Vrbnik through the centuries
Vrbnik has been living and sharing its story for the past 900 years! The first written reference to Vrbnik is in the Glagolitic script in the deed of donation by the “famous Dragoslav” from 1100, however archaeological research reveals that the settlement was inhabited as early as the Neolithic period. This is evidenced by the Butković’s archaeological collection displayed in Desetinec and Illyrian artefacts on the hill of Kostrij above Vrbnik’s port Namori. The location was settled by the Iapodians, Liburnians and Romans, but it was only with the arrival of the Croats that Vrbnik became a fortress (kaštel) – a well-fortified town surrounded by walls, perched on steep cliffs above the sea. The remnants of the old town walls have been resisting the flurries of the bura for centuries in the street Pod keštel (Under the Castle).
Vrbnik’s history is closely related to the Frankopan Counts of the island of Krk, a mighty noble family who left a significant mark in Croatian history, and who are believed to have originated from Vrbnik. During their rule over the island (1118-1480), Vrbnik experienced economic and cultural prosperity. There are many traces of the Frankopan rule here and you can take a walk to their first castle Gradec, whose remains still exist above Vrbnik Field.
In that period, Vrbnik functioned as a well-defined urban environment and the legal provisions were noted down in the Vrbnik Statute of 1388 "... that righteous and just shall remain in their own right, and the guilty shall be punished!” This was the second Croatian-Glagolitic statute, and it applied to the whole island of Krk. In the old town centre there is a square bearing its name, and on that little square is the building that used to be the palace of the famous Frankopans. Vrbnik was a Glagolitic centre. A number of Glagolitic notary documents, corpora and many ecclesiastical books, mostly missals and breviaries have been preserved. Nearly a quarter of all the preserved Croatian-Glagolitic books on the island of Krk were either made in Vrbnik or had some connection to it. The Glagolitic monks were copying books, but the press was also very quickly adopted, and one of the first printers in the Glagolitic script and Croatian language was Blaž Baromić from Vrbnik. His statue can be found in Gospoja Park, with his back turned towards Senj, where he founded the Senj Glagolitic printing house in 1494.
After the Frankopans lost their rule over the island in 1480, the Venetians came to rule here. If you find the street called Galija in the old town, it will remind you of all the Vrbnik men who served on Venetian galleys. After the abolition of the Venetian Republic in 1797, the island became part of Napoleon's Illyrian provinces and later of the Habsburg, i.e. Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. Thanks to Vrbnik's intellectuals, Vrbnik once again flourished at the turn of the 19th century. The Vitezić’s House was built and a public school, a children’s nursery, savings cooperative (posujilnica), library, reading room, a meeting and banquet room for Vrbnik’s residents were all opened. The planting of Vrbnik Žlahtina began, and in 1911 the first water supply was installed on the island of Krk, right here in Vrbnik. The people of Vrbnik have lived through their fair share of tragedies during both world wars. At the entrance to Vrbnik, next to the fountain, you will be welcomed by the statue of a fighter erected in honour of all the inhabitants of Vrbnik killed in all wars. He does not hold a rifle in his hands, as one might expect, but a book. Interpret this as you will... In the new state, the second Yugoslavia, Vrbnik’s inhabitants remained dedicated to the Vrbnik's Field, cultivating tomatoes and Vrbnik Žlahtina, and sheep breeding. The key role in preventing mass emigration at that time was played by the agricultural cooperative, as well as "Vrbenka", a non-woven textile factory. The hotel Vrbniče nad morem and several catering establishments were also built. Vrbnik also remained an excursion site, never overly dependent on tourism until the creation of the sovereign Republic of Croatia, when the tourist potential protected from all the faults of mass tourism began to be used. Traditional activities such as viticulture, wine-making and sheep breeding were modernized and still provide opportunities for survival and a source of additional income.
In one of the most frequented streets in the old town centre you will find the little Chapel of St Martin, the last resting place of one of the most famous sons of Vrbnik, Dinko Vitezić (1822-1904), a doctor of law and a Croatian representative in the Parliament in Vienna for 18 years. One of his contemporaries was Antun Dragutin Parčić (1832-1902), a versatile Tertiary Franciscan and Glagolitist, lexicographer and one of the first Croatian photographers. Many priests have left their mark in Vrbnik's history, and no less than four bishops of Krk were born in Vrbnik: DSc Bartolomej Bozanić (1789-1854), DSc Ivan Josip Vitezić (1806-1887), Franjo Anijan Feretić (1816-1893) and the current Croatian Cardinal Josip Bozanić. The list of famous men is long, yet history is mostly quiet when it comes to significant women, but it is important to point out that the first educated women in Vrbnik were teachers and Vrbnik has had counted over 100 of them since then. According to the number of churches and chapels, as well as priests, one might conclude that Vrbnik is a fairly religious place, and the number of poets and poetesses from Vrbnik reveals that it is a source of eternal inspiration. There’s still one more thing you should know, Vrbnik’s locals cherish their heritage and still keep the old traditions of their ancestors...