Zadar is a city in Croatia on the Adriatic Sea. It is the centre of Zadar County and the wider northern Dalmatian region. Zadar is a historical center of Dalmatia as well as the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Zadar.
In the 5th century, under the rule of the Ostrogothic Kingdom, Zadar became poor with many civic buildings turning into ruins due to its advanced age. About the same time (6th century) it was hit by an earthquake, which destroyed entire complexes of monumental Roman architecture, whose parts would later serve as material for building houses. This caused a loss of population and created demographic changes in the city, then gradually repopulated by the inhabitants from its hinterland. However, during six decades of Gothic rule, the Goths saved those old Roman Municipal institutions that were still in function, while religious life in Dalmatia even intensified in the last years, so that there was a need for the foundation of additional bishoprics.
During 1918, political life in Zara intensified. The collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy led to the renewal of national conflicts in the city. With the arrival of an Italian army of occupation in the city on 4 November 1918, the Italian faction gradually assumed control, a process which was completed on 5 December when it took over the governorship. With the Treaty of Versailles (10 January 1920) Italian claims on Dalmatia contained in the Treaty of London were nullified, but later on the agreements between the Kingdom of Italy and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes set in the Treaty of Rapallo (12 November 1920) gave Zara with other small local territories to Italy.
The city became the centre of a new Italian territorial entity, called Governorship of Dalmatia, including the provinces of Zadar, Split and Kotor.
After Mussolini was removed from power on 25 July 1943 and arrested, the government of Pietro Badoglio signed an armistice with the Allies on 3 September 1943, which was made public only on 8 September 1943, and the Italian army collapsed. However, just four days later on 12 September 1943, "Il Duce", was rescued by a German military raid from his secret prison on the Gran Sasso mountain, and formed the Nazi-puppet Italian Social Republic in the north of the Country. The NDH proclaimed the Treaty of Rome to be void and occupied Dalmatia with German support. The Germans entered Zadar first, and on September 10 the German 114th Jäger Division took over. This avoided a temporary liberation by Partisans, as was the case in Split and Šibenik where several Italian fascist government officials were killed by an angry crowd.
The city was prevented from joining the NDH on the grounds that Zadar itself was not subject to the conditions of the Treaty of Rome. Despite this, the NDH's leader Ante Pavelić designated Zadar as the capital of the Sidraga-Ravni Kotari County, although its administrator was prevented from entering the city. Zadar remained under the local administration of the Italian Social Republic. Zadar was bombed by the Allies, with serious civilian casualties. Many died in the carpet bombings, and many landmarks and centuries old works of art were destroyed. A significant number of civilians fled the city.
In late October 1944 the German army and a significant amount of the civilian population abandoned the city. On October 31, 1944, the Partisans seized the city, until then a part of Mussolini's Italian Social Republic. Formally, the city remained under Italian sovereignty until September 15, 1947 (Paris Peace Treaties). The Italian exodus from the city continued and in a few years was almost total. The last stroke to the Italian presence was made by the local administration in October 1953, when the last Italian schools were closed and the students forced to move, in one day, into Croatian schools, putting an end to the Romance identity of the city. Today the Italian community counts only a few hundreds people, gathered into a local community (Comunita' degli Italiani di Zara).
During the Croatian War of Independence, Krajina rebels and the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) (at the time under Slobodan Milošević's control) converged on the city and subjected it to artillery bombardment during Operation Coast-91 in which they tried to take control of northern Dalmatia. Along with other Croatian towns in the area, Zadar was shelled sporadically for several years, resulting in damage to buildings and homes as well as UNESCO protected sites. A number of nearby towns and villages were also attacked, the most brutal being the Škabrnja massacre in which 86 people were killed.
Connections with Zagreb were severed for over a year. The only link between the north and south of the country was via the island of Pag. The siege of the city lasted from 1991 until January 1993 when Zadar and the surrounding area came under the control of Croatian forces and the bridge link with the rest of Croatia was reestablished in Operation Maslenica. Attacks on the city continued until the end of the war in 1995.
- The Cathedral of St. Anastasia is a Roman Catholic cathedral, the seat of the Archdiocese of Zadar, and the largest church in all of Dalmatia. The church's origins date back to a Christian basilica built in the 4th and 5th centuries, while much of the currently standing building was constructed in the Romanesque style during the 12th and 13th centuries. The site has been submitted to UNESCO's Tentative List of World Heritage Sites. The first known bishop in Zadar was Felix - he attended two church councils, the first in Aquileia in 381 and the second in Milan in 390. The basilica's original patron was St. Peter. During the time of bishop Donatus, the diocese received the ashes of St. Anastasia of Syrmia from Emperor Nikephoros I, whom the cathedral took as patron. Donatus commissioned a sarcophagus for the remains, which are still held in the cathedral. During the siege of Zadar by the Venetians and Crusaders in 1202, the cathedral was heavily damaged. For the entire 13th century the building was under repair. Over the cathedral's history, two popes have made personal visits. Pope Alexander III arrived in 1177 and visited the cathedral as well as St. Anastasia's sarcophagus. Pope John Paul II came to the cathedral on June 9, 2003 on one of his last international visits.
- The Sea organ is an architectural object and an experimental musical instrument which plays music by way of sea waves and tubes located underneath a set of large marble steps. The waves create somewhat random but harmonic sounds. The device was made by the architect Nikola Bašić as part of the project to redesign the new city coast (Nova riva), and the site was opened to the public on 15 April 2005.
- National Museum [Narodni muzej Zadar] The Zadar branch of the National Museum traces the urban development of Zadar from the Baroque to the first half of the 19th century: architectural fragments, portraiture, furniture and (particularly recommended) early photography. There are also scale models of Zadar through the ages. The scientific section of the National Museum is kept in the Deputy's Palace. The Zadar National Museum consists of the Zadar City Museum, the Natural Science Department and the Ethnological Department.
- The Captain's Tower [Kapetanova kula] A pentagonal tower on the Five Wells Square, built by the Venetians to strengthen the city against Turkish attacks. It gets its name from the nearby residence of the Venetian city captain, and is now used as an exhibition space.
- St Donatus' Church - a monumental round building from the 9th century in pre-Romanesque style, traditionally but erroneously said to have been erected on the site of a temple of Juno. It is the most important preserved structure of its period in Dalmatia; the massive dome of the rotunda is surrounded by a vaulted gallery in two stories which also extends around the three apses to the east. The church treasury contains some of the finest Dalmatian metalwork; notably the pastoral staff of Bishop Valaresso (1460). It is pretty difficult to miss, as it has become the most recognizable symbol of Zadar. The church is no longer in use for religious ceremonies, and today is a museum. It also holds a series of classical music concerts every summer.