Novalja has a long, eventful and interesting history, beginning with numerous archaeological discovers at various places around the town and its surrounding area. Among them are 3 early Christian basilicas from the 4th and 5th centuries; the remains of the floor mosaic of one of these basilicas can be seen within the Gothic church of Our Lady of the Rosary in the town centre. Many fragments of church furniture and other similar items are preserved in an archaeological collection called Stomorica. The Reliquary, found by one of the basilicas and now located in the Zadar Archaeological Museum, is also very valuable. One of the oldest illustrations of Our Lady with the inscription Maria ever found on the east coast of the Adriatic was found here in Novalja.
In archaeological terms, the area of Caska is especially interesting and there have recently been investigations of the Roman settlement of Cisse, which legend says collapsed in an earthquake in the 4th century. A unique aqueduct carved out of solid rock dating back to the 1st century and measuring 1.2 km in length, 70 cm in width and 9 overhead openings up to 40 m in height, is one of the most interesting and valuable sites in the area. This one-of-a-kind Roman aqueduct, popularly known as the Italian’s Hole, once supplied Novalja with water from the Novalja fields. The entrance to this water supply system is located inside the Town Museum, which boasts a range of Novalja’s cultural and ethnological heritage. Highlights from the national treasury house include the “Nashki” local dance, performed in colourful folk costumes to the music of the local bagpipes.
People also treasure the traditional two-part folk singing known as nakant, which has its own festival here, while the klapa (traditional a capella singing) groups Navalia (male) and Murtelice (female) preserve original Dalmatian folk songs. Liturgical singing has a special value here and its richness is particularly evident in the religious rites of Holy Week (from Palm Sunday to Easter).
Apart from its rich ethnographic collection and its exhibition of known and less known Croatian artists in various media and styles, the central cultural institution of the Town of Novalja is famous for the so-called Talijanova buža, a 1.2 km long antique underground aqueduct with an entrance located in the museum and a visible first section of the aqueduct (the aqueduct itself is not open to visitors).
Numerous archaeological sites and remains, including the unique ancient Roman aqueduct from the 1st century, the only one of its kind on the Croatian Adriatic coast, attest to a thousand-year old history and the turbulent times Novalja went through. The Roman conquerors had a particular influence throughout the 1st century BC. Thus, the Roman culture left its mark for many centuries to come. There was a strong Christian community in Novalja back in the 4th and 5th century. That’s where the three magnificent basilicas were erected. The early Christian Novalja was a well-known pilgrimage centre of the ancient world. Part of the numerous archaeological finds has been preserved at various sites and the other part of the findings can be found in the Stomorica archaeological collection located next to the Parish Church of St. Catherine.
With the help of his family and in a former boutique and barber shop’s attic in Novalja, the famous Croatian writer and journalist Mladen Kušec held an exhibition of old equipment found in the boutique that operated until 1943. Thus, a little exhibition site was born, known as Crnkovic’s Palace, where a variety of workshops and performances are held today.
In the town centre, there is the Parish Church of St. Catherine, which has unique architecture and recently, the 100th anniversary of the church consecration was celebrated.
The Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, also known as the Little Church, is located at the centre of Novalja and was built in the 17th century on the foundation of an early Christian basilica and medieval church. Above the altar is a miraculous painting of Our Lady that wept in the 16th century, and inside the church is the remains of a floor mosaic from an Early Christian basilica dating back to the 4th century.
The Discovery of the Amphorae
Off the island of Pag, in Little Vlaška Bay: A shipwreck of a Roman merchant ship with a cargo of amphorae, 1st century BC.
Although the ancient Greeks first came up with the idea of the amphorae as the primary way of packaging wine, oil and many other commercial products for transportation in the Adriatic, it was not until Roman times that that there were any recordings of their mass use in well-organized maritime trade across the Mediterranean. Made from strong ceramic material that has been resisting the destructive effects of nature for thousands of years, they allow us to discover and explore the remains of ancient shipwrecks and to directly study the maritime economy of ancient times.
The entire Croatian public was pleasantly surprised by the discovery of the remains of the sunken merchant ship with a cargo of amphorae from the 1st century BC off the east coast of the island, in the Velebit Channel, in Little Vlaška Bay.
Mr. Dražen Peranić from Old Novalja first alerted the world to the existence of these sites in the spring of 2004, when he discovered more than a thousand amphorae and two lead bars from ancient anchors on the seafloor.
Expert analysis determined that the amphorae were the so-called Lamboglia type 2, primarily used for the transportation of wine, which characterized the production of amphorae from the second half of the 2nd century until the end of the 1st century BC. These amphorae were primarily intended for the Adriatic market and partly for the eastern Mediterranean as well. There is evidence of their production along the west coast of the Adriatic and there are also assumptions that they were produced on the east coast as well. On the edge of one of the amphorae was a TIMO seal, with which the manufacturer periodically marked the series of the produced items.
Along with the cargo of amphorae and the remains of the two anchors, other items were discovered in the shipwreck. Four ceramic pots were found in the sand, together with the lower part of a stone grain mill. All of these items were part of the ship’s kitchen. During careful archaeological excavations on the edges of the site, a lead weight was discovered that was used as a sea gauge.
The site was protected in 2004 and is open to all ‘underwater visitors’.
The area of the Caska Bay is interesting for all archeology, history and historical phenomena enthusiasts.
Caska is located on the western part of the Pag Bay in the vicinity of Novalja. This small location rich in history once was the area of Cissa, a Roman town, which according to historians sunk below sea level in the 4th century after an earthquake.
Numerous studies have shown that it was a big and important city. Caska’s importance is confirmed by the fact that there was a luxurious villa of a well-known and wealthy senatorial family from Rome – Calpurnia.
But there is still not enough evidence to determine whether Caska was actually a Roman town or it had developed much earlier.
Caska Bay today has only a few houses left, but its seabed keeps a secret – a sunken city. A perfect place of divers who can find remains of buildings. Unfortunately, the biggest part of the sunken city is out of reach because of large deposits of silt, sand and seaweed.
Important historical landmarks of the location include the old „tunera“ – tuna tower and the remains of the Romanesque St. Georges Church on a hill above Caska with a large number of medieval and early Christian spoils.