Just above the roofs of the old town, as a permanent reminder of the glorious pirate history, stands one of the most famous Omiš landmarks – the fortress of Mirabela.
The old pirates of Omiš used Mirabela as a lookout over the Channel of Brač, so that rich merchant ships had no way of sailing along the coast of Omiš unnoticed. The fortress itself was built in the 13th century, and, interestingly enough, its age was in fact determined based on an old Byzantine coin that some visionary pirate had obviously thrown into its foundations, making it much easier for future generations to determine the age of this important fortress and a long-standing witness of numerous wars and battles throughout the history in which it undoubtedly played a crucial role.
But although over the centuries it had managed to resist all kinds of forces of man, not even Mirabela could measure up against a force of nature. During a heavy storm in 1988, the top of the fortress was struck by lightning and the medieval fort was almost completely destroyed. Luckily, dedicated restorers gathered and reused every last peace of stone in the long process of restoring the fortress back to its original form.
Mirabela stands today as one of the most popular landmarks of Omiš, attracting tourists with its accessibility and the one of a kind view over the entire town offered from the top of the fortress. You can reach Mirabela by a set of stairs leading up to it directly from the entrance to the Parish Church of St Michael, the entrance ticket to the fortress will cost you mere 20 HRK (01.07. – 31.08. = 30 HRK).
But money will be the last thing on your mind anyway once you catch sight of the red roofs of the old town and realize, on your way to the top, that you’re climbing up the same set of stairs the old pirates used to rush down to get to their fast Sagittae (arrow) boats after spotting a Venetian ship from the top of the fortress.
If you are spending more than a day in Omiš, a short climb up to the Fortica fortress is something you should by no means miss. A well-marked path leading from the very centre of town will take even the ones not exactly in top form up to the fortress in less than an hour, and once there, you’ll be richly rewarded for your efforts by one of the most magnificent views in all of Dalmatia.
Once you set foot onto the more than 500 years old fortress, you’ll understand in an instance why the medieval inhabitants of Omiš hauled the heavy stone blocks all the way up to the top of the mountain in the first place. The one of a kind view over the islands of Brač, Hvar and Šolta, the Cetina canyon and a good portion of Poljica offered from the top of the fortress will prove itself as reason enough for such labour. Fortica was, in fact, primarily used as a lookout, and whatever the direction the enemies approached from, the watch guards would be able to spot them early enough to warn the inhabitants of Omiš of danger. This is why precisely the Fortica fortress is said to be one of the most important reasons for the town of Omiš remaining unconquered throughout its entire history.
Other than as a lookaout, the medieval inhabitants of Omiš also used Fortica as a place of refuge. In case of imminent danger the people of Omiš would flee their houses along the coast and seek refuge in Fortica, and there where even plans to send huge boulders crashing down onto the town from the mountain top if the enemies ever came too close. Fortunately, despite the many battles the pirates of Omiš engaged in, this plan was never carried out and the numerous houses, narrow alleys and squares of the old town of Omiš still stand today.
There are several paths you can take up to the Fortica. The easiest and most frequently used path leads up from the pasta factory of Prerada in the Eastern part of town. After climbing up the curvy local road for a couple of minutes you should see a sign marking the path to the Fortica on your left. From this point you have no more than 50 minutes of easy climbing along a well marked forest path to reach your ultimate goal. The entrance ticket to the fortress will cost you no more than 20 Croatian kuna, which is about a “kuna” per each selfie you are bound to take once on top of the fortress, with the magnificent view over the numerous Dalmatian islands spreading out before you 😉
THE HOUSE OF A HAPPY MAN (16. C.)
Walking through the numerous narrow alleyways of the old town, almost at every corner you’ll discover a quaint little square or a charming house. One of them is especially cherished by the locals and interesting to tourists. After all, there aren’t many houses in the world with an official name, and let alone a name as peculiar as this one – “The House of a Happy Man”.
This beautiful Renaissance house got its name by a Latin inscription above the entrance that reads, in translation: “I thank thee, Lord, for having lived in this world” (GRATIAS AGO TIBI DNE QUIA FUI IN HOC MONDO). It is believed that it used to be the house of Ivan Primojević, a lawyer and the ambassador of Omiš commune in Venice.
Unfortunately, not much is known today about its original owner, but the house itself has luckily been well preserved over the centuries and today represents one of the most beautiful examples of classic Dalmatian architecture of the Venetian period.
“The House of a Happy Man” was originally built with the workshops and living room on the ground floor, sleeping quarters on the first floor and the kitchen on the top floor. Such an organization of the interior had baffled historians for a long time, until they finally figured out why medieval architects designed the interior in such a, seemingly, inpractical way.
The reason lay in the fact that many houses of the period suffered destruction by fire, and sources of fire are at home most commonly found in the kitchen. As houses with kitchens on lower floors were mostly turned into ashes in fires, the medieval inhabitants of Omiš realized with time that lifting the kitchen up to higher floors would significantly reduce the possible damage caused by fires, which soon made this particular form of interior design a standard in Omiš.
“The House of a Happy Man ” was one of the first ones in town to have been built in this – at the time still innovative – manner. Who knows, this may well be the reason why its owner‘s happiness 😉
At this point in the riverbed traces of the old medieval underwater wall named Mostina are still visible today. The wall used to have a secret passage adjusted precisely to the draft and width of the Omiš pirates’ small and light boats – sagittae, and formed a trap and an insurmountable obstacle for the entrance enemy ships.
CHURCH OF ST. PETER (X. C.)
Church of St Peter on the Western bank of the Cetina, in the part of town called Priko
Due to its well-preserved condition and architectural features the Church of St. Peter (10th century) is considered to be one of the most important examples of Early Croatian Pre-Romanesque sacral architecture, and it was first mentioned in 1074, during the rule of King Slavac.Zbog očuvanosti i arhitektonskih obilježja, značajan je predstavnik starohvatskog predromaničkog sakralnog graditeljstva, prvi put se spominje 1074.god. za vladavine kralja Slavca.
THE ILLIRYAN SEMINARY (1750.)
In year 1750 on the remnants of an old Benedictine and later Franciscan Monastery the Seminary of Glagolitic Priests was founded and existed, with periodic interruptions, until 1879.
THE OLD CEMENTERY IN OMIŠ
The old cemetery in Omiš with the Bonito-Drašković family mausoleum (dating back to 1630) and the Church of our Lady of Snow built on the foundations of an older Early-Christian chapel, is unique and recognizable for its outdoor tombstones with carved inscriptions. The cemetery also boasts 6 ancient Roman sarcophagi with original markings and inscriptions, as well as many tombs of famous Omiš families, the oldest among them dating back to 1515.
This was also the site of discovery of the inscribed stone slab of King Miroslav (12th century)– another tombstone with an inscription written in the Bosnian Cyrillic Script (widely known as Bosančica) bearing testimony of the great family of the Kačić Dukes, famous for having bred a number of pirate captains mentioned in various historical sources from Rome to Constantinople.
POLJICA SQUARE (EARLY 17. C.)
The place of the main market, grain trade and fairs. It got its more appealing appearance at the beginning of the 17th century, and it was decorated in 1811 during the regulation of the river bank. A flag pole with the coat of arms of providur Molina (1961) was also used for the announcement of orders and public punishment for minor offences.
CARALIPEO HOUSE (EARLY 17. C.)
An early Baroque building, one of the first buildings built among the family houses alongside the western town wall. An example of a two-story house with elegant balconies, which were built high on the second story because of the town wall. There is a memorial plaque in the honour of Pavle Caralipeo that was erected by Ivan Matulić and Ante Benković together with fellow citizens in 1981 for his merits in regulation of river bank.
PARISH CHURCH OF ST. MICHAEL (EARLY 17. C.) WITH A BELL TOWER (EARLY 18. C.)
It combines the stylistic features of Gothic style, Renaissance and early Baroque. A lavish portal from the workshop of the Bokanić family from the island of Brač, a window rosetta, the statue of St. Michael and the coat of arms of Omiš dominate the church. The coats of arms of Venetian providurs are located above the side entrance. The new bell tower was built according to the project of the Venetian engineer Giovani Battista Camozzini. The church also contains valuable sacred works of art.
THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (1585.)
It was built in the place of a Gothic church that was completely renovated in 1585. Located under the Omiš kaštel, right in the heart of the old administrative buildings of the commune (town office and the writing office, and near the providur’s palace) The altarpiece ˝The Descent of the Holy Spirit˝, was painted by Jacopo Palma Junior (early 17th century).
THE CHURCH OF ST. ROCCO (16. C.)
The church of the eponymous brotherhood. Francesco Negri painted the altarpiece ˝Virgin Mary with Jesus, St. Rocco and St. Sebastian˝, with the coat of arms of the Kačić Dukes.
St. Rocco and St. Sebastian are the patron saints of plague, which threatened the town on several occasions.
THE MONUMENTAL FIVE-SIDED FORTIFICATION (1659.)
The monumental five-sided fortification – the baroque bastion in the south-eastern part of the town – was built in the course of the Cretan War (fought between the Venetian Republic and the Ottoman Empire from 1645 until 1669), during the service of the Provveditore Antonio Bernardo. It consisted of the Turjun Fort (Torre di terraferma) and of “The Garden Gate“, which led to the fields and gardens on the sandy peninsula of Punta. Its strategic purpose was to deny the enemy access to the wide southern front along the moat (Italian fossa, today’s Fošal – the main road through the town centre). Its construction required huge amounts of stone, bulk materials and earthwork, and thus resulted in the town being cleared of all ruins and derelict houses.
The bastion was pulled down in 1862 along with the other fortifications, during the expansion of the town and the construction of new roads.
EASTERN TOWN DOOR (16. C.)
The Mainland Gates (Porta terraferma) are one of the better preserved parts of the eastern town walls. The main town street stretches from them towards the Western gates on the river. The inscription above the gate (1682) bears witness of their construction during Venetian rule.
PJACA (15/16. C.)
Pjaca, the main town street stretches from the Eastern Mainland Gates towards the large Western gates (˝vrata od rike˝, ˝the river gate˝). Its social role from the middle of the 20th century is taken over by Fošal – a modern town promenade and a road.
FOŠAL (2. HALF OF THE 19. C.)
A modern town promenade and a road built in the place of the moat (tal. fossa) and the devastated southern town walls. It is a witness of the expansion of the town during industrialisation and the modernisation of traffic routes.
THE HOUSE OF THE FESTIVAL OF DALMATIAN KLAPE OMIŠ (16. C.)
A one-story building with an additionally built Renaissance single window bearing the coat of arms of the Tomadelli family. Due to the cross in the coat of arms, it is also popularly referred to as ˝Biskupovi dvori˝ (The Bishop’s Palace). The coat of arms of the Caralipeo-Despotović family (16th century) is located on the transom above the door.
TURJUN FORT (EARLY 17. C.)
The Angular, square-shaped ˝Kopnena kula˝ (Torre di terraferma) remained after the demolition and adaptation of parts of the southeastern town walls. ˝Vrata od vrtova“ ˝The garden gate“ stood next to it, which led to the fields and gardens on the sandy peninsula of Punta. Venetian coats of arms from various periods, originating from destroyed ruins and of the providur’s palace, can be found on the facade of the fort.
THE COAT OF ARMS OF OMIŠ (1594.)
The coat of arms of Omiš is built into the side wall of the two-story building built in place of the town loggia and writing office during Venetian rule. Next to it there is a plaque bearing the motto BONUM DE MERO BONO (Pure goodness brings goodness) and the year 1594.
A TRANSOM FROM THE WESTERN TOWN WALL (1541.)
The inscription on the transom bears witness about the building of Great western gate („vrata od rike“ „the river gate“) and walls during the reign of providur Lorenzo Mini. The coat of arms of the providur and the herald of Omiš is located on the side.
THE CHURCH OF ST. EUPHEMIA (5-6. C.)
The Church of St. Euphemia (5th -6th century) – the remains of the single-nave early Christian church with a semi-circular apse and subsellium. The recently studied foundations, excavated during archaeological research in 2004, are mentioned in written sources from 1527. The church is dedicated to a Chaldecon martyr Euphemia, the patron saint of true faith.