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History of the island Rab


The island of the rich and turbulent past, inhabited by the Illyrians to 360 years. BC. Throughout its long history the island of Rab (or Arba, Arbia or Arbiana - Latin name for Rab) was dominated by many rulers; the Illyrians, the ancient Greeks and Romans, Byzantines, croatian Kings, Venetians, Hungarians, Habsburgs, Napoleon... All of them have left traces in the cultural heritage and tradition, archaeological sights and monuments. The most interesting is of course the town of Rab itself: its antique town plan, its walls, churches, palaces and portals.. However interesting are also the island villages with their old churches, monasteries and the remains of ancient fortifications and old traditional houses.

The old town (Felix Arba) has the status of Municipium (city status) for more than 2000 years ago.  Latin Arbe / Rab is mentioned in the 10th BC in an old Roman document in  which the Roman emperor Octavian Augustus proclaims Rab a muncipium - city with a self-administration. Shortly afterwards the town earns the epithet FELIX (happy).

The island progresses thanks to its favorable geographic position in the sailing routes, especially on the old amber route. During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance Rab flourished thanks to the trade of salt, wine, wood and silk. At that time the society was organized on the model of the Roman tradition. Rab records show that the city had its own statutes early as 13 century.

Certainly it is important to mention that Rab was one of the oldest dioceses in the Adriatic, dating from the 6th century.



The patron of the island is St. Christopher. Legend has it that the sacred relics (guarded in Rab - a gift from the Byzantine times from Constantinople) saved the city and the island on several occasions, particularly mentioning the siege of the city and the rush of eastern Normandy in 11 century, when the saint's relics were displayed on the walls of the city to protect and save the island from the siege. This happened on 09/05/1075. Various miracles were recorded by Bishop de Hermolais in the 13th century in his book "Miracles of St. Christopher."
In 1358th after the frequent change of rulers, Rab came under the rule of King Louis I of Anjou, who the islanders celebrate as their liberator. In memory of the Great King and the  ancient invasion it was decided to celebrate the 9th of May as the town day and the day of victory. Festivity was celebrated for a week with knight games and holidays - 
Today Rapska Fjera (25.07-27.07. annually) revives this fest with the the crossbow competition and display of medieval crafts through the streets.

The island has had a turbulent past (See below), changing the various systems and the rulers, of course, going through a time of prosperity and hardship, especially during the Black Plague and the two world wars.

History in brief:

- until 228. BC - Liburnia/ Illiricum, Greece ( Dionisius younger, Dionisius elder)
- II BC Romans seized Rab
- from 3 BC. - 6 century. Roman Empire, Western Roman Empire; Emperor Octavian Augustus gave Rab the title of Municipium; status of the self -governing town )
- 493.- 544. - under the short rule of East Goths ( Kings Dietrich von Bern, Teodorik, Totila)
- 544. year. - 9 cent.. Byzantium, arrival of Slavs,
- 9 - 10 cent.. - croatian princes, Byzantium, croatian King Tomislav
- end of cent.. - Venice
- beginning of 11 cent.. - 12 century. - Croatian kingdom
- 12  .- 15  century.- often change of rulers; Serenissima, King Coloman, cro-hung. King Bela III - Arpad dynasty,  Louis the Great King of Hungary and Poland, Angevin Kings of Naples Ladislas, then cro-hung. King Sigismund - Luxemburg dynasty
- from 1409. to 1797.yr - Serenissima
- 1797. yr. to 1815. - Napoleon, Illyrian province of Italian Kingdom
- 1815. yr.- 1918. yr.- Austro - Hungarian Monarchy
- 1918.-1921. yr. - Italian Kingdom
- 1921. yr. - 1941. yr.. - Kingdom of Yugoslavia
- April 1941. yr.- 1943. yr.. - fascist Italy
- 1944. -1945. yr.. - Dritte Reich
- 1945.- to 1990. yr. -  SFR Yugoslavia
- 1991. yr..- Republic Croatia


Parish church St. Mary;

- Pieta and Baptistery, 15 ct.  Petar Trogiranin
- Chorus 1445
- Ciborium 9 ct.
- Jesus Christ relief, Byzant 8 ct.
- Altarpainting Virgin and a Child, 14. ct, Guariento d’Arpo
- Altar painting  The Assumptiont, late Venetian baroque (between 1746 and 1756)
- Altar marmor Intarsia with St. Christopher ( 17 ct.)
- St. Christopher reliquiem
- variouse holy artefacts ( crucifixes, censers, cups, ..)
- Stucco von sp?t venezianische Barok; 18 Jh. Clemente i Giacomo Somazzi
- organs by Petar Nekic from 1756, renovated
- an altarpiece of Virgin and Child, 14th century, supposedly by Guariento d’Arpo.

- The church of St. Anthony the Abbot; an altarpiece of St. Joa and Anthony, work of Mateo Ponzoni

- church of St. Andrew next to benedictine closter;
- a renaissance crucifix with a depiction of Lamentation.
- Altarpiece by the Venetian painter A. Novelli from 1765.
- Cretan-Byzantine painting of the Virgin Mary with Christ in her arms 16th century, with silver-golden icon frame made by a Venetian 18ct goldsmith. Copy of the Paolo Veneziano polyptych ( original at Bostom National Museum US).

- The church of St. Justine;
- altarpiece with a depiction of St. Justine and characters from the Battle of Lepanto from the 17th century by a Flemish painter, Baldasare d’Ana.
- King Coloman gift to Rab: enamel cross plates, 12 ct.
- another altarpiece with the depiction of Death of St. Joseph, by the Venetian painters’ workshop 16- 17 ct.
- Virgin with Christ in her arms and the angels, by a Spanish painter Zuano Buschet 16th century.
- sacral collection in period 11-18 ct.

- Church of the Holy Cross;
- Virgin with Christ in her arms and the angels painting, Venetian settecento.
- Stucco on the sealing work of Clemente ? Giacomo Somazzi 18 ct.

- Church of St. Anthony of Padua;
- altarpiece depiction of Virgin with Christ in her arms and the angels by unknown Venetian baroque painter 17ct.

- Portals: Palace Crnota, Palace Nimira, 15 ct works by sculptor Andrija Alessi

Santa Eufemia monastery:
- polyptych, workshop of brothers Antonio and Bartolomeo Vivarini 1458
- tabulatorium - late baroque
- lapidarium with different artefacta ( reliefs, sarcofag of Manda Budrisic ...)
- Icona "Madonna with a Child" -unknown master/ period
- pinacoteca of works by Fra Ambroz Testen ( modern art)
- biblioteca, small ethno museum

Public monuments

- The fountain in the Boscopini park, given to Rab at the end of the 1930s by the ban (governor) Ivan Perovi?. The fountain has six sources of water that symbolise the parishes of the island with a common source in the centre.

- The fountain in St. Christopher’s Square (Trg Sv. Kristofora), a work of the academic sculptor Žarko Violi? from Rijeka (1989), portrays the local legend of the shepherdess Draga and Kalifront from an epic by Juraj Barakovi?.

- The memorial cemetery for the victims of fascism in Kampor from 1953, project by Slovenian architect Edvard Ravnikar (1907-1993). The memorial complex includes a mosaic by Marijo Pregelj from Slovenia.

- The monument to the fallen soldiers of World War II in Boscopini park near hotel Istra is a work by Vinko Matkovi? from 1952. It has been restored in 2003 and joined with the monument to the fallen soldiers and victims of the Homeland war in Croatia by Mladen Š?erbe.

- The bust of Pravdoje Belija (highly esteemed senior forester of Rab, 1853 – 1923) was put up in 1974 in the town’s Komrcar Park. The sculptor is unknown.

- The bronze statue of St. Marino by Daniella Volpini from San Marino (2004) is a gift to Rab from the Republic of San Marino. Location: Dorka park near Hotel Arbiana.

- The bronze monument to Markantonius de Dominis in middle street,  work of Kosta Angeli Radovani (academic painter, London, 1916 – Zagreb, 2002) from 1974. The monument is placed in front of Dominis’s house of birth in 1994.

Monuments, historical sights:

- historic town of Rab
- St.Eufemia / Bernardin's Monastery in Kampor
- St.Peter's church, Supetarska Draga
- St.Damiens' church, Barbat

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