Credits: Documentation material was provided by the book: The Gnalić Shipwreck, Mirror of Renaissance World, by Irena Radić Rossi – Mariangela Nicolardi, Zagreb, 2019.
Gnalić is one of twelve small islands in the area of Tkon municipality, which includes the southeastern part of the island of Pašman, on the Dalmatian coast, Croatia. The name Gnalić, now inscribed on the maritime charts, was given to him by sailors who were approaching the Pasman Channel from the south, relying on Punta Gnala. The inhabitants of the island of Pašman and the neighboring mainland know it as “Jakstone”.
The area where the Gnalić lies at the intersection of the island Pašman and Vrgadin Chanell is known among the locals for unpredictable weather conditions and because of this, it is sometimes referred to as the “small ocean”.
On the other hand, the situation on the eastern Adriatic coast at the time of the shipwreck indicates the complexity of the socio-political relations of the time and the precarious situation on the waterway normally used by almost all merchant ships directed towards the Ionian, Aegean and Black Seas, and generally the Eastern Mediterranean.
The merchant ship which belonged to the dynamic and turbulent medieval events “disappeared” on the voyage between Venice and Constantinople in the waters of the Gnalić in the mid-autumn of 1583, at the very end of the Renaissance, marking its symbolic end.
In the early 1960s, local divers discovered an outstanding shipwreck site and so it begins the marvelous historical story of one ship in which we discover the miraculous past and the reflection of a Renaissance age. In late October 1583, the heavily loaded and large merchantman the Gagliana Grossa, under the command of Alvise Finardi, a Venetian seaman, set sail from Venice to Constantinople, following the common seafaring route along the eastern Adriatic coast. It was a risky moment for undertaking long and demanding voyages. After less than two weeks, the heralds brought to Venice the dramatic news about the disastrous shipwreck that happened at one of the Middle Dalmatian islands. Most of the rescue operations took place in December 1583 and January 1584. The captain (Ven. patrone) Alvise Finardi survived and returned to Venice.
The underwater antiquities
Divers discovered the remains at a depth of about 80 feet (23 -27 m). The shipwreck and its rich cargo were salvaged mostly between 1967 and 1974 and then the remaining smaller objects were located in 1996. The Regional Museum in Biograd was established in 1970 and the remains of the ship were exhibited to the public. After each diving campaign, new objects were added to the display.
To summarize briefly the achievements of the rescue campaigns realized between October 1967 and September 1973, we can point to the impressive number of 54 working days and the retrieval of 8.767 artifacts. Items retrieved from the sunken ship have been submerged for more than 400 years, and they represent the tangible culture of the early new ages, a period we otherwise know about mostly from written sources and artworks by great masters of the renaissance.
The items include the ship’s equipment (guns, anchors, cordage, a naval compass, etc.), diverse cargo items (candelabra, textiles, glassware, glass for window panes and mirrors, eyeglasses, etc.), semi-finished products as well as raw materials (brass sheets and wire, white lead, cinnabar, etc.). The ship’s cargo, which originated from different parts of Europe, had been loaded in Venice and was en route to Constantinople (Istanbul). Therefore, the exhibition sheds light on European manufacturing and trade while bearing testimony to the demand for European merchandise on other markets.
Among many interesting items of various provenance, the ship carried windowpanes ordered by Sultan Murad III and precious gifts from the Venetian Senate intended for the Sultan’s mother Nūr Bānū.