Imotski history  

Imota Fortress pletera from 9th centuryImotski fortress originates from years 845-864 when the Imotski fortress was built during Trpimir's rule of medieval Croatia.  Decorated stone with braided ornament from the fortress on the left is a good indicator of the age of the fortress.  Zupania ta Hemotha, with it's fortress (castrum) as a center can be found in the Byzantine Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus chronicle, "De administrando imperio," written between 948-952 A.C. 
There are scarce written documents mentioning Imota fortress before year 1500.  In one document from 1246. g. officer Radoševic is mentioned as its commander.  In a document from 1378, Dubrovnik republic asked  Imotski duke Embrich to send 1000 soldiers to Ston to help out in their fight with Venetians.  Imotski duke Embrich has proclaimed castello of Hum territory (castellanom terre Chelmi) or future Herzegovina.  Imotski fortress also belonged  to Herzog Stephen of Santo Saba or Hrvoje Vukčić Hrvatinić at the beginning of the 15th century.  From 1435-1466 Hum was ruled by Herzog Stjepan Vukčić Kosača.  Herzegovina has gotten its name from Kosača's title.  He has lived in Imotski fortress which was repaired by a man called Ljubomir.  Stjepan's son Vladislav took the fortress from him in 1452 after a quarrel because of Stjepan's wild life.

During the Turkish rule, starting in year 1493, the fortress was renovated and served as an important military post.  The fortress commander was called Dizdar.  In later years of Turkish rule Imotski captain lived in the fortress.  There were few houses outside Topana, that was how the fortress was called at the time, walls.  In one of them lived Kadija or Turkish judge, who was immortalized in a famous Croatian ballad Hasanaginica.  Topana got is name from Turkish word "tophana" - house for keeping arms.

Topana and Imotski in 18th century under Turks
Imotski fortress at the beginning of the 18th century.

The time came to free Imotski from Turkish yoke after 60,000 Turks led by Mustaj-pasha Čelić failed to capture Sinj in 1715 on August 15, the day that is celebrated as "Velika Gospa" or "Large Lady of the Angels" holiday in Sinj ever since, attracting many pilgrims from whole Dalmatia.  Venetians were helped by Imotski Franciscans, friars Stipan Vrljić and Lovro Sitović who sheltered 800 Catholics from Imotski county to Omiš during there last escape from Imotski.  Rich merchant duke Šoić from Mostar, who has escaped from there promised to replace all lost canons in fight for Imotski.
The fight preparations for Imotski lasted from July 25 till July 27.  To prevent the Turks sending help to Imotski from nearby places Dalmatian general providur Alvis Mocenigo send his officers  Semitecolo towards  Neretva and  Novković towards Trebinje and Ston.   People from Vrgorac  were in charge preventing Turkish help from Livno and Glamoč.   Having everything  in place, Mocenigo ordered his general Emo and  serzent-major Rizzo  to attack Turks in Imotski.  The attackers had more than 2300 soldiers with Calvary men, 300 of them from Imotski county, and 12 canons for the attack.

War map of Topana fight in 1717
War map of fight for Imotski in 1717

The siege started on July 27 with the canon barrage on the fortress with mixed results.  Two gunpowder silos exploded, reducing the fighting prowess of the Turks.  Even after losing 27 soldiers the fortress defenders were not discouraged, still fighting valiantly.   Imotski and Sinj fighters sensing that their time has come  to overcome the oppressors led a charge to break the lower walls, but the main inner walls were too high and unconquerable for the attackers.  The only option to defeat the Turks was to mine the inner walls.  That proved to not be necessary since the Turks started negotiating their surround upon earning of the mined inner walls.  The negotiations were completed on August 1 with Venetians accepting the surround terms.  All the provisions were left in the fortress and the remaining soldiers received free passage.  Most of the Turks went to Mostar and Ljubuški, while 37 of them converted to Christianity and stayed in Imotski.  On August 2, Imotski was free of Turks.   August 2 become Imotski holiday, "Gospa od Anđela" or "Lady of Angels" when many people come back to Imotski to have a celebration that starts on August 1 in the evening and lasts till the sunrise the following day.

The most important persons in these operations were general Emo and serzent-major of artillery Rizzo,  friars Stipan Vrljić and Lovro Sitović, duke Mate Šoić, and Serdar Stjepan Vučković.  They were all rewarded with abandoned Turkish lands and all of them, but the friars received army advancements.  After the defeat of the Turks the Venetians assumed the power and have installed their own administration.  The fortress continued to have a military importance and had a military commander living there.  The first colonel of Imotski became duke Mate Šoić.  

Friar Vjeko Večić painting of Topana in 1774, based on Pietro Corir drawing
Imotski fortress in 1774, friar Vjeko Vrčić drawing.
 Based on P. Corir drawing from 1774


The Venetians used the fortress during their stay in Dalmatia, but the strategic importance of the fortress started to diminish during the brief two periods of the first Austrian occupation and French occupation.  Three years after the second Austrian occupation in 1816 the fortress was abandoned officially and the chaplain was relieved from his duty.  After that year the fortress was neglected and slowly the nature and the Bazana home builders had caused the walls to crumble.  Finally in 1974 the governing people have become aware what historic monument they have and started preservation and partial restoration of the fortress that was completed in 1983.  The bottom two photos show the extent of the restoration.  The fortress is in a good shape, open for visiting year around.  It offers spectacular views in all directions.  In the late nineteen seventies soccer stadium works started that took more than ten years to fully complete, giving Imotski very unique facility.

Jelavic Dolac i Topana Topana i Gospin dolac stadion
Topana and Jelavić depression in 1960-ies
Topana and soccer stadium in 2004

Within the outer fortress walls there is a "Lady of the Angels" church, which building has been started by the Venetians the following months after the victory.  It was opened in 1720 commemorating the victory against the Turks.  Friar Stjepan Vrljić become the first fortress vicar (Župnik).