Cres Croatia is an island in the external range of the Kvarner group of islands. It stretches almost along a meridian, from Jablanac Cape (Glavina) in the north to Suha Cape in the south, in the length of 68 km. Cres has a population of 3,238 inhabitants.
The highest peak on the island is Gorice (650 m). Along poorly indented coasts, the most prominent place on the eastern coast of the bay is Koromacna, and on the western coast Creska Luka, Valun, Martinscica and Ustrine port. In front of the western coast are the islets Zaglav, Galiola, Zeca and Visoki, in front of the south-eastern coast Trstenik and in front of the north-eastern the island of Plavnik. There are no water streams on the island; in its central part is the large Vransko Lake (5.75 sq km), with its bottom 68 m below sea level. It contains about 200 million cubic metres of water. Vransko Lake is the main source of water for the islands of Cres and Mali Losinj. Along the coasts of the island are numerous submarine springs. Typical for the climate of the island are differences between the northern part, in which an average temperature in January is 5-6 °C, and the southern part, where an average temperature reaches 6-7 °C. The northern part of the island has an annual rainfall of 900-1,000 mm, while the southern part has 800-900 mm.
The western part of the island is warmer and more humid than the eastern part, which is exposed to the bora (cold north wind). In the northern part of the island, larger forest complexes have been preserved (oak, hornbeam, pine), while in the southern part forests have been preserved only at some places. East of Vransko Lake are the complexes of pine forests. Most of the settlements are located in the western part of the island; the eastern and central parts are considerably less populated. The major place on the island is the town of Cres. Chief occupations include farming (olive, vine, vegetables), seafaring and fishing (fish canning in Cres and Martinscica). Steep and inaccessible parts of the eastern coast are the natural habitat of white-headed vulture (ornithological nature park since 1986). Quality building stone is extracted on the island as well, in the vicinity of Osor. Along the island runs a regional road, as the main traffic artery, which connects all villages and towns of the island of Cres. It runs from Porozina in the north to Osor in the south and continues toward Losinj. In the southern part of the Osor Strait (100 m long, 6-8 m wide, about 2.5 m deep) a lift railway bridge with a road connecting the islands of Cres and Losinj has been constructed. Regular ship lines connect the island of Cres with Losinj, Rijeka, Pula and Zadar. Ferry lines are Porozina - Brestova, Porozina - Rijeka and Merag - Valbiska (Krk island). In recent times the island has become attractive to a number of tourists due to its improved communications.
The island of Cres has been inhabited since the Neolithic (cave habitation Jami na Sredi). Older hill-fort settlements on rather inaccessible hilltops, encircled by a circular stone wall, date back to the Bronze Age. Hill-forts of a square ground-plan, Lubenice and Ustrine, date back to the Iron Age, together with the necropolises with barrows (tumuli). The oldest known inhabitants of the island were the Liburnians. Ancient Greek sources mention a common name for the islands of Cres and Losinj, i.e. Apsirtides, which is related with the legend of the Argonauts. Among other ancient settlements mentioned are Krepsa (Cres) and Apsoros (Osor). The Romans conquered Cres during the reign of Emperor Augustus. On the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, the island became part of the Byzantine properties on the Adriatic, and in the early Middle Ages it was gradually inhabited by the Slavs. The oldest Croatian monument on the island is the famous Valun Tablet, written in Glagolitic letters in the 11th century. From those times are also other Glagolitic monuments of the island (kept in the Lapidarium - collection of stone monuments and fragments - in Cres and Valun). From 1000 to 1358 the island was under Venice, then under the Croatian-Hungarian kings, and from 1409 to 1797 again under Venice. During the Venetian rule the administrative and political centre of the island was relocated from Osor to Cres. Osor gradually lost its importance and decayed. After the fall of Venice the island of Cres came under Austria and in the period 1918-1943 it was under Italy. In 1945 the island was joined to the mother country Croatia.
Cities and Villages on the island Cres
Osor | On the south-western side of the island Cres, on the spot where the islands of Cres and Loinj are closest to one another, on the narrow isthmus there is the oldest coastal settlement called Osor. A narrow canal was dug on the southern side near by the town's wall across the isthmus, probably already in the ancient times, what led to the town becoming strategically more significant in the conditions of coastal navigation of that time, since it had a vital traffic position with which the sea route was essentially shortened. That was the place around which was proceeding the whole maritime traffic until the 15th ct., between North Adriatic harbours to the south in Dalmatia and Levant. This canal is today also called Kavanela, and it is only of local significance regarding the traffic.
Osor is the oldest coastal settlement on the island of Cres. Its historic significance was closely related to its traffic and geographical position along with artificially dug canal which once had an important maritime and traffic function. With the disappearance of this function the basis for prosperity also disappeared, and economic decline was followed by demographic regress intensified with the appearance of malaria. The appearance of malaria was connected with the sea bay, a big silty shallow called Jaz, which was later for the most part filled up. Salt-works were situated here in the past times.
The traces of settling date already from the prehistoric times (graves from the Bronze Age, megalithic walls, a number of ruins of Illyrian castles in the surroundings, necropolis). In the antique times the town was in contact with Greek colonies in the Adriatic (the find of money from Korkyra); it developed especially in the Roman period.
Osor, as an important transit spot on the line of the oldest known maritime-terrestrial transit from Aegean Sea to the Baltic, was in the Roman times a municipium - an autonomous county district and it had "about 25000 citizens of various nationalities, natives, Illyrians, Italians, Greeks and others".
Osor was the centre of civil government, until Venetian prince-captain moved to Osor, first temporarily, and from the 15th ct. (1450) definitely. In the time of late antiquity the town becomes the centre of ecclesiastical government - diocese (6th ct.) until the 19th ct. (1828), when the diocese of Osor is abrogated. During the Middle Ages it is still a big and significant town, although much smaller in expanse than the antique one, a vivid centre with developed trade and a crucial point for navigation in the Adriatic Sea. From the 15th ct. on, when navigation starts taking place on open sea, Osor loses its significance and has been stagnating ever since.
With the fall of the Venetian Republic (1797), Venice and Venetian countries together with Istria and the islands of Kvarner come under the rule of Austria, and by the beginning of 1806. they are given over to Napoleon's Kingdom of Italy. These conditions will last until 1813. when all those countries ("Illyrian counties") once again come under Austrian rule (until 1918).
Mali Losinj | The town area, with the expanse of 223 km2, includes the southern part of the island of Cres, from the bays Koromaèno and Ustrine, also the island of Loinj and a group of smaller islands and islets (Unije, Ilovik, Susak, Srakane Male, Srakane Vele, etc.). Today this area has about 8719 inhabitants (census from 1991.), in 14 localities which form the town of Mali Loinj (Belej, Æunski, Ilovik, Male Srakane, Mali Loinj, Nerezine, Osor, Punta Kria, Susak, Sv. Jakov, Unije, Ustrine, Vele Srakane, Veli Loinj). Mali Loinj is administrative and cultural centre of the whole town's territory.
Martinscica | Martinscica is the second biggest settlement on the island of Cres with 186 inhabitants, located near the sea. Due to its beautiful pebble beaches, excellent seafood restaurants (most inhabitants are fishermen) and cosy atmosphere, Martinscica became the favourite summer resort for those who love nature. It has a protected harbour and therefore is an inevitable stop for all the yachts sailing southwards. From Martinscica you may take a steep road which takes you to a hilltop village called Vidovic (280 m). It is a unique experience to visit Vidovic after a strong gale- the view reaches Istria and even Italy. From Vidovic there are paths which take you to the other two interesting places: Grmov and Lubenice.
Veli Losinj | Veli Loinj is mentioned for the first time under the name of Velo selo. The oldest core of Velo selo developed in the 13th/14th ct. around Romanesque church of St. Nicholas from the 14th ct. The church of St. Nicholas keeps votive paintings of sailors from the 18th ct. The original settlement was of a scattered type, the houses were built according to the position of agricultural lands, not regarding the street lines. A defensive tower - refuge is from the 15th ct.
Parochial church of St. Anthony Abbot the Anchoret was built on the place of the first chapel from the 15th ct. In the 17th ct. the old church is pulled down and the new one erected, a bigger basilica with three naves, which is completely renovated in 1774. when the building of the third one takes place, a present-day luxurious Baroque church. In the church, on the main altar there is a marble antependium with an imagery of the Last Supper in Emaus, a work of G. Albertino da Pirano. The richest gallery of the paintings of Italian masters in the islands of Kvarner can be found in the church: tempera on wood Mother of God with the Child and the Saints (1475) - by B. Vivarini, St. Francis - by B. Strozzi, St. John the Baptist - by L. Quareno, Deputation of the Kings - by F. Hayez and L. del Cosse, Souls in the Purgatory - by F. Polenzo.
Not far off from the harbour in Veli Loinj there is the church of St. Mary (Our Lady of angels), which was built in 1510., and was later refurnished in the Baroque style. The church keeps a valuable collection of Venetian masters' paintings: St. Francis and St. Hildebrand by F. Fontebass, eight paintings of G. A. Pelegrini and several paintings from the 16th-18th ct, one of which is attributed to Titian.
Miholascica | The village of Martinscica, which is named after the church of Saint Martin, is situated south west of the town of Cres. The nudist beach, north east of the village, near Lake Vransko (Vransko jezero) is a popular meeting place for male bi- and homosexuals. To get there, take the road from the town of Cres towards the Island of Mali Losinj. A nice nudist beach is to be found near the camping-site.
Nerezine | Nerezine is a settlement and a harbour on the eastern coast of the northern part of the island, near by the road which connects the island with the mainland across the island of Cres. It is mentioned for the first time in the 14th ct.
The parochial church of Our Lady of Health with one nave was built in 1877. On the main altar there is a painting of Mother of God with St. Nicholas and St. Gaudencius, a work attributed to Palma Junior.
The Franciscan monastery with the church and the cloister from the 1510., is a pious endowment of the family Draa from Osor. A Renaissance triangle bell-tower was built around 1600. An altar pall of Girolamo di Santacroce can be found in the church, also the painting "Mother of God with the Child", a work of unknown Venetian master from the 15th ct.
Sveti Jakov | In the village called Sveti Jakov there is an old Romanesque chapel of St. Jacob, with an apse, which was enlarged in 1624. by adding in front of it a bigger and wider nave. This date is engraved in big Glagolitic letters on the marble slab at the top of the front.
Ilovik | Ilovik is situated in a small bay protected from the north by the islet of St. Peter. Ilovik is said to be the island of flowers because almost around every house there are oleanders, roses, eucalyptuses and other flowers; the flowers on the island are part of the islanders way of life.
The village of Ilovik has 170 inhabitants, two shops, a post office and a tavern. Enjoy the quietness and solitary of a small island.