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The Urban Layout of Osor after 1450

Tea Sušanj Protić ; Republic of Croatia, Ministry of Cullture, Conservation Department in Rijeka

Puni tekst: hrvatski, pdf (2 MB) str. 95-114 preuzimanja: 978* citiraj
APA 6th Edition
Sušanj Protić, T. (2015). O urbanizmu Osora nakon 1450. godine. Ars Adriatica, (5), 95-114. Preuzeto s
MLA 8th Edition
Sušanj Protić, Tea. "O urbanizmu Osora nakon 1450. godine." Ars Adriatica, vol. , br. 5, 2015, str. 95-114. Citirano 14.07.2020.
Chicago 17th Edition
Sušanj Protić, Tea. "O urbanizmu Osora nakon 1450. godine." Ars Adriatica , br. 5 (2015): 95-114.
Sušanj Protić, T. (2015). 'O urbanizmu Osora nakon 1450. godine', Ars Adriatica, (5), str. 95-114. Preuzeto s: (Datum pristupa: 14.07.2020.)
Sušanj Protić T. O urbanizmu Osora nakon 1450. godine. Ars Adriatica [Internet]. 2015 [pristupljeno 14.07.2020.];(5):95-114. Dostupno na:
T. Sušanj Protić, "O urbanizmu Osora nakon 1450. godine", Ars Adriatica, vol., br. 5, str. 95-114, 2015. [Online]. Dostupno na: [Citirano: 14.07.2020.]

The renovation of Adriatic towns under Venetian rule
included all major urban settlements on the islands in
the Quarnero Gulf. The size of Osor, the Roman centre
of the Cres-Lošinj group of islands, radically decreased
during this period. The scholarship holds that the town
of Cres started to grow in the second half of the fifteenth
century while Osor fell into disrepair. Apart from
the new Renaissance Cathedral, other late Gothic and
Renaissance buildings in Osor have never been thoroughly
studied, partly because their state of preservation
is modest and party because of the deep-seated opinion
that the fifteenth century was only an epilogue to Osor’s
great past. As a consequence, no basic analysis of local
architecture has ever been done and the urban layout of
historic Osor is not very well known.
The causes of Osor’s demise, on the other hand, are
well known. The population was decimated by illness
and the town itself was destroyed by wars in the fourteenth
century. Furthermore, maritime navigation changed
from coastal to that accustomed to the open sea and
Osor lost the strategic importance it held when it came
to sailing along the Adriatic. The relocation of the local
Count to Cres, frequently underlined as one of the key
moments in the history of Osor’s decline and dated to
1450, does not seem to be as fateful as the reduced number
of its inhabitants and the loss of naval and trading
significance. The relocation created a dual government of
sorts and a bimunicipal county was established. The historical
importance of Osor as a traditional seat of power
was paramount to Venice and the town maintained the
prestige it had acquired during the Roman period as a
town which controlled a large territory.
In the mid-fifteenth century Osor was a building site:
architectural structures were maintained, repaired and
built anew. In the fourteenth century, a Gothic church of
St Gaudentius was constructed on the main street and in
the first half of the fifteenth century the Town Hall was
built on the site of the ancient Roman curia. Until now,
it was held that the reason for the construction of the
new cathedral was the bisection of Osor which occurred
in the mid-fifteenth century when the new fortification
walls – with a reduced catchment area –were erected and
so excluded the old cathedral from the perimeter. However,
the decision to reduce the circumference of the new
walls was made only in the last quarter of the fifteenth
century, that is, after the foundations for the new cathedral
had been laid. This means that the plans drawn up
in the second half of the fifteenth century covered a larger
area than previouslt thought and that they were done
during the pontificate of Bishop Antun Palčić who was
originally from Pag and who witnessed first-hand the
building of the new town of Pag.
A decree of 1581 records the construction of the town
walls at Cres and Osor. The new fortification walls of Cres
were being built throughout the sixteenth century and so
it is likely that the transversal wall at Osor was constructed
at the same time as the new walls at Cres, during the
sixteenth century. The building of the new wall was not an
ambitious feat of fortification construction but a simple encircling
of the remodelled town centre. The new wall was
just a consequence of urban reorganization and its direction
was determined by the pre-existing defence buildings
which were utilised and incorporated in the new addition.
In the late fifteenth century, the main town square was
fully developed and surrounded by the most important
public and religious buildings. The Town Hall stood on the
south-east corner and the new cathedral was built on the
square’s south side. The Episcopal Palace extended along
the entire west flank of the square. The Palace’s long and
narrow east wing, facing the square, connected the two
main wings of the complex. Despite its modest role as nothing
more than a link, the east front was the widest part of
the Palace and closed the square’s west side, respecting the
new, small-scale urban layout of Osor. The north-east corner
of the complex is decorated with an engaged colonette
topped by a leaf capital. Its counterpart can be found on a
building at the opposite side of the square, which was subsequently
heavily rebuilt. These corresponding engaged
colonettes indicate that the architects wanted to create a
meaningful urban space. The north side of the square no
longer exists in its original shape. In the mid-fifteenth century,
this area was occupied by religious buildings traces
of which can be seen in the present-day modest houses.
These traces are mostly elements of Gothic decoration and
so it can be concluded that this side of the square featured
Gothic structures.
The analysis of the architecture on the main square
demonstrates that it there were consecutive building
phases and that the Cathedral was the last building to
be built. There was no unifying stylistic concept; the buildings
on the square were either Gothic or Renaissance.
This does not reduce the importance of this feat of
public building because the Episcopal Palace and Osor
Cathedral were built at the same time, by the same master
builders, for the same patron, the difference being
that the former in the Gothic and the latter in the Renaissance
style. This, in my opinion, means that the value of
the main square at Osor should not be assessed through
stylistic unity but by considering the harmonious spatial
relationships between its structures, the attention given
to their design, their role as public buildings and the balance
achieved by adapting the newly built structures to
the pre-existing ones. It is well known that the late fifteenth
century was the time when traditional Gothic decoration
was used alongside new Renaissance forms and so
the stylistic inconsistency apparent in Osor’s main square
was done in the spirit of time. The remodelling of the
town centre lasted for the whole century and the town
was also well maintained in the period that followed.
Archival records tell us that a grain store was built in
the late fifteenth century but nothing is known about its
location or appearance.
Despite the efforts and large-scale building campaigns
of public and religious architecture, the migration of
able-bodied people looking for work continued and Osor
was gradually transformed into an occasional dwelling
place of the nobility and the clergy – a town of the Church
and aristocracy. Today, Osor is a town with low-density
architecture. The legacy of medieval town building
can be seen only in the row of houses that face the main
street. They are huddled together and arranged around
communal courtyards, which is a characteristic of local
medieval town planning on the island of Cres. The most
prominent residential building is the palazzetto of the
Draža family, an old noble family of Osor. The location
of the Draža house and its spatial relationship with the
surrounding, more modest houses, implies that it embodied
the medieval concept of densely built town blocks
dominated by a single aristocratic building.
Other aristocratic houses at Osor are more isolated
and surrounded by green spaces. These large green
areas were once occupied by Roman and medieval
houses and insulae. Following the late middle ages, the
decaying architectural structures were not repaired but
used to create gardens: their perimeter walls were neatly
re-arranged and became the dividing walls between
different gardens while the spaces they contained were
filled with a layer of soil, as archaeological test pits have
shown. Apart from large gardens and courtyards, the
residential character of Osor as an aristocratic resort is
attested by the Latin inscriptions on the building façades
but also by the written records about noble families
which possessed estates in both Cres and Osor during
the period that followed the formation of the bimunicipal
county in the fifteenth century.
All these events created a set of specific characteristics
in Osor during the late fifteenth and the sixteenth
century. Its importance as the seat of a commune and a
bishop was reflected in the main town square which was
planned in the spirit of the Renaissance and according
to the redesign of towns under the Venetian rule. The
medieval legacy is still evident in the buildings on the
main street which are densely huddled around communal
courtyards and which centre around dominant aristocratic
houses. In contract to them, large gardens and
the aforementioned historic circumstances indicate that
Osor was a residential resort of the local nobility.
From the fifteenth century onward, the most frequently
recorded features of Osor were its decay and mala
aria (bad air). Nevertheless, as late as 1771, Alberto Fortis
described it as the only town on the island of Cres to
have kept the legacy of its noble past. In addition to the
aforementioned Gothic and Renaissance elements of architectural
decoration, many more were rebuilt into later
houses. They are as frequent as the Roman and early medieval
spolia and were reused in the same manner. Their
existence witnesses that Osor had had another important
historic phase in its long life.

Ključne riječi
Osor; planning; fifteenth and sixteenth century; Osor main square; episcopal palace; residential architecture

Hrčak ID: 149674



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