St. Michael's Fortress was revitalized and re-opened in July 2014. Just four months later, it won the national Cultural Attraction of the Year Award.
For 600 years, St. Michael's Fortress, the oldest historical site in the Croatian city of Šibenik, was closed to the public and was used for military purposes. Its interior, razed and used many times by different occupying armies, was a tabula rasa, a vast space without almost any preserved structures.
Starting in the 1950's, there was an idea to carefully convert this fortress into an open-air stage. Šibenik’s economy had suffered in the 90’s and to recover, the city started orienting itself towards cultural tourism. Thus, the old idea was once again raised at the end of the 2000's, and a preliminary design was made. With Croatian accession to the European Union approaching, some pre-accession EU funds were opened.
Finally, a project called Revitalization of St. Michael's Fortress applied for funding and was approved in 2012, with a goal “to contribute to the sustainable economic growth of Šibenik and the surrounding region through the development and broadening of cultural tourism“. Several studies and plans were prepared within the project, with educational and promotional activities being produced as well. St. Michael's Fortress was reopened on July 6th 2014.
Today, St. Michael’s Fortress holds a theatre seating 1077 spectators, with musical and theatrical performances held during the summer, benefitting residents and visitors. The fortress also serves as a museum and offers visitors spectacular views over the town, bay and islands.
The project cost 1.67M€, with 1M€ from the ERDF IPA IIIC BRI programme, the rest from the City of Šibenik. The City also funded other infrastructure works of almost 1M€.
Annual investments (signage, interpretation, archaeological works etc.), are from 50 to 100K €. Costs of events are additional.
Evidence of success
The Fortress of Culture Šibenik, the institution which manages the site, is self-sustainable and not dependent on the City funds. It has 25 permanent and 15 seasonal employees, and makes a wide economic effect (cooperation with local artists and cultural workers, SMEs and family farms).
Since July 2014, it has hosted about 100 evening concerts, with national and international performers.
The fortress also has 120,000+ visitors per year, and is one of the 10 top historical monuments in Croatia.
-discrepancies between plan and EU project
-coordination and multi-disciplinary approach not fully accomplished
-some interpretational activities dropped due to prolonged construction
-public scepticism about the post-project management
All were successfully resolved, with lessons for future pro
Potential for learning or transfer
Fortress of Culture Šibenik won many national and professional awards, and the fortresses of Šibenik have been widely recognized as being among the most successful heritage valorization projects in Croatia. The management model – establishing an institution which has the human and financial resources to manage a historical, but also contemporary cultural monument on a daily basis (scientific research, event organization, marketing and sales, technical management, investments, project conception and implementation…) – has been accepted and studied in Croatia