The narrow streets and squares, with all the layers of history to be discovered, is still unknown world of Bakar, one of the oldest towns in the Northern Adriatic. Bakar was built like an amphitheatre on a hill and its historical nucleus was declared a cultural monument. The area of Bakar town stretches from the Bakar Bay to the peak of Risnjak Mountain occupying about 12,560 hectares and encompassing seven small towns: Bakar, Hreljin, Krasica, Kukuljanovo, Praputnjak, Škrljevo and Zlobin. Bakar, the ancient town and a port, a place where the Mediterranean Sea penetrated most deeply into the European land.
A rich history has left an important cultural heritage which is reflected in the Bakar Citadel, Castle of Hreljin, St. Andrew’s Church (the third largest in Croatia), Roman and Turkish houses, Bakar ‘s dry stone walls and many other cultural and historical sights and peculiarities.
On top of the town stands grand Frankopan Castle, once a seat of a powerful Croatian noble family. We entered it through doors adorned with an old Glagolitic inscription and suddenly found ourselves inside a grand palace, although its interior is still in stage of refurbishing. The architecture of Citadel as we know it today stems from the beginning of the 16th century, when this Frankopan’s fortress was additionally reinforced, faced with the danger of the Turkish invasions. This is also witnessed in a Glagolitic inscription engraved in the upper part of the stone door frame dating from 1530. The Citadel is a structure which inspires and reveals a spirit of the past, adventures, war conflicts, glorious times, but as well as a spirit of culture, creativity, and literacy.
Another instant feeling is that Bakar is small town with many churches. The parish church of Saint Andrew the Apostle was third largest church in Croatia at time of its origin. The greatness of this church is visible from inside, as even bigger cities in the Northern Adriatic don’t have such a vast church. Today, it is run by the monsignor Giuseppe Vosilla, who is also honorary canonic of the Rijeka Capitol of the Catholic Church. We have visited the good monsignor in his own house, had a glass of wine and talked about the town and beautiful view from his balcony, overlooking the whole Bakar.
The oldest church in this location was built in 1130 or 1167, in any case in the 12th century. It was dedicated to the Holy Trinity. After it was badly damaged in an earthquake in 1323, it was thereafter repaired, and it changed the church and town’s patron to that of St. Andrija (St. Andrew). At the beginning of the 18th century, more precisely in 1708 and 1718, left and right aisles of the church were added, and in 1710 the bell tower was built, which is still in place today. In the beginning of the 18th century, according to the legend, a strong earthquake hit Bakar and destroyed the church, but the bell tower remained untouched.
Apart from the parish church, there is the Church of Mother of God of the Port, where once used to be a port; the Church of Holy Cross, in the heart of the old city centre, where the altar has remained in the same place as before, and where a priest performs the mass with his back turned to worshippers; and the St. Margaret’s Church, also near the sea.
A really unique experience was to enter the crypt under the parish church, where you can find some 85 tombs. On the upper part of the crypt, there is a pylon that certainly belongs to some older building. The crypt has not been fully researched, but its discoveries will bring additional information about the church’s construction work. The graves date from the 18th and 19th century, and some graves don’t carry any inscription. Bishop Vjenceslav Šoić was buried in the crypt who was most deserving for the renewal of the church in the middle of the 19th century.
Within the medieval walls of a town, nearby the church of St. Andrija, is situated one of the most known and for the visitors by all means the most attractive houses in Bakar-the Turkish house. The uniqueness of the Turkish house comes from its oriental structure and its stylish features which are rare to find in this part of the world. Nevertheless, the Turkish house has gracefully fit into the town’s coastal atmosphere. Its shape reminds us of an old wooden house that has already grown as a part of the town’s surrounding, as well as two legends, the most beautiful national and literate treasure, about the beginnings of this unusual house without a “corner.” According to one legend, the Turkish house was built by a coastal sailor who when arrived to Istanbul fell in love with a beautiful Turkish woman. He brought her home to Bakar, and each time he would go on his trip, she felt lonely. Thinking of how to lessen her homesickness, he built a house similar to the houses from her homeland, so that is how the Turkish house originated.
It is indeed pleasant to walk by the sea in Bakar’s centre, wonder to the mighty town built on the shores of the bay, visit the churches, one of the first oceanographers in Croatia, jaz and perilo, all the small galleries, or just sit and enjoy the atmosphere of a quiet, sleepy old town, with tens of cats walking around and see the life of its inhabitants, who use their town almost as a living room. This Mediterranean atmosphere, heritage, naval tradition, old cobbled alleys, is why Bakar should be rediscovered as a great tourist destination.
Our wonderful day in Bakar was accompanied by Mrs Sonja Jelušić, director of the Tourist Board of Town of Bakar
http://www.tz-bakar.hr Primorje 39, Bakar +385 51 761 111
Photos: Bruno Vignjević, TZ Bakar, mons. Vosilla