Luki, Guardian of Hvar's Treasures: Galešnik

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Lucky Luki revels joyfully in his explorations of Hvar's boundless beauties. The Galešnik fortress in the hill to the south above Jelsa is one of his regular haunts.

Galešnik Galešnik Photo: Kantharos, courtesy of Eduard Visković

The path up to Galešnik from Jelsa is the same as leads to Tor, until you reach the sign telling you that for Galešnik you go left, for Tor, right. Once up the hill, Luki enjoys the wonderful panoramic views, and the freedom of roaming in an abundantly rich countryside. There's always something new to discover, some new sight or scent to savour. For humans, Galešnik is something of a mystery, with uncertainties about its true origins and early development. Luki isn't burdened by these considerations. He enjoys the place as it is in the present moment.

Galešnik. Photo: Ivica Drinković

Historians and archaeologists lament the fact that the site has not been properly investigated. In the Adriatic Islands Project the description is rather terse: "252 m above sea level. A ruin of a late Roman/medieval castle situated on a narrow south-west - north-west ridge with extreme slopes on three sides and with a narrow access from the south-west. Very little is known about the site, although it was mentioned in the Statute of 1331 as Castrum Vetus. It has excellent views to Jelsa, the north and to the east. The site is associated with some prehistoric and Roman pottery."

One of the excellent views Luki enjoys from Galešnik. Photo: Ivica Drinković

When Sir Richard Burton visited in 1875, his opinion was dismissive, perhaps affected by the dismal rainy weather on that inclement December day: "Passing through the townlet [Jelsa], we began the ascent of the low and ruddy outliers of the Gvezdjena Gora (Gvezd Berg of the map), or Iron Mountain, a long range running nearly upon a parallel of latitude. The reason of the metallic name is unknown; perhaps it is derived from the steel-grey spines, bands, and cornices of the hardest limestone, which accident the slopes. Beyond the Madonna della Salute the goat-path became stiff and stony, slippery withal under mud and rain. On these islands the traveller in search of prehistoric remains becomes, after a fashion, an explorer. He must visit everything that bears the name of "grad", or its multiform derivations, and, as in Africa, he must labour to ascertain what there is not, as well as what there is - ea quae sunt, tanquam ea quam non sunt."

Galešnik. Photo: Ivica Drinković
Burton's comparison of exploring Hvar's historic sites to searching through locations in Africa is misleading, as it suggests that local researchers had done nothing to investigate them. By contrast, Burton was impressed by Jelsa's long-standing Mayor, Captain Niko Duboković, "we were met by the Podesta, Capitano Nicolo Dubocovich, for whom I bore a letter from the friendly Prof. Glavinic. He led me to his house, introduced me to his family, and made me feel thoroughly at home". The hospitality didn't end there, as the Mayor accompanied Burton up to the historic sites despite the terrible weather: "he cared not a jot for the frenzied gusts, the Scotch mists, and the showers which fell as if buckets were being emptied upon the hills - in these latitudes, when it rains it does rain." Later Mayor Duboković produced, with great efficiency, the drawings which Burton was unable to complete because of the rain: "my excellent host promised to send me plan, elevation, and measurements. He kept his word with truly British punctuality, and enabled me to present to my readers the sketch which accompanies these pages..." Is that how it was for foreign explorers in Africa at the time? Hard to believe. The fact is that then as now, there are many expert archaeologists and historians who would be only too glad to investigate Hvar's historic sites, if they were provided with the finances and opportunity to do so.
Galešnik stonework. Photo: Ivica Drinković

Burton's description continues: "After breasting the iron height, we reached this particular "grad," and the first glance told me that the masonry, which might have been Venetian, was more probably post-Venetian and Slav. The aneroid at 28 9, and at a sea-level, 29 9, showed an altitude of a thousand feet, and the site was that of an Etruscan city, a " Mull," the Icelandic " Múli," or loop of high ground, with a declivity more or less precipitous on all sides but one - here the western. The rock fell sheer to the south; the neck had been fortified, but the outworks were so ruinous that their form could hardly be ascertained. The enceinte followed the contour of the ground; in places it was based upon the lime-stone, at this and in other parts forming parallelopipedons by stratification and cleavage, which easily suggested the "Cyclopean wall." Here and there it is difficult to distinguish the natural from the artificial, so exactly do the joints correspond... A dilapidated cistern-shaped affair, showing the spring of the arched roof, and facing southwards with westing, is, according to the legend, the burial-place of its "king," Subich [Šubić]. All traces of the tomb have lately disappeared."

Looking down over the landscape. Photo: Ivica Drinković

Burton obviously did not look closely at the site. Fortunately his disappointment at Galešnik was compensated by his enthusiasm for nearby Tor, where he found much to excite his interest. In fact, there is much which intrigues at Galešnik. For a start, there's the name: the 1331 Hvar Statute states: "Castrum Vetus, quod vocatur Galicnich"; Galičnik, Galicinich, Gališnik, not to mention Grod and possibly Trim, all the variations reflect the opinions of different observers and changing times across the centuries. And then there's its date. Many, like Sir Richard Burton, assigned it to the Middle Ages. Others, such as historian-archaeologists Nikša Petrić, Vanja Kovačić and Joško Kovačić refuted that theory, on the grounds that 'vetus' in the Hvar Statute suggested that the fortress had already fallen into disuse.

Inscribed stone found by Remigio Gazzari in April 2000. Photo: Remigio Gazzari

One version has it that the name Galešnik came about in honour of one Galeš Slavogosta who distinguished himself in rising up against the Venetians in 1310, even though he was defeated. However, available evidence suggests that the fortress was called Galićnik right through from the 14th to the 19th century, so this theory carries little weight. But the association may be what inspired Hvar native Remigio Gazzari, whose family are descendants of the Slavogusta clan, to investigate the fortress site. In April 2000, he came across a stone block carved with the letters AJNC. In describing this find, Joško Kovačić was of the opinion, based on available evidence, that the initials stood for 'Area in Circuito', but he could not identify a definite meaning for it. However, he was sure that the stone of the carving was the same as had been used for the wall supporting the wide cobblestone path leading up to Galešnik. This lent support to the theory that Galešnik dates from the Late Antique period, in Joško Kovačić's opinion most probably from the time of the Roman Emperor Justinian (527 - 565 CE). However, Luki knows better! His carer Ivica tells us that the inscription was in fact carved by Slavimir Drinković and Pere Peronja, as the first marker for the path leading up to the top of the hill (Vorh). The letters AJNC represent the Croatian spelling of the German 'eins' (one). So two local men, doubtless unwittingly, added to the mystery of the site, not least because it seems they didn't get round to placing any further markers along the path. Or if they did, they have been hidden just as securely as much of the original site, whichever century it originated from.

Galešnik: still much to discover. Photo: Kantharos, courtesy of Eduard Visković

The true history of Galešnik can only be uncovered by thorough archaeological investigation, which to date hasn't happened. None of this bothers Luki. He enjoys the site as he finds it, maybe a little more dilapidated each year, but still a place of peace and calm, offering magnificent views over his fabulous island domain. Human curiosity seeks answers to questions which hark back to bygone ages. If we can find them, all well and good, but it's not essential. Luki teaches us the value of accepting and enjoying things as they are, if those answers are too hard to find.

Luki loves Hvar's historic stones. Photo: Ivica Drinković

© Vivian Grisogono, January 2021.

With grateful thanks to Eduard Visković of Kantharos arheološke usluge for permission to use the aerial pictures of Galešnik; and to Ivica Drinković (and of course Luki) for providing the photographs from their visits to Galešnik. also for the inside information about the mysterious carved stone!

Sources:

Gaffney, V., Kirigin, B., Petrić, M., Vujnović, N., Čače, S. 1997. The Adriatic Islands Project. Contact, Commerce and Colonialism 6000 B.C. - AD 600. Volume 1. The Archaeological Heritage of Hvar, Croatia. TEMPUS REPARATUM. BAR International Series 660. (p.152)

Burton, R. F. “The Long Wall of Salona and the Ruined Cities of Pharia and Gelsa Di Lesina.” The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, vol. 5, 1876, pp. 290-293. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/2840891. https://www.jstor.org/stable/2840891?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents

Kovačić, J. 2002. Kasnoantički natpis s Galičnika kod Jelse.Muzej hvarske baštine, UDK: 930.271 (497.5 Hvar) "06"; 904:728.81 (497.5 Hvar) "06". Prilozi povijesti Otoka Hvara 2002. vol 11, pp 81 - 90

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