For centuries, the area around today's Crikvenica Riviera has witnessed periods of war and peace, reign of various rulers, and the establishment of new governments and boundaries. It has been a meeting point of different languages and alphabets, different cultures and civilisations, from the times of the Liburnians and the Romans, through the Hungarian and Austrian periods, right up to the present day. Traces of this are still visible in the area's remnants of settlements, burial mounds and defensive dry-stone walls, or in the weapons, jewellery, ceramics and specific amphorae that have been found here. Less tangible traces of these civilisations also still exist, in barbarian curses, the Pauline prayers, weeping of local labourers, in the jokes and songs of the fishermen... The best-known map of the Roman Empire, the Tabula Peutingeriana from the 3rd century AD, whose medieval copy from the 12th century has been preserved and named after Konrad Peutinger who owned it in the 16th century, indicates the position of a station in the northern part of the Liburnian coast between Tarsatica (today, Rijeka) and Senia (Senj). This station, marked on the map as Ad Turres, had a military garrison that protected the entire local area and the important Roman road that connected the north of Italy (the town of Aquileia), through Tergesta (Triest) and Tarsatica (Rijeka), with Dalmatia. In the area of Ad Turres at the turn of the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD was the workshop of Sextus Metilius Maximus with facilities for producing ceramic items. For the effective operation of such a workshop, some essential natural requirements had to be met: closeness to the source of the raw material (clay pits), availability of freshwater, large amounts of combustible material (firewood) and, finally, proximity to a road or sea route. Crikvenica fulfilled all these prerequisites. The history of Crikvenica, Dramalj, Jadranovo and Selce was closely intertwined with the development of the nearby fertile valley of Vinodol and its medieval fortified towns of Drivenik, Grižane and Bribir. During the Middle Ages, each of these towns had its own harbour on the coast, which led to the development of fishing villages around them. The stone houses were built in a very specific way, characterised by vaults and small courtyards enclosed by high stone walls. Between these walls wind narrow lanes, just wide enough for two people to go by. Today we can still find remnants of the work of the area's skilled bricklayers and stonemasons, who often had to earn their bread far from home. The Crikvenica area also produced many skilled fishermen, and the beginning of the 20th century saw the rapid rise of tourism as the primary economic activity. This stagnated, however, in the period between the two world wars, and during the Croatian Homeland War in the 1990s. But a new era of social and economic prosperity began in 1993 with the establishment of the Town of Crikvenica as a local government within the independent Republic of Croatia.


Before the area of the present town became populated, people lived in the hinterland, around Kotor on a nearby hill. The name Kotor comes from the Latin name Ad turres, which was translated as kid tor (at the towers) by the Croats after their arrival. The parish of Kotor used to be part of the small medieval town of Grižane. Local people engaged in agriculture, livestock breeding and fishing, and learned to grow vines from the Roman people domiciled here. In 1225, the noble family of Frankopan came into possession of the Vinodol parish and continued to rule the area until the Croatian noblemen Petar Zrinski and Fran Krsto Frankopan were executed in Wiener Neustadt in 1671. Under the Frankopan rule, the free citizens of the towns in the Vinodol area compiled the Vinodol Law, the first Croatian legal document. This was in 1288, at a time when many parts of Europe were still regarded as barbarian. People from the Vinodol area used to trade goods between the coast and the hinterland on carriages, an activity locally known as kirijašenje. This is why the people from Crikvenica are sometimes called Kirci, although they never actually engaged in such activities. In 1412, Nikola IV Frankopan renovated the old church dedicated to the Virgin Mary and built a monastery, and gave it to the Pauline monks, which was confirmed by a deed of donation in which the name of Crikvenica was first mentioned in an official document. In the following centuries, until the Pauline order was abolished in 1786, Paulists, also sometimes known as the white friars because of their white habits, played an important role in almost all areas of life of local people. Paulists knew the Glagolitic alphabet and Glagolitic liturgical books and were meritorious for education and spreading literacy among children. They cultivated music, arts, and philology and played an important role in the local economy because they owned arable land in the plain of Crikvenica and watermills and a sawmill on the stream of Dubračina. They also had the right to levy income from trade across the entire coastal area of Crikvenica. After the abolishment of the Pauline order, their monastery – today the Hotel Kaštel – had various functions and was converted several times, which is why today there are no traces of the monastery architecture. Unlike the monastery, the former Pauline church preserved many works of art and traces of renewals from different style periods. These all attest to the devotion of the Paulists and local people to the Virgin Mary, who had been worshipped in the Dubračina area from the early Middle Ages. Major settlement of Crikvenica as we know it today started in the 17th century, especially in 1776 after fire devastated a great part of Kotor. Among the destroyed buildings was the parish church of St. Simon, which led to the centre of the parish moving to Crikvenica. This was a period when the Turks and Venetians no longer posed any threat, making life along the coast much safer. But due to the lack of arable land, people from Crikvenica soon started turning more towards the sea and quickly gained a reputation as the best fishermen in the northern Adriatic. They became known as Saragari because of their skill at catching small oily fish, mostly pilchards, locally called sarag. In the mid-19th century, local people started migrating to other continents, particularly well-known being the groups of fishermen who settled in San Pedro and Seattle. People from Crikvenica were also widely known as skilled stonemasons and bricklayers. At the end of the 19th century, Crikvenica was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A period of intense tourism development – especially health tourism – followed the construction of the first wooden swimming baths in 1888 and the hotels Therapia (1895) and Miramare (1906). With the development of steam ships and passenger traffic to Rijeka, Crikvenica became more easily accessible and thus better known among tourists from the nearby areas and abroad. Over time, as its reputation for tourism continued to grow, Crikvenica became one of the leading holiday resorts on the Adriatic and a popular destination for many generations of visitors.


In the beginning, Dramalj was a fishing harbour surrounded by olive groves owned by people who lived in the valley of Tribalj. It was first mentioned only at the beginning of the 18th century, when it was permanently populated and known as Zagorje-Dramalj. The settlement formed and then began to grow around the small church of St. Helen, which was renovated and expanded at the beginning of the 19th century. This church was built on the spot of an old chapel, which had been converted in the Baroque style and expanded in the 18th century, when Dramalj was a chaplaincy of the parish of Belgrad. In 1796, a famous artist from Rijeka, Giuseppe Capovilla, made a marble altar for this church. The Parish of St. Helen was founded in 1809, but the Parish House and the Church of St. Helen were only built after 1812. Mate Balas, the parish priest at that time, used his own money and the contributions of his parishioners to initiate construction of the new church. The interior of the church was decorated in the 19th century: the pulpit in 1837, and the main altar in 1845. The town was soon renamed Sveta Jelena (St. Helen), after the church, but after World War Two got its old name back again – Dramalj. In the immediate vicinity of the church is the House of Culture, which hosted the first people's library (founded in 1939). Construction of the first tourist accommodation facilities began between the two world wars. Over the following years, Dramalj grew into a resort that particularly appeals to weekenders and holidaymakers.

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