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Milna

Milna is one of the most architecturally harmonious examples of Baroque urbanism on the Dalmatian coast. It is the best natural port on the island of Brač, one that provided a safe harbour for the emperor's fleet during the construction of the Diocletian's Palace in Split. The bay in which Milna is nestled branches into two sleeves - Žalo and Pantera. Located in the western part of the island of Brač, the bay provides safety and shelter from all winds which makes it one of the safest known bays for charter boats in the summer season. Milna is located in the west part of the island some 18 kilometres away from the island’s main hub of Supetar. It became the most important port on the island of Brač and it held this prestigious title for two centuries.

Impressions of the city


The municipality of Milna was founded at the turn of the 17th century, around the fort (kaštel), colloquially known as Anglišćina, built by the Cerinić family from Nerežišće for the defence of its lands. The same family also built the Chapel of St Mary, which today is a sacristy of the parish church. In those days, the town was developing around the church, and in 1783 a new Parish Church of Our Lady of the Annunciation was built in the Baroque style. In the 18th and 19th century, the municipal office, school, port office, church with a bell tower and parish court were erected, promenades and streets were paved and stairways were built. Since ancient times, the Milna port was a significant mooring point even centuries before the first settlements were founded on its coasts. It is important to mention that Milna, as an urban centre on the coast of the island of Brač, was founded relatively late, at the beginning of the 17th century, after the threat of constant pirate invasions ended, which had led to a major surge in development of settlements in the inland of the island.

Navigation was the lifeblood of the lifestyle and economy of Milna in the 18th and 19th century. Owing to its geographical position facing the sea, Milna is famous for its families of shipowners and captains whose sailing boats travelled across the entire Mediterranean and distant oceans.  In the 18th century, Milna was home to two shipyards. In the mid-19th century, 16 sailing boats were built in those shipyards. The prototype for the renowned Dalmatian-style boat called Bracera, which name was coined from the Italian word for the island of Brač, Brazza, was built in Milna. The restored stone house located in the north end of the port was used by priests from Pustinja Blaca (Blaca Desert) as a store which served as their window to the world. Another special example of cultural heritage are the remnants of a Gothic chapel in Osibova bay. An interesting historical fact pertaining to Milna is that, during the Napoleonic Wars, Milna served as the naval base of the Russian fleet in 1820.

Located in a bay overlooking the sea strait Splitska vrata and featuring three state-of-the-art marinas, Milna is bound to meet the expectations of even the most demanding of yachtsmen.  It features a long and beautiful promenade with stone houses which are a masterpiece of traditional construction. The Baroque church with a typical Dalmatian belfry dominates the town. The church interior is adorned with valuable paintings by Venetian painters.

FORTRESS BATERIJA


“Baterija” (The Battery) Fortification is located at Cape Zaglav and was built in 1806, during the French administration. In order to prevent the Russian fleet from invading the central Dalmatian islands, the French built fortifications and installed a battery of 4 cannons on the western Cape of Brač, and later reinforced it with 6 cannons. They commissioned 150 peasants from the island to build it because the French crew that came to Brač did not have enough people for its construction. This maritime fort is the largest fortification on Brač and the locals traditionally call it Baterija (The Battery). The fortification is in such condition that its entire ground plan is still intact. The shape is of an irregular pentagon with high, pointy defensive walls. Embankment has been built on its sea side.

Inside the fortification four chambers have been preserved, three of them in a row. The original entrance is on the northeast side and has some traces of reinforcement of the wall. Next to it is an unexplored underground entrance, a possible natural cave or pit. The main observatory was built on a large terrace, partly a natural rock, and can be reached via an arched staircase.

Baterija fortification was crucial in the defense against the English and the Russians and a very important strategic point during the Napoleonic wars in the eastern Adriatic, as well as the last defense for Split and its surroundings.

In December of 1806 a naval battle ensued between the Russians and the French. A Russian reconnaissance vessel, brig Aleksandar was spotted in the vicinity by French soldiers. They alerted the command in Split. General Marmont ordered that the ship be attacked and captured. A small naval squadron was formed, consisting of three gunboats, one saragana called Napoleon and one “trabakul” (typical Dalmatian sail boat).

However, the people of Brač were at the time unhappy with the reforms introduced by the French administration (efforts to take away nobility’s privileges, to abolish religious brotherhoods and give their properties to school system) and so they informed Ivan Skolavski, the commander of the Russian ship Aleksandar about the intentions of the French. Five signal fires were lit on the island in order to send information to Skolavski about the size of the French fleet which he used to ambush the enemy and attack first. The battle lasted three hours, one French gunship was sunk; ship Napoleon was heavily damaged, fled the battle and finally sunk in the Split harbor.

Upon return form the battle, the Russian ship destroyed the French battery and this opened the way for the Russian navy onto the island of Brač.

In an attempt to minimize the consequences of this defeat, general Marmont in his memoir completely left out information about the existence of the fortification at Cape Zaglav and wrote instead that the island was too vast to defend, that it had no forts and that for that reason he pulled back the few sailors and left Brač to the enemy.

The Russian occupation did not last long. In a peace treaty from Tilsit, in July 1807, Russians retreated from Brač and left it to the French again, who continued to rule Brač and Dalmatia for another six years.

French rule has left a strong impact on cultural and educational life, invaluable improvements in modernizing public administration as well as infrastructure. 

Three schools were opened on Brač, and each family was required to send at least one child to school. Failure to comply resulted in fines, which were in turn invested in the education system.

A decree from 1808 mandated that all cemeteries had to be moved outside the settlements. Milna’s current cemetery was built in its today’s location thanks to that decree. The cemetery still to this day retains its original shape of a trapezoid, with high perimeter walls, a representative façade and a spacious staircase.

The cemetery is positioned on an elevation, on the opposite side of the bay, in a way that faces the town and the entrance to the cemetery “is looking at” the entrance to the parish church. Such a position on the high ground, “cross facing a cross”, creates the effect of the holiness and (spiritual) elevation of the last resting place. The position of the cemetery, with its main northern façade overlooking the town and the parish church, is an example of neoclassicist concept of connecting spaces visually and infrastructurally.

Milna now focuses mainly on tourism, preserving this precious example of military architecture from the Napoleonic wars and a testament to good governance despite the conservatism and prejudice of the local population of that time.

Contacts:

Milna Tourist Board

Riva 5

21405 Milna

+385 (0) 21 636 233

www.tz-milna.hr

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