City fortification within the port
In the 16th century Zadar’s medieval fortification system was replaced with new defense plan and new fortifications. The best Venetian military engineers and architects of a time were given a task to separate peninsula, on which the city was located, from the mainland, and to build a new line of fortifications to ensure the protection of the city. In addition to the protection of the city itself, a great importance was also given to the protection of the port. The line of fortifications overlooking the harbor has been reinforced with three bastions.
For many centuries ships in the port of Zadar were unable to dock along the very walls of the city for purely strategic reasons. There were no arranged docks nor the sea depth was sufficient. This prevented the enemy from approaching the city by ships and disembarking the army under the walls. Merchant ships needed to dock on the opposite coast of the port to unload the cargo. The cargo was then immediately transported within the city walls – the transport of smaller items was done by small boats, while larger and heavier items were transported by land, through the Land gate, with the help of ox-carts. Immediately after the unloading of the goods the merchant ships would withdraw from the shore to avoid a possible attack from the mainland. At the safe distance they would use bitts outside of the port for mooring. Even today, in smaller bays outside the port, the remains of the bitts to which the ships were tied can be seen.
For centuries, the port of Zadar has been protected and defended by the city walls that rose along its southwest coast, and also by the chain with which the port was closed. The large iron chain was used to close the port from the Middle Ages up until the year 1894. Today, the memory of the former chain is preserved only in the name of the Chain Gate. The chain was made out of 13 beams chained with iron. The other end of the chain was tied to a breakwater that also served as protection for the port, both from the enemy ships and from the waves.
The breakwater at the harbor’s entrance has been built for centuries. During the Venetian administration (1409 – 1797), breakwaters were built in Zadar to defend the port both from the waves and from the enemies and their ships. As the construction of the breakwater was financially very demanding, the City Council devised a very original way to build a breakwater at the entrance to the port. They have made a decision according to which every merchant ship that wants to enter the port of Zadar, to import or export the cargo, must pay the entrance fee by bringing 3 to 4 large stones, which they will throw into the sea at the place assigned to. The City Council’s plan worked. Day after day and ship after ship, for several years, a breakwater emerged from the sea and it was soon charted in naval port charts.