We are continuing our journey across the Croatian cities. And today we are going to walk around the most Venetian town on the coast of the Adriatic Sea – Korcula. It is situated on an island with the same name.
To reach the destination you have to take a ferry. This island is connected with all seaports (Dubrovnik, Split, Ploce) but the most popular ferry crossings are done from Orebic which is located on the Peljesac Peninsula.
We decided to take the last variant and already within 20 minutes we were on the island.
Despite its small size and being far from the continent, Korcula is a really popular touristic place and in summer there are lots of them. Most people who go to Korcula for holidays use apartments as accommodation.
But in winter the city is nearly «dying out» from tourists and you can slowly wander through the narrow streets and study different sights. But the main winter gift consists of free parking. We left our car just near the city walls and went to conquer the Old City.
Now I want to say a few words about the history of Korcula. The island was inhabited for many centuries. In the place of Korcula firstly was Greek settlement and then Roman one. But its main purpose – a fortress of the Peljesac Peninsula – Korcula received in the 20th century AD. It is the time when Korcula became a city.
At various times, the owners of the town were the Slavic princes, Croatian-Hungarian kings and rulers of Genoa. In the history of Korcula was also a brief period of independence. In 1420 the city finally came under the control of the Venetians. Just then, in the XV-XVI centuries, the biggest part of the city was built in a typical for that time Renaissance style. On the city walls is depicted the Venetian coat of arms – a lion who had put his paw on the book.
Houses are decorated with carved windows and emblems of families living there. However, the main distinguishing feature of architecture that highlights Korcula among other Adriatic «Venetian» possessions – is a large number of balconies-transitions.
Such ones we saw only in Venice itself. Residents of the island city are aware of it, and cherish their heritage, constantly restoring them and even build new ones. This reverent attitude to architecture is explained by the fact that along with shipbuilding stone carving was the main occupation of the inhabitants of medieval Korcula. It is not surprising that already in the 15th century «a pearl of architectural art» was said about the city and in the 17th century one of the Croatian poets called Korcula «a decoration of the world».
Let’s move back to the main sights of the city.
The city walls are considered to be the oldest part of the city. They were built in the XIII century. They were restored and strengthened many times so today we can see quite modern masonry among medieval fortifications.
In the XV century the town was fortified by an ensemble of fortifications: Sea Gate Tower (1448g), South Gate (1496g), Great Princely Tower (1499g), Bokar (1484g), All Saints (1499g) and Zakernyan (1490g). But they do not all come down to us in their original form. At the site of the Tower of All Saints only a semi-circular base has preserved. It is now installed by old cannons.
On one of them the seal of a winged lion – the symbol of the Venetian Republic has remained.
The Big and Little Prince Towers
The Zakernyan Tower
The Bokar Tower
You can enter the old town through the tower Veliki Ravelin – Southern land gate. Originally a wooden drawbridge led to the tower but in the XVIII century it was replaced by a broad stone steps.
To the left of the entrance is the City Hall which is very similar to the Big City Lodge in Trogir. There are stored arms, guns and plaques.
If you walk through the gallery of the Town Hall you will find yourself near the Big and Little Prince towers. On the way we saw a very interesting and modern sign . It said that Marco Polo was imprisoned in this tower. But as we were looking on the Internet for confirmation of this fact we couldn’t find it. Apparently history is being written right in front of us and soon we will be able to visit the new sight.
We are back to the main entrance. And here we can see St. Michael’s Church.
The St. Michael’s Church
St. Michael church is located directly opposite the main entrance, near the town hall. The first mention of it dates back to 1408 year but its present appearance church received in the XVII-XVIII centuries.Its main feature is the elongated shape of the window and portal crowned by a small arched niche with a marble statue of St. Michael.
An interior of the church has survived: the original furniture, old paintings and gilded chandeliers.
If you go under the bridge to the left of the church then after a few meters you will arrive to the main square of the city of Korcula. And the first point of interest is Church of Our Lady.
The Church of Our Lady
The church was built in 1438 and was used as a chapel for the home of noble Korchula families Korchula – Gabriellis and Ismaelis. Here are their burial. The church was rebuilt several times and now there is a gallery of visual arts. If you visit the church note the amazing mosaic behind the altar created by the Dutch artist Luis Shrikkell. To the right of the church is a medieval column that was built simultaneously with the church. But unlike the latter the column reached the present day without any restorations, in its original form.
The next sight that met us in scaffolding was Palace Gabriellis.
The Palace Gabriellis
The house is one of the noble families of Korcula was built in the XV century. In 1957 there was opened the City Museum which presents a variety of exhibitions devoted to the history and culture of the city. But people are especially proud of the collection of works of art collected there over the years. These paintings, sculptures are made of different materials, photos, jewelry, etc.
Next historical value – Bishop’s Palace. It is located opposite the Palace Gabriellis.
The Bishop’s Palace
The age of this house, which was built in the Renaissance style, is more than 4 centuries. Its distinguishing feature is the balcony for total length of the facade. According to a local legend, it is one of the longest balconies in the Mediterranean. Itself, a two-store building with a balcony can not attract the attention of tourists, but the treasures presented in the Episcopal palace are known throughout the world. There is remained a small collection of icons, some of them were recognized as a rarity. The palace is also demonstrates exhibition of paintings, which are of great artistic value: «Portrait of a Man» Carpaccio «Virgin and Child» Bossano, Raphael drawings, a tiny image of the Madonna, made by a local artist. One of the most valuable exhibits is considered to be a sketch soldier costume, made by Leonardo da Vinci.
The main sight of the square is the Cathedral of St. Mark.
The Cathedral of St. Mark
The Cathedral is one of the oldest buildings in Korcula. In the XIII century in this place was a small church but after the creation of the diocese in the XIV century and rapid development of architecture and construction, it was decided to replace the old church and to build a Gothic cathedral. And since Korcula at that time was ruled by the Venetians, the cathedral was built in honor of St. Mark.
Later, locals have erected a chapel next to the Cathedral of Saint Roch as gratitude for ridding the city of the plague. Among the decorations of the cathedral we can identify tympanum with the figure of St. Mark, a statue of St. Blaise and ornate portal with figures of lions and unusual statues of Adam and Eve.
The inhabitants of Korcula, apparently liked the decoration of the form, and they made them throughout the city.
The next ensemble of historic buildings is St. Peter’s Church and the ancestral home of the traveler Marco Polo.
The St. Peter’s Church
It is a great Gothic church of the XIV century. The decoration of the portal is a bas-relief with the image of Saint Peter – working of master Bonino.
If possible, always try to get to church. There, along the walls, you can see the unique wooden sculptures of the apostles, and it is crowned by a statue of Peter, set in the center of the altar.
The birthplace of Marco Polo
According to some Croatian historians, the birthplace of Marco Polo (1254-1324) was not Venice but Korcula. The reason for this statement is the fact that in the city there was a house that belonged to his father. In addition, the first evidence of the Polo family in Venice is only in the second half of the XIII century. Second, this time confirmed fact of Marco Polo being in Korcula dates back to 1298 year. He was here in the battle between the Venetians (who owned the island) and the Genoese, and the latter was taken as a prisoner. The sign, found by us above confirms his participation in the battle. But as the Genoese couldn’t capture the island of Korcula, captivated Marco Polo could not sit there in prison. The time spent in prison was not in vain. He wrote his famous book, Wonders of the World.
Now the ancestral house of the Polo family is the traveler Museum. The exhibition includes wax figures in costumes of the time and the scenery illustrating scenes from the life of the traveler, as well as banners with printed quotations from the books of Marco Polo. There are scenes from the life of Marco Polo in Korcula, his journey through the Egyptian sands and China, meeting scene with Kublai Khan in Mongolia, as well as scenes of imprisonment of Marco Polo in Genoa.
Sights described above are considered the major in the Old Town. Taking a walk through the narrow streets, we found some the dilapidated churches and the unusual facades. But we couldn’t find the detailed information about their history.
For the end, I prepared another church for you, built in the second half of the XIX century – The St. Justin church. It is located outside the city walls of the Old Town, but you can easily find it by the dome with the statue of Christ’s resurrection.
Earlier in this place another church was located. Named Saints Sergius and Bach. But during the city attacks it was heavily damaged and destroyed. Some of the icons that has adorn the modern Church of St. Justina now.
Alarm clock reminded us that the ferry will soon sail to the mainland, and we went home. Here you can find the schedule of the ferries out of season (01.01.2016 – 02.06.2016 and 10.03.2016 – 31.12.2016). And this is a schedule for a ferry from Orebic to Korcula during the tourist season
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