The life of the sunken ship - 'Gagliana Grossa' in the sea of Biograd

How many ships have perished for the sake of the treasure they were transporting, dragging those who did not resist into the irretrievable depths of the sea...

It was hard to resist something that, when it disappears from the surface of the sea, seems to become nobody's, and then everybody's. A sunken ship perishes, but it seems that it cannot perish even in the darkness of the sea depths but is reflected in the volume of the sea and drags... like mermaids that exist, but no one has ever claimed them. Some may have seen them in the mirage of longing and desire, how they emerge and dive, and in that brief moment, turn the mirage into a living image. Which we are blindly waiting for until the imaginary re-emergence...


Photo: Biograd Heritage Museum

There is one ship that sank, but it is still alive. The life of the ship 'Gagliana Grossa' is incredible. It touched the seabed near the islet of Gnalić near Biograd na Moru in 1583, where it is still situated today. Because of the place where it sank, the ship is known today under the name "Gnalić Wreck". However, in order for it to be remembered not only for its location but also for the luxurious life on board, we will mention its "first name".


Photo: Biograd Heritage Museum

Loaded with treasure on the way from Venice to Constantinople, it failed to overcome the sea, and everything went to the bottom of the seabed. The ship's life would have stopped there, except for the treasure which has always "been taken care of" by ship robbers. However, 'Gagliana Grossa' had such rare ship luck. 384 years after the sinking, and after countless mad, courageous, but also successful dives by the robbers of that period, the ship was discovered in 1967 by fishermen from the island of Murter. With their discovery, researchers came to the wreck and revived it by collecting and analyzing numerous findings. The ship thus became a research site, a living contemporary from the 16th century, and a valuable historical pearl, because its treasure provides information on the supply and demand of European products as well as on the trade movements of that particular time.


Photo: Biograd Heritage Museum

When the underwater archaeologists, conservators, curators, and divers came to the treasure, the old lady seemed to start giving signs of life from the bottom of the sea and telling stories to the people in whose space she has been for centuries. The cargo of the sunken ship was pulled ashore and presented in the Native Museum of Biograd in the cultural-historical collection "Cargo of a sunken ship from the 16th century," established in 1970.


Photo: Biograd Heritage Museum

Over 10,000 items from 'Gagliana Grossa' have been divided into two groups: 'Ship's equipment and inventory,' which consists of anchors, cannons, cannonballs, dishes from the ship's galley, and others, and the collection 'Expensive goods for trade,' which presents various finds of luxury glass objects, mirrors, candlesticks... It is almost unbelievable that textiles were found in the "Iron Chest," which were also preserved. After the initial research, they were restored in 2012, and unfortunately, in the meantime, underwater robbers did not give up and persistently devastated the ship and its treasure. The continuation of the research will take several more years with the ultimate goal of setting up a permanent exhibition that will be in line with contemporary museum trends.


Photo: Biograd Heritage Museum

Biograd na Moru is an important tourist center - the "heart of Dalmatia" and Croatia, which has plenty to build on in its development as a sustainable year-round destination. Such a unique cultural-historical heritage, presented and promoted in a modern way with the attractiveness and uniqueness of the theme and content, has an attractive power, not only for visitors to Biograd na Moru but also for the whole region of Dalmatia. The existing collection of the Native Museum of Biograd in the existing space located on the coast of the city is visited annually by about 10,000 visitors, approximately the same number of domestic and foreign ones.


Photo: Biograd Heritage Museum

However, the Native Museum of Biograd na Moru is the only cultural institution of the Biograd area. Therefore, the new, modernly equipped space would best present the richest underwater finding on the Adriatic with over 20,000 different objects from the seabed, over four centuries old. It would fascinate and satisfy human curiosity about the life of ships and people of that time and will include Biograd na Moru on the map of safe choices for cultural and historical researchers, enthusiasts, and tourists. In the truly impressive heritage of the Croatian coastal area, the research, restoration, and presentation of the treasure of the shipwreck near Biograd is a special feature that you should not miss. And mermaids... Who knows, perhaps through the centuries of living in the depths of the sea, one may even have adorned herself with a 'Gagliana' hairpin. Who knows...

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