Cres: The island that’s been inhabited for a thousand years
Cres, the old town centre
Until the 18th century, Cres lived within its town walls outside of which were built only two monasteries. Thus the 15th century town loggia with its pillory should not be missed; it is located in the town square. You should also explore the Venetian tower, of a circular layout, the only fully preserved Venetian defensive tower out of the original four that used to protect the town. Finally, cross the eight metre long Roman bridge, the only fully preserved Roman bridge on the east coast of the Adriatic.
The palaces of Cres
In the 15th century, when the seat of the Osor Diocese moved to the town of Cres, the economic and political power of the aristocratic families of Cres grew, and with it a number of patrician palaces were built. The Cres patricians, called “vlastela” by the islanders, belonged to the upper levels of Cres society, which had separated from the commoners during the rule of the Venetian Republic. They owned estates in the countryside and political power and palaces in the town itself. The ground floor of the palaces was occupied by commercial spaces, workshops and large storerooms. Some of the most famous palaces worth visiting during your stay in Cres are Palace Petris, Palace Rodinis, Palace Moise and Palace Colombis, built in the Venetian Gothic and early Renaissance style.
The village of Lubenice, more than four thousand years old, is located on a cliff above the sea, about 370 metres high. In the Middle Ages, the settlement had a geostrategic importance because it controlled the sea passage Vela Vrata. Today we can find the remains of medieval city walls and gates, as well as five small churches and monasteries in the village. Legend has it that in ancient times a king lived on the island, whose daughter fell in love with a young man who lived on the hill where Lubenice is situated today. Unhappy with her choice, the king banished her from the then capital of Osor, and she settled on the hill with her lover. As the king’s daughter’s name was Ljubica, the village was first named Ljubenice, but was later changed by the Italians due to difficult pronunciation, so in the end it was called Lubenice.
Churches and monasteries
Among the numerous churches and monasteries on the island, we highly recommend a visit to the Parish Church of St. Mary, from the 15th century, whose parish office keeps an art collection of old masters, among which the most valuable is the polyptych of St. Sebastian with Saints. In the village of Lubenice, be sure to visit the Church of St. Anthony the Hermit, the most representative of the five churches and chapels that can be found in this small village. The church is famous for its acoustics; it was built in the Gothic style during the 15th century, and its gothic tower dominates the skyline of Lubenice. The Parish Church of St. Mark in Valun is also worth a visit because it is home to the famous Valun tablet, a Glagolitic inscription from the 11th century. Explore the treasure of the Franciscan monastery in Cres, built approximately in 1300. The monastery contains a museum with a collection of paintings and sculptures by old masters, an ethnographic collection, as well as liturgical books, among which stands out a rare copy of a Glagolitic missal printed in Senj in 1494.
On the land bridge that connects the islands of Cres and Lošinj lies the small town of Osor, historically a very powerful and rich trading town due to its geostrategic position. It was founded by the Illyrians during the Bronze Age, when Amber Road was passing through Osor – the oldest European maritime and overland transit route from the Aegean to the Baltic Sea. The proof of this are numerous amber ornaments found in Illyrian graves near Osor. Since the Osor land bridge is bounded by sea on its north and south side, and connected to land on the east and west, the town and surrounding areas have developed agriculture, livestock breeding, hunting and fishing alike. Osor preserved its importance during the old Croatian Kingdom, when the Kvarner region became the centre of Croatian culture and Glagolitism; the Osor Evangelistary, a manuscript codex from the year 1070 dates from the same period. With Venetian occupation, Osor lost its prior importance and its role was taken over by the town of Cres.