Gripe Fortress

A neglected 17th century military gem.

Before the seventeenth century, Split’s fortifications encircling the Old Town were mostly inadequate in the wake of the gunpowder era. After the Candian War broke out in 1645 between the Ottoman Empire and the Venetian Republic over the Greek island of Crete, it quickly became apparent that the fortification systems of the ancient Republic were inadequate statewide. As an effort to increase defensibility of Split, a new system of fortifications that could withstand cannonades was designed and centered around the fortress Gripe and also included the still partially preserved bastion system that encircles the area of the Old Town.

Built in five stages from 1647 to 1682, the Baroque fortress of Gripe which quickly became the crucial strategic point of the town’s defense in the gunpowder era, returned its investment several times during the ensuing war with the Ottomans. This proved to particularly be the case on June 13, 1657, when the Ottoman forces headed by the governor of Bosnia, Seyyid Ahmed Pasha, attacked and briefly took control of the fortress. The near collapse of town’s defense was only saved by a successful counterattack by Split’s garrison that took back the possession of the fort. The Ottomans retaliated the next day when they tried to take the town directly but they were repelled again. On June 18, the Ottomans charged Gripe again, but as Venetian reinforcements started to trickle in from Trogir, Brač and Hvar, their raid proved unsuccessful. A day later, after the Ottoman forces received significant reinforcements from Bosnia, another charge at the Gripe fortress was launch, but despite managing to take it, a counterattack by the Split garrison managed to take back the possession of the fort which resulted in a stalemate. The Ottomans finally withdrew on June 21, when the Venetian fleet launched from Kotor Bay and headed by the provveditore of Dalmatia Antonio Bernardo finally arrived in Split.

In the middle of the nineteenth century, the Gripe fortress was transformed into a Habsburg military base and remain in military ownership of various armies that controlled the region throughout the twentieth century. Today the fortress is freely accessible to the general public and its buildings now house the Split branch of the Croatian State Archive, Croatian Maritime Museum and the Art Academy of Split. Unfortunately, the fortress is presently unkempt and largely neglected both by local government. In 2017, six fortification systems from the former Republic of Venice were inscribed to the UNESCO World Heritage List under the name: Venetian Works of Defence between the 16th and 17th Centuries: Stato da Terra – Western Stato da Mar. These included fortifications in Italy, Montenegro and Croatia. Unfortunately, years of public neglect of the Gripe Fortress meant that the fort that saved the city of Split in 1657 was not included on the list.

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Glagoljaška ulica 16
Split 21000 Splitsko-dalmatinska županija HR
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