exhibit some of the finds with authorities doing nothing about it…

Artifacts from different periods
Artifacts from different periods

Biograd City Museum is still housed in a late 18th century building and not providing adequate exhibiting space for such an important find. There are numerous more exhibits found in the region that played very important part in our national history with Biograd being the crowning city of Croatian kings in late 11th century … before it was destroyed by the Venetians in 1125. never again to restore it’s influence and power.
A great place to visit and simply a must for all history lovers traveling to Croatia and coming to this region.

Biograd City Museum
Obala P. Krešimira IV 22
23210 Biograd na Moru
Tel./Fax – 023/383-721

http://www.biogradnamoru.hr/