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Mali Losinj

impressions of Mali Losinj

Napoleonic Towns – Mali Lošinj

A mild climate, great biodiversity, a pleasant atmosphere and 250 cultural and entertainment events are only some of the things that have positioned Lošinj as the “the island of vitality” on the world stage. Over 125 years of tradition in medical tourism have played an important role in shaping the island’s offer. The scent of pine trees, medicinal herbs and sea salt aerosols come together to create a unique aromatherapy in the open. The superior quality of the seawater and air, over 200 sunny days a year and 1018 plant species, 939 of which are indigenous, make Lošinj the centre for aromatherapy, vitality and medical tourism, and an eco-conscious and modern destination suitable for all generations of people, including families and professional and recreational athletes, all year round.

The island of Lošinj is an integral part of the island group comprised of Cres and Lošinj. It forms the western part of the Kvarner islands in the Kvarner Bay, which, along with the Gulf of Trieste, is a section of the Mediterranean reaching farthest inland. The Cres-Lošinj island group stretches 99 km in the NW-SE direction, covering an area of 513 km², which makes up 16% of the total area of islands in the Adriatic.

History of Mali Losinj

Life on the islands can be traced back to Palaeolithic times. A significant amount of evidence of this can be found in the Jami na Sredi cave, which includes bones, fragments of ceramics belonging to the Impresso culture, and sea snails. During the Bronze and Iron ages, humans abandoned the caves to live in the open, which led to the construction of ancient structures that are still visible across the island. Most of the structures were built in the central part of Cres, most prominently around Lake Vrana, the source of life on the island. With time, the villages of Beli, Lubenice and Osor developed on their foundations.

Osor was a well-known stop on the famous Amber Road. It is assumed that the ancient Greeks separated the two islands by digging the Kavanela channel to make their travels easier. A lot of evidence speaks to their presence in the area – everything from Greek coins and jewellery to amphorae. The most significant piece of evidence is certainly the Apoxyomenos statue, found in the vicinity of Lošinj, although it is believed that it was transported from Greece to Italy in Roman times.

The area was also ruled by the Romans, perhaps even five centuries according to some estimates, until the fall of the Western Roman Empire, whose founding prompted the formation of the Roman governance and economic systems.                                                                                                                                                           The Romans were followed by the Ostrogoths, whose reign lasted only for a short period, after which the islands became subjects of Byzantine Dalmatia. Finally, in the 6th and 7th centuries, they were settled by the Slavs. The only place that remained under Byzantine rule was Osor.                                                            

The death of King Stephen Držislav resulted in a struggle for the throne in Croatia. As Byzantium was preoccupied with its own wars at the time, the Croatian coastline was left unprotected. This is when Osor turned to Venice for help. Venetian Doge Pietro Orseolo set out for Osor on 9 May 1000 and met no resistance when he attempted to take over the town. This did not last long, however – in 1024, Croatian kings decided to regain all of the lost territories. As there was some unrest in Venice at the time, the Byzantine emperor seized the opportunity and sent his army to Dalmatia. Cres and Lošinj thus became the property of Byzantium once again.

The next time Venetians ruled the area was from 1409 to 1797, when the Venetian Republic finally fell. At this point, Venice introduced a closed system of governance, meaning the islands became isolated. It wanted to stamp out competition in the Adriatic and hold complete monopoly over trade, which is why it imposed numerous limitations on maritime trade, fishing, etc. It took away Osor’s administrative autonomy by choosing its prince, but let it retain its status and all of the privileges enjoyed in the past. However, all of its autonomous functions were gradually being chipped away.

After the fall of the Venetian Republic, Austria took control over the area. The first period of Austrian rule lasted from 1797 to 1805. The new rulers did not change the existing state of affairs, but they did introduce minor reforms in the educational and judicial systems. Some of the positive reforms they introduced included freedom of the seas and of trade.

Napoleon’s domination in the war against Austria ended in victory and the conclusion of the Peace of Pressburg, whereby Emperor Francis II was forced to relinquish the territories Austria gained with the Treaty of Campo Formio – Venetian-held Istria, islands in the Adriatic and Bay of Kotor. Napoleon annexed these territories to the Kingdom of Italy and bestowed the title of Viceroy of Italy on his stepson Eugène de Beauharnais, allowing him to rule over Istria and Venetian regions in Italy.


Napoleon’s reign in these parts can be divided into two distinct periods. During the first one, Croatian territories were part of the Kingdom of Italy, while the second one is characterised by a change in the system of governance, whereby Croatian islands became part of the Illyrian Provinces. The Kingdom of Italy, with its capital in Milan, lasted until 1809, while the islands of Cres and Lošinj belonged to the Zadar Canton and had their own municipalities, Cres and Osor. After Lošinj gained independence in 1806, Cres and Lošinj were the only two municipalities in the region. By July 1806, two officials came to Zadar with the task of upholding peace in the province. Vincenzo Dandolo was designated as the head of civil administration, with the title of proveditor-general, while the military general August Marmont was in charge of military affairs. The second period began in 1809, when Napoleon issued a decree on a new administrative division of the territory. This period was important for the islands of Cres and Lošinj because they no longer belonged to Dalmatia, but rather to Civil Croatia, which was centred in Karlovac, while the Illyrian Provinces were centred in Ljubljana. From that moment on, Cres and Lošinj would never again depend on Zadar, but rather on Rijeka.

The people of Mali Lošinj and Veli Lošinj made several appeals to Venice over time, asking for the independence of Osor. They were denied each time. They addressed the proveditor-general of Zadar, who established a municipal council on 24 August 1806, which meant that Mali Lošinj and Veli Lošinj severed ties with Osor.

When Napoleon declared the Continental Blockade, the opposing English forces blocked the Adriatic, preventing any form of communication at sea. The French began fortifying the island, building roads and setting up defensive barriers against cannon fire. They repurposed the old school (a seminary) and turned it into a tower surrounded by walls. War broke out again the following year – on 9 May 1809, when the English frigate “Spartan” sailed into the Mali Lošinj port and bombarded the seminary, forcing the French army to surrender. Ivancich mentions stories surrounding this event, which he heard from his mother and aunt. The frigate anchored in Privlaka, with its starboard side facing the Seminario fort. It started firing cannonballs that fell on the house and garden of his grandfather, Antonio Ivancich, located on top the Kalk hill. One of the cannonballs broke through the roof and fell on a chest in the attic that contained a lot of earthenware. Luckily, it stopped there and did not cause any further damage.

Since the Adriatic Sea was under the English blockade, islanders began building pathways between towns to connect them. The municipality ordered one such pathway to be constructed between Mali Lošinj and Veli Lošinj. Like in many other places, the French administration had roads built on the island of Cres to improve the road network because of the blockade of the Adriatic upheld by the Russian, English and Austrian fleets. In late 1812 and early 1813, a new road was constructed between Mali Lošinj and Veli Lošinj on orders from the French government and under the supervision of two deputies from Mali Lošinj and Veli Lošinj. The road begins above the Valdarke Bay, and is known today as Napoleon’s Road. The current Mali Lošinj – Veli Lošinj promenade was also built during this period. It leads from Valdarke Bay, across the Vale Škure beach, all the way to the Vila cape. A carriage road connecting Cres and Osor and leading to the village of Porozina was completed under the direction of Vincenzo Dandolo, who also wanted to convert the uncultivated hillside areas into a forest, improve the local sheep breed and expand the cultivation of potatoes. These were all safe and efficient standards that improved the rural economy.

One of the more famous little streets (kalica) in the centre of Mali Lošinj, Studenac, was also built during the French rule.

The Church of St. Anthony the Abbot (Sv. Antun Opat) in Veli Lošinj was fitted with all of its current altars and paintings during the French period.


Studenac Street – One of the more famous little streets (kalica) in the centre of Mali Lošinj, built during the French rule.


Church of St. Anthony the Abbot (Sv. Antun Opat) – The church, located in Veli Lošinj, was fitted with all of its current altars and paintings during the French period.

The Mali Lošinj – Veli Lošinj road – In late 1812 and early 1813, a new road was constructed between Mali Lošinj and Veli Lošinj on orders from the French government and under the supervision of two deputies from Mali Lošinj and Veli Lošinj. The road begins above the Valdarke Bay, and is known today as Napoleon’s Road.

The Mali Lošinj – Veli Lošinj promenade – leads from Valdarke Bay, across the Vale Škure beach, all the way to the Vila cape


Mali Lošinj Tourist Board

Priko 42

51550 Mali Lošinj

+385 51 231 884; +385 51 231 547