Explore Klis Fortress Near Split, Croatia

by | Feb 9, 2024 | Croatia, Split

History and Architecture of Klis Fortress

Klis Fortress, located near Split, Croatia is a must-visit for anyone interested in history, architecture, or folklore.

In this blog post, we will take you on a journey through time as we explore the rich history of Klis Fortress, from its origins to its role in Croatian history and beyond. We will also dive into the architectural marvels of the fortress, including the fortifications, entrances, and royal complex. Lastly, we’ll provide some tips for navigating your way there.

This website contains affiliate links that may earn us a small commission at no additional cost to you.

History of Klis Fortress

Klis Fortress has a long history of over two thousand years. It started as a small stronghold built by the ancient Illyrian tribe Dalmatae. Later, it became a royal castle that served as the seat of many Croatian kings. During the Ottoman wars in Europe, it developed into a large fortress that guarded the frontier. However, it was lost and re-conquered several times throughout its history.

Klis Fortress Third Entrance

Ancient Stronghold of Illyrians and Romans

The first inhabitants of Klis Fortress were the Dalmatae, an ancient Illyrian tribe. They were defeated many times and eventually annexed by the Romans in 9 AD. The Romans called the fortress “Andetrium” or “Anderium,” and later it became known as “Clausura,” which eventually evolved into “Clissa” and then “Klis.” The Romans famously besieged Klis during the Illyrian revolt in Dalmatia.

Klis Fortress Second Entrance

Arrival of the Croats

Klis was raided by Barbarians after the fall of the Roman Empire. It was ruled by Odoacer and then by Theodoric, who established an Ostrogothic Kingdom. Justinian I captured Dalmatia in 537, making Klis part of the Byzantine Empire. The fortress was constructed or improved to protect the coastal cities and roads from Slav attacks.

In 614, Avars and Slavs destroyed Salona, forcing people to flee to Split. Split became important, and in the 7th century, Croats were invited to counter the Avar threat to the Byzantine Empire and drove them out.

Klis Fortress Prince's Palace

Royal Castle

Klis was an important stronghold for Croatian rulers from the 7th century onwards. In the 9th century, it became the seat of power for Duke Mislav. After his death, Klis was ruled by members of the House of Trpimirović, who developed the stronghold into their capital.

Duke Trpimir I moved the main residence to Klis and built a church and monastery there. He spread Christianity and mentioned Klis as his property and seat of power in a charter.

Klis Fortress Third Entrance

Knights Templar

The castle of Klis was governed by Croatian nobility under the Hungarian kings from early 12th century. Andrew II of Hungary appointed Pontius de Cruce, Master of the Order, as a regent in Croatia and Dalmatia during the Fifth Crusade. Andrew II granted the estate of Gacka to the Templars for their logistical and financial support given during the campaign.

In 1217, Andrew II gave the castle of Klis to the Templars for its strategic location in the hinterland of Split. However, the Templars lost Klis shortly after, and the king gave them the coastal town of Šibenik in exchange.

Klis Fortress

Mongol Siege

In March 1242, the Tatars attacked Klis Fortress, believing that Béla IV of Hungary was inside. However, the fortress’s natural defenses proved too strong, and the Tatars failed to capture it. They pursued Béla IV through various Dalmatian towns but were hindered by the Croatian nobility and Dalmatian towns who helped the king escape. As a reward, Béla IV granted these towns and nobles for their aid, except for the city of Split, which did not assist him in his escape.

Klis Fortress ARTILLERY BARRACKS

Šubić's Rule

The House of Šubić regained power in Dalmatia during Stephen V of Hungary’s reign. After Ladislaus IV died, Paul I Šubić became Ban of Croatia and Dalmatia. He inherited all of Croatia from Gvozd Mountain to the mouth of the river Neretva, making his position hereditary.

Šubić ruled over a large portion of modern-day Croatia and Bosnia and appointed his brothers as commissars of Dalmatian cities. Jelena Šubić gave birth to the first Bosnian King, Tvrtko I, who later inherited the Klis Fortress.

Klis Fortress Third Entrance

Petar Kružić and Uskoks

Klis Fortress was a crucial defensive position during the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans. Petar Kružić, a Croat feudal lord, gathered Croat refugees to resist the Turks. Kružić and his Uskoks functioned independently despite accepting the sovereignty of Habsburg king Ferdinand.

Kružić defended the fortress against the Turkish invasion for more than two and a half decades and fought almost alone against the Ottomans. The Hungarian king’s troops couldn’t come to help, and only the popes were willing to provide some men and money.

Klis Fortress ST. VID’S CHURCH

Final Ottoman Siege

In 1536, Pope Paul III asserted his rights over Klis fortress in Croatia. Ferdinand I agreed to share the cost of maintaining a garrison there. A relief force of 3,000 infantry commanded by Petar Kružić and others arrived with artillery on March 9, 1537, to prepare for a possible Turkish siege. Suleiman the Magnificent sent 8,000 men to besiege Klis fortress. The Christian relief force was overwhelmed on March 12 and their attempts to help the citadel failed. They surrendered to the Ottomans on March 12, 1537, in exchange for their freedom.

Klis Fortress

Sanjak Center of Ottoman Bosnia

Klis Fortress was an important administrative center during the Ottoman wars in Europe, serving as the Kilis Sancağı of the Bosnia Eyalet for a century.

In 1596, Split noblemen Ivan Alberti and Nikola Cindro, along with Uskoci, Poljičani, and Kaštelani irregulars, managed to occupy the fortress with the help of dissident elements of the Turkish garrison. Bey Mustafa responded by bringing more than 10,000 soldiers to the fortress. General Ivan Lenković, leading 1,000 Uskoci, came to the relief of the 1,500 Klis defenders. During the battle, Ivan Lenković was wounded and retreated with his men, resulting in the loss of the fortress to the Turks on May 31. Despite the loss, this temporary relief was widely celebrated in Europe and among the local population.

Klis Fortress Armory

Petar Kružić Fighting the Ottomans

From their well-fortified position in the Klis Fortress, the Turks posed a constant threat to both the Venetians and the local Croatian population in the surrounding area. In 1647, following the Turkish success at Novigrad, it was reported that the Turks had amassed an army of 30,000 troops ready to attack Split. In response, the Signoria dispatched two thousand soldiers along with provisions and munitions to the threatened area. Despite being strong fortresses, both Split and Zadar were clearly in danger.

Klis Fortress ST. VID’S CHURCH

The Klis Mosque / Church

The Klis fortress in Croatia was conquered by the Ottomans who then built a stone mosque with a dome and a minaret on the foundations of an earlier Old Croatian Catholic chapel. The mosque was primarily designed for military and religious use by the garrisons stationed inside the fortress, and it had a simple constructed square with an octagonal stone roof.

Later, the Venetians conquered the fortress from the Ottomans and converted the mosque into a Roman Catholic church after destroying the minaret. The church was dedicated to St. Vitus and has been used as such ever since. It is one of three preserved Ottoman mosques in Croatia, the other two being in the towns of Drniš and Đakovo.

Klis Fortress

Venetian Domination

In 1420, Ladislaus of Naples sold his “rights” to Dalmatia to the Venetian Republic for 100,000 ducats. However, Klis and Klis Fortress remained under the control of the Kingdom of Croatia.

After several decades of fighting, the Venetians retook Klis during the Candian War (1645-1669) with the support of the local population. From 1669, Klis Fortress was under Venetian control, and they restored and expanded it.

The Venetians advanced up to the present Bosnian/Croatian border after the seventh war with the Turks from 1714 to 1718, taking the whole Sinjsko Polje and Imotski. However, Napoleon dissolved the republic in 1797, and Klis lost its primary strategic significance. As a result, it was captured by the Austrians. The Axis powers occupied Klis Fortress during World War II, marking its last military occupation.

Architecture of Klis Fortress

Klis Fortress is a prime example of defensive architecture in Dalmatia. It is a complex structure comprising three rectangular defense lines that consist of three stone walls that surround a central strongpoint.

Klis Fortress FIRST OR MAIN ENTRANCE

First or Main Entrance

The Venetians built the First or Main Entrance into the fortress in the late 17th century.

Klis Fortress SECOND ENTRANCE

Second Entrance

The Second Entrance was first damaged in 1648 during a siege. The Venetians rebuilt it several times in the 17th and 18th centuries. Its current appearance dates back to the 1820s when the portal was redesigned in a classical style.

Klis Fortress Tower Oprah

Tower of Oprah

The Tower of Oprah was first mentioned in the year 1355. It used to be the most significant stronghold of the western part of the fortress. In 1648, the tower was damaged during a siege, but it was repaired by the Venetians a few times. Later, the Austrians did the final restoration of the tower.

Klis Fortress ARTILLERY BARRACKS

Artillery Barracks

The Artillery Barracks, constructed by the Austrians in the 1820s to house artillerymen, lost its top floor in 1931. However, the ground floor has been preserved in its original style.

Klis Fortress Secret Entrance

Secret Entrance

There was a secret entrance that people used to enter and exit undetected during the siege. Normally, the narrow opening was walled up, but when it needed to be used, the wall would be torn down. After it was used, the opening would be walled up again.

Klis Fortress Smithy

Smithy

During the Middle Ages, forging was a crucial craft that was required in every large settlement. Each fortress had a military purpose and for that reason, a specialized blacksmith was needed in these quarters. Forgers were responsible for overseeing the production and repairs of military equipment, shields, and weapons. One of these maintenance facilities was situated inside the Klis Fortress.

Today, this facility has been reconstructed, reviving the nearly forgotten and neglected metal-processing skill.

Klis Fortress Water Tanks

Water Tanks

The Klis fortress heavily relied on its water supply, particularly for the defenders who needed it the most. However, since there were no natural water sources available, seven tanks were constructed to collect rainwater. Out of these, two are located near the protective walls, beneath the third entrance, and were built during the Venetian rule in the 17th century.

Klis Fortress Third Entrance

Third Entry

This one-story stone house has a rich medieval history. It was originally built in a different shape, but due to its age, the Venetians completely demolished it. However, they rebuilt it in 1763 and created the entrance we see today. The western façade was expanded and a barrel-arched entrance with a rustic-shaped baroque portal frame was added. It was used as the residence for the weaponry manager.

Klis Fortress Armory

Armory

The Venetian armory served as a storage facility for cannon stands during Austrian rule. Today, it houses a small weaponry exhibit managed by the historical troops, “Kliski uskoci.”

Old Powder Magazine

The Old Powder Magazine was constructed by the Venetians in the early 18th century and rebuilt multiple times. The structure is vaulted with saddled arches and covered by a roof.

Klis Fortress Prince's Palace

Prince’s Residence

The Prince’s Residence was constructed on the ancient foundations of the administrative headquarters of the Croatian national rulers, the Klis captains’ and princes’ authorities. The building was designed with utmost safety in mind and is made up of a ground floor, first floor, and roof. Initially known as the Prince’s home, it was later named the Turkish Sandzak Beg and Dizdar.

Eventually, during the Venetian period, it became known as the Governor’s residence or simply the Palace. Over time, the Venetians rebuilt it several times during the 17th and 18th centuries, and the Austrians gave it its final form around 1820.

Klis Fortress ST. VID’S CHURCH

St. Vid’s Church

In the past, there was a smaller church located in this area. However, the Osmans destroyed it and built a mosque in its place. Later on, when the Venetians took control of the area, the mosque was transformed into the Church of St. Vid.

During the Venetian rule, probably at the start of the 18th century, a vestibule and an octagonal roof were added to the church. There is also a baroque lavatory with relief decorations, dating back to the 17th century, and a large stone aspersion shaped like a shell.

Klis Fortress Bembo Bastion

Bembo Bastion

The Bembo Bastion is the biggest artillery position in the fort. It is situated on the western edge of the third defensive wall, where the Kruzic tower was located earlier. The bastion was named after Marco Bembo, the first Providur (Governor) of Klis. In the mid-17th century, the Venetians expanded and fortified it with thick, tall parapets and artillery openings.

Klis Fortress New Powder Magazine

New Powder Magazine

The Austrians built the New Powder Magazine around 1820. It has an irregular rectangular shape with a smaller annex room in front of the entrance. The walls support the brick arch and roof.

Klis Fortress Maggiore's Position

Maggiore’s Position

Prior to 1670, Maggiore’s Position was smaller than it is now. However, it was later widened and fortified with high and wide parapets that included artillery openings. The Venetians constructed apartments in the central part of the area, which were later destroyed by the Austrians. The Austrians then constructed a new powder magazine in the western part of the position.

Klis Fortress Sperun's Position

Sperun’s Position

Sperun’s Position is located in the eastern wing of the third walls and includes the Fort. The Fort was used to monitor the lift that goes to Ozrna on Mosor Mountain and the road that passes under the Fort through the northern pass.

Game of Thrones at Klis Fortress

Klis Fortress Game of Thrones Filming Sites

Daenerys and the City of Meereen

Several episodes of Game of Thrones’ fourth and fifth seasons were filmed at Klis Fortress. Fortress represented the city of Meereen where Khaleesi Daenerys Targaryen ruled.

Klis Fortress Game of Thrones Filming Sites

Scenes Filmed at Klis Fortress

Easily recognizable scenes are:

  • the crucifixion of the royalty (below the Bembo Bastion)
  • the execution of a liberated slave (infantry barracks)
  • the escape of the Khaleesi under the protection of the Unsullied (stairs to the entrance)
  • the entrance to the dragon cave (tunnel at the top of the fortress)
  • the inferior part of the Meereen (the top of the fortress to the position of Sperun)

 

Fees and Opening Hours for Klis Fortress

Opening Hours

Every day from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m

Entrance Fees

Adults – €10

Children (up to 15 years) – €3

Check here for more information about opening hours and entrance fees.

Tours to Klis Fortress

Do you want to take a tour of Klis Fortress? Below are some great tours to explore this great site!

Tips for Visiting Klis Fortress

Here are some insider tips to help you plan your trip to Klis Fortress.

Plan Ahead

Plan ahead and familiarize yourself with essential information about Klis Fortress to make the most of your time there. Don’t miss the chance to learn about its history and architecture.

Wear Comfortable Shoes

Don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes as you explore the Fortress.

Bring Water and Sunscreen

Carry water and sunscreen, especially in summer.

Best Photography

Optimal lighting for photography is in the early morning or late afternoon.

Hotels near Klis Fortress

There are many great places to stay near Klis Fortress. However, we strongly recommend staying in Split near the castle icon on the map below for the best experience. This is near Diocletian’s Palace, where you can enjoy Split’s unique architecture, close to the restaurants with fantastic views of the sea, and not far from the wine-tasting locations. And it’s a short and easy trip to Klis Fortress.

The below interactive map provides hotel and apartment options that can be filtered to meet your needs. Select your travel dates to get specific availability and prices.

Book your stay now!

FAQs About Klis Fortress

How old is Klis Fortress?

Do you have to pay to go to Klis Fortress?

Yes – the entry fee is €10 for adults and €3 for children up to 15 years old.

What was filmed at Klis Fortress?

Klis Fortress, located in Croatia, has been used as a filming location for several movies and TV shows. One of the most notable productions filmed at Klis Fortress is the popular TV series Game of Thrones. The fortress was used as the setting for the city of Meereen in the show’s fourth and fifth seasons. Its impressive architecture and commanding views made it a perfect fit for the fictional city’s grandeur.

In addition to Game of Thrones, Klis Fortress has also been featured in other productions such as The Borgias and Knightfall. Its historical significance and stunning backdrop continue to attract filmmakers from around the world.

What is Klis Fortress in Game of Thrones?

In Game of Thrones, Klis Fortress serves as the iconic city of Meereen. With its towering walls and commanding presence, it perfectly embodies the grandeur and power of the fictional city. The fortress becomes a pivotal location in the storyline, where characters engage in political intrigue and epic battles unfold. Its historical significance adds an extra layer of authenticity to the show’s portrayal of ancient civilizations.

How do I get to the fortress of Klis?

To get to the fortress of Klis, you can follow these directions:

1. Start by heading to Split, Croatia.

2. From Split, you can take a bus or drive to Klis. The distance between Split and Klis is around 15 kilometers (9 miles).

3. If you choose to take a bus, there are regular bus services from Split to Klis.

4. If you prefer to drive, you can take the D1 road from Split towards Sinj, and then follow the signs to Klis.

5. Once you reach Klis, you will find signs directing you to the fortress. It is located on top of a hill overlooking the town.

6. There is parking available near the fortress if you are driving.

7. From the parking area, it is a short hike up to the fortress entrance.

Please note that it’s always a good idea to check for any updated information or changes in transportation options before your trip.

How much is a taxi from Split to Klis Fortress?

A taxi from Split to Klis Fortress cost approximately $20.

Ryan

Ryan

Author

I graduated from Murray State University in 2000 with psychology and criminal justice degrees. I received my law degree, with a concentration in litigation and dispute resolution, from Boston University School of Law in 2003.For nearly two decades, I represented contractors and subcontractors in construction defect disputes involving commercial and residential buildings.In 2022, my lifelong passion for travel, food & wine, architecture, and photography overtook my ambition to be a litigation attorney. So, my wife, Jen, and I sold our home in Austin, Texas, and set out to explore the world with our French Bulldog, Gus!