Croatian Ban Stjepan built and richly equipped a church of St. Nicholas, located at the northwestern edge of the Zadar peninsula, next to the sea coast, and then bestowed it to the monks of the Benedictine monastery of St. Chrysogonus in Zadar.
This site is mentioned for the first time in old Zadar documents as territorium Sancti Nicolai. Since then, the story of the building that is now Almayer, intertwines with the turbulent history of Zadar.
The year marks the beginning of the Fourth Crusade, ominous for Europe. Crusaders instrumentalized by the political interests of Venice besieged and destroyed Zadar and then Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire, with atrocious massacres and looting. After the life in Zadar resumed again, the nuns of St. Benedict were resigned the complex for the reconstruction of the monastery around the church of St. Nicholas, in the northwestern part of the city.
According to ancient stories, while on his way to the East, strong winds casted Saint Francis of Assisi to Zadar shore. During a visit to the Benedictine monastery of St. Nicholas, the saint miraculously cured one of the nuns, after which the nuns undertook the rights of St. Clare becoming one of the first all-female monastery of the order of St. Francis of Assisi ordinis sancte Clarae - Clarisse.
Seesing Zadar, at that time being their main rival in the Adriatic Sea, has always attracted the Venetian Republic - a maritime power on the rise on the other side of the Adriatic. In the year 1000 Venice succeed in conquering Zadar and Dalmatia, for the first time. Its success was perpetuated by the establishment of the tradition of "Wedding with the Sea" (Sposalizio del mar), where the doge of Venice would cast a ring in the sea, symbolising the connection between the Adriatic and Venice. The centuries-old battle between Venice and Croatian-Hungarian rulers over the possession of Dalmatia has began. The battles between seditious citizens of Zadar and the Republic of Venice lasted for centuries. Over that time. a Venetian flag with winged lion of St. Mark has been thrown into the sea eleven times.
Never trusting the rebellious people of Zadar and in order to keep them in obedience, in 1243, on the northern part of the town, across the St. Nicholas monastery, the Venetians started to build a fortress. Kaštel, surrounded by a moat filled with sea, although incorporated into the city walls system, was not necessarily intended to defend Zadar, as much as it was a defense from citizens of Zadar.
Venetians break through the city walls, dig a moat around the castle and fill it with the sea. In order to improve the defensive properties of the fortress, all the nearby houses were demolished creating a large wastegate - kampu, that the entire part of the town - Kampo Kastelo (Campo Castello) is named after. The urban scars of these times are still visible today. The cut-off north facade of the hotel and the back wall still follow a long-established defensive logic and long forgotten riots.
The enhanced fortification of 14th century Zadar reflected on the monastery of St. Nicholas. Because of its location on a strategically sensitive part of the town and on the borders of the new fortifications, the old church and parts of the monastery were demolished, and the second church of St. Nicholas was built - its northwest-southeast orientation was unusual for Zadar.
Having gradually lost his influence in Dalmatia, the Croatian-Hungarian ruler Ladislav of Naples, from the Anjou dynasty, sold both Zadar and all his rights to the whole of Dalmatia, to the Republic of Venice for 100,000 ducats. From then on, Zadar is stunned by the stern sight of the winged Serenissima lion, as well as the shadows from the east, which, under the sign of the crescent moon, are slowly approaching the city.
The Middle Ages end with the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople and Byzantium, and after that Ottoman power expands through the Balkans. In 1459 Serbia fell, and in 1463 Bosnia followed. Zadar begins to prepare the defense. Standing directly beside the northwest city walls, the monastery of St. Nicholas becomes a fort to defend against attacks from the sea. Centennial monastery wall is the standing remainder of those turbulent times that still overlooks the courtyard of the hotel.
Through the 16th century, the monastery experienced the toughest period since its foundation. Due to the constant Ottoman threats and wars, the monastery began to rapidly impoverished and lose its holdings. The construction of the ramparts and anti-war embankments led to its occasional abandonment.
Ottomans are at the peak of their power. The Zadar hinterland is burned, no-man's land, emptied of population, and the city of Zadar - the largest fort in the Republic of Venice. With turkish cannons in range a multi-century struggle against Ottoman invaders took place, along with an coexistence and everyday life, exchange of culture and commerce.
A Church of Our Lady of Castello (Health), one of the city’s best-loved churches, that still dominates this part of the town, was built on the site of two much older churches. It contains a copy of a famous painting “Our Lady of Kaštelo”, the original of which is now in the Permanent Exhibition of Religious Art.
Exhausted by constant wars and despair, the monastery of St. Nicholas slowly declined in every way, losing the substantive basis for its maintenance. In the year 1760, on the remains of the previous ones, a third and still existing, baroque church of St. Nicholas was built. The church was never completed. The monastery, as well as the Republic of Venice, was dying.
Napoleonic Wars ravaged Europe. The Venetian Republic ceased to exist in the year 1797. In Zadar and Dalmatia, the armies and powers of Austria and Napoleon's France are interchanging. In 1798 the monastery of Sv. Nicholas was abolished and converted into barracks and warehouses, as well as a military hospital.
The first Austrian Cadastral Survey of the City of Zadar shows the Military Hospital (Ospitale militare), today’s yard, and two buildings which foundations were found during the reconstruction of the hotel. The yard and buildings, at that time situated on the edge of town, next to the ramparts and the sea, according to old cadastral survey are built on plot number 1/1.
The building of today's hotel as an annex of military hospital and barracks in the premises of the former monastery of St. Nicholas was built.
The ramparts are partially demolished and intensive construction begins. Views of the town changed dramatically. Zadar welcomes fin de siècle as a world famous center of production of maraschino - king among liqueurs.
Opposite the building of what is now the Almayer hotel, Tomaso Burato - one of the best known and most awarded photographers of his time, opened his photographic studio,. He was the holder of the title of the royal photographer of Austrian Emperor Francis Joseph and an author of numerous photographs of Zadar and its citizens, as well as the oldest photographs showing the building of today's hotel dating back to 1875.
After the demolition of the old military building "Quartieretti", on the idyllic terrain of the former Venetian Fortress of Kaštel, and today's Three Well Square, the owner Juraj Bianchini raised an interesting and luxurious residential building which is, nowadays, an Almayer Hotel’s depandancé. This building is the first modern armored-concrete construction in Zadar, built by Rings & Bonavia from Trieste. The building was the editorial and printing house of Narodni list - the oldest Croatian newspapers that are still existing, and which, at that time, were edited by Juraj Bianchini. It was in the very space of what is today a depadance of the hotel, that was an editorial office at the times of Zadar’s crucial days of the early 20th century.
At the end of World War I, Austro-Hungarian Monarchy has collapsed and disintegrated into several states. Due to diplomatic games of the Triple Entente and the Kingdom of Italy, as well as the fact that the Italians were the ethnic majority in the city of Zadar, the Treaty of Rapallo, signed in 1920, torn Zadar from its natural environment and annexed it to Italy as an enclave on the eastern Adriatic coast. Italian authorities promoted a process of complete Italianization and many Croats started to emigrate from Zadar. Narodni List as the most important Croatian newspaper has been canceled and its offices devastated.
During 1943 and 1944, after the capitulation of fascist Italy and the Allied landings in southern Italy, Zadar was exposed to heavy Allied bombing as well as Nazis mining it in retreat from the city. With 80% of the city’s historic core destroyed, Zadar got its sad title as "Adriatic Dresden". The bombing creates a new exodus, because in such a city one could not live. Urbanity of the former capital of Dalmatia is almost completely destroyed.
Zadar was liberated, and the completely demolished and abducted city was returned to Croatia. There followed the exodus of the remaining Italians from the ruins of the city. A long and heavy recovery and rebuilding has begun. The building of nowadays Almayer hotel, one of the few preserved in the old city center, becomes a residential building, with winery and on its ground floor.
The bloody end of Yugoslavia is taking place, and Zadar and its surroundings are one of the epicenter of the conflict. Zadar is still under siege to the power of rebel Serbs and is again heavily shelled with numerous civilian casualties and great damage to the city. Electricity supply had been interrupted for over a year, and water supply was maintained with great difficulties. In the bombing of Zadar from the sea, ship missiles heavily damaged the roof of the building that is now the hotel.
Spouses, Irina Bakija and Vjekoslav Bobić, bought the building where nowadays is the hotel.
After two years of planning, a thorough reconstruction and transformation of the building complex and yard into a small family boutique hotel has started. With the desire to preserve and value the inherited heritage details, the complete and detailed reconstruction of the building, and its transformation into the hotel, took place under the supervision of the conservator. The complex that includes building and the courtyard was opened on the first day of summer 2017 as Almayer Art & Heritage Hotel.