Saturday Art: Nin, Ancient Capitol of Croatia

Entry to Nin with ancient fishing boat and front gate

The historic walled city of Nin, Croatia, is over an hour’s ride from Zadar, and well worth the trip.   It’s on an inlet, surrounded by Croatia’s dramatic mountains.   The old walls stand around a small island, which has been protected from Croatia’s many and constant invaders by remoteness.

The excavations of historic structures there are accessible, and even without the permission I got from the welcoming historic center hosts, visitors can walk through them without confronting protective fences and guards.   The small archaeological museum is open, with ancient icons easily available and touchable monuments.

Since the 9th century B.C. the civilization of the Illyrian tribe of Liburnians[1] was present before the Romans came, who had a strong sea and trade center called Aenona. The rich archeological finds prove strong sea links with Greece and the Hellenistic world: recent explorations revealed a rarity, a very well preserved Byzantine mosaic on the floor of aRoman villa.

The Croats colonized Nin at the beginning of the 7th century. The first Croatian state community was formed at the end of the 8th and beginning of the 9th century. Nin was the first Croatian royal town, with its period of glory being from the 7th to the 13th centuries.

In Nin, the former capitol of  Croatia, coronations of the rulers were held when regimes changed.   Now there is a festival that celebrates its history and its reclamation, with ceremonies held in the world’s smallest cathedral, the church of the Holy Cross.

The small church of the Holy Cross from the 9th century is the most important pre-Romanesque preserved monument of the old Croatian architecture. A cupola covers the center of the cross-shaped ground plan of the church named “the smallest cathedral of the World”. The name of a Croatian župan Godecaj is extolled on the adorned stone lintel of the small church. There is another inscription “Branimir Duke of the Croats” that originates from a former church of St. Michael around 888. The present parish church of St. Anselm has been built on the location of an old Romanesque- Gothic cathedral. Its treasury keeps the reliquaries from around 800 AD.

The waters around the old capitol hold boats of all sorts, one of them an antique fishing boat resurrected for modern day visitors.

In the town center is the very essential well, that kept the residents supplied during many sieges.

Well on cobbled streets inside city of Nin

Like all of Croatia, in Nin, flowers, abundant vegetables and fruit grow everywhere, and olive groves are scattered throughout the town.   Wonderful grotesque sculptures are guardians at the gates, and cobbled walkways wind through lovely homes made of the omnipresent stone.

Guardian sculpture on back gate of Nin
Excavated sculpture in Archaeological Museum of Nin

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