Pag, such as we
know, emerged between 1443 and 1474. On 18th May, 1443, having gained
the permission of the Venice Senate, the townsmen began the construction
fearing of the Turks who had penetrated up to Zadar by then. Before
that, Pag had already been relocated two times. From the antique times,
up to the end of the 4th century, it existed on a locality known as
Caska, (Lat. Kissa, Cissa). Caska was submerged after an earthquake,
and the people moved to the south, on a site today known as Stari grad
(the Old town).
In the 10th century
Pag was completely urbanised; it had the city walls, towers, fortresses,
squares, churches, monasteries, houses and palaces. The citizens were
engaged in trading, fishing, cattle breeding; they were sailors or salt
manufacturers. The village of Košljun was used as the town’s
According to historical
documents, the name Pag was mentioned for the first time in the 10th
century. In 976, the king Drislav liberated Pag from the Byzantine
authority and appointed a Croatian district Prefect as the administrator
of the town. Pag has had its good and bad times alike many Mediterranean
In 1192, the Church
of St. Marija was built. Even today, it is the dominant structure in
Stari grad. One of the most important events in the history of the town
is the receiving of the Bull of the king Bela IV that granted Pag the
status of the Royal Borough, on 30th March 1244. Afterwards, Pag has
experienced a considerable economic growth.
The life in Pag
was based on the common law codex. The citizens were longing for their
autonomy and were struggling for it by any means. The prominent figure
was Belota Dobronic, a judge who tried to realize the idea of the legal
and economical independence of Pag on the General Croatian Convention
in Nin, in 1396.
In 1376, the Croatian
king Ludovik I confirmed the existing privileges of the Royal Borough
to Pag, and granted it some new ones.
In 1403, the king
Ladislav sold his share of Dalmatia, Pag included, to Venice and thus
sentenced Pag to a centuries-long life under the Venetian rule.
In 1433 Pag received the Town Statute, one of the first documents of
that sort in Croatia.
In the middle of
the 15th century, Turkish threat kept rising and therefore the inhabitants
of Pag decided to build a new town. The construction works began on
today’s location of the town, on 18th May 1443. The urban plans
of the new town were developed in Venice respecting the principles of
architecture and urbanism of that time. Juraj Dalmatinac, a great constructor
and sculptor participated in the development of the urban plan.On 18th
September 1474, the citizens of Pag carried the miraculous Holly Cross
in a big procession on their way towards the new town. The duke of Pag
leaded the procession.
The charter written
in the honour of the foundation of the new town says:“In the name
of the living God and the true Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, because
without calling on them no beginning is worthily founded, it is the
unanimous opinion of all the citizens of Pag that this town should be
relocated to the port Katena, to the glory of God and the Blessed Virgin
Mary, Saint Marko the Evangelist, Saint Juraj the Martyr and all the
Saints; in honour and pride of our Most High Monarch and His Illustrious
Highness, Francesco Foscario, the famous dodge of Venice by the Grace
of God, and the whole our mighty government of Venice, under whose auspices
are these foundations and the peace and safety of the noblemen and common
people of this country and this island. Let there be laid the foundations
of the churches and monasteries for holding the church service, above
all for the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The honourable gentlemen,
reverends Vulkozije Grubonia, higher priest and Bla Martinia,
Pag’s chancellor; gentleman Dišman Diševie, of the late
Luka and gentleman Bla Diškovia who is going to make the
note of all the legal works in connection to the mentioned construction,
namely the gathered money which is going to be spent and paid out, were
chosen by the town council of Pag to supervise the construction of the
church. The building of this church was initiated on Saturday, 18th
May 1443, around 3 p.m. The reverend father in Christ and a gentleman,
Laurencije Venerije, the archbishop of Zadar and our metropolitan by
the mercy of God and the Apostolic Chair, consecrated the foundation
stone, all the while accompanied by the prayers of the clergy, and a
procession of the common people. The construction of the town, started
immediately afterwards, at 4 p. m. This is documented in the foundations
of the big tower beside the transversal gate. The esteemed gentleman
Petar Faletro, laid the first stone and the reverend Marget laid the
second one; each of them humbly praying the Lord, whose name we called
on at the beginning so that these constructions, initiated by His power
and mercy, would be completed in the same manner and protected forever
and ever. Amen.”The mighty and powerful walls, fortified by nine
towers, were surrounding Pag and were defending it from all kinds of
attacks. These circumstances provided peace to the people and prosperity
to the town. This is the period of establishing economic contacts between
Pag and the other districts. At the same time, many townsmen were studying
at the Universities all over the Europe.
In spite the resettling,
the citizens of Pag have never forgotten Stari grad. In 1589, the Franciscans
built their monastery on that location, whose remains still exist.
On the Feast of the Assumption, people go to Stari grad to say prayers
to the miraculous statue of the Mother of God of Stari grad. This miraculous
statue is carried in a solemn procession to Pag, to the Church of the
Assumption from where it returns to its sanctuary on the Nativity of
the Virgin Mary, every 7th September.
For centuries, the city government has been headed by a duke, elected
from among dignitaries and appointed by the central government of Venice.
The noble families of Pag, like Mišolic, Zorovic, Portada, Jadrulic
and especially Mirkovic, have had the important influence on the cultural
and economic lives in town. Their palaces were the symbols of power,
wealth and general prosperity of the town.
During the Croatian reformation, as the result of building up the national
consciousness in Pag, the Croatian Party of Rights and the Croatian
People’s Party were growing stronger. In 1882, the Croatian People’s
Party won the majority of voices at the elections and Nikola Portada
was elected the major.
In the late 19th
and the early 20th centuries, Pag had 4700 inhabitants. In later years,
and especially in 1905, following the emergence of a blight, which had
destroyed the vineyards, the number of population started declining.
Many inhabitants emigrated, mostly to the USA, Canada and Australia.
In the twenty thirties, the agrarian reform caused the fragmentation
of landed properties that led to the weakening of the economic power
of nobility and their gradual emigration. The members of the great noble
families were immigrating to Italy, South America, some of them to Zagreb,
Rijeka and other Croatian towns. Another wave of depopulation took place
at the end of the Second World War. In this period, the nobility completely
seized to exist. Difficult economic times have lasted for twenty years.
The beginning of the twenty sixties was characterised by the rapid development
of tourism. Tourism, as a new economic branch, has given a fresh impetus
to the general development and therefore Pag expanded outside the old
centre of the town. New quarters of the town have developed: Vodice,
Blato, Murvica, Varoš, Bašaca, Bošana, Sv. Jelena. In
1968, the luxury equipped hotel “Bellevue” was opened. It
disposed of 370 beds. Furthermore, beaches, auto-camps and new roads
were being systematised. Pag has become an attractive tourist destination.
Besides opening new coffee bars, disco-clubs and stores, many activities
in the service sector have emerged.