Written by: Ljiljana Mamić Pandža
The role nowadays occupied by Korzo, the heart of Rijeka and its busiest promenade, used to be occupied by the Ivan Kobler Square, located next to the former city hall Palac Komuna Rečkog and the City Clock Tower between two department stores that were made on the foundations of demolished old buildings. That very square, which was named after historian Giovanni Kobler, was the place where the living force of Rijeka's public life soared and where all of the business was conducted out in the open.
Today, such lively images can only be seen in historical films on the Middle Ages. Every day, even on Sundays, the women coming from places surrounding Rijeka arrived at the Green Square to bring milk, vegetables, poultry and other foods necessary to supply the citizens. Since it was also a former Municipal Loggia, it was the place where judges used to meet to pass sentences, where trading contracts were made and where the City Council held its sessions. Today, the "Old Paper Millestones" fountain (Stari kolodrob) is the centrepiece of the square. Built during the 1970s in accordance with the project made by architect Igor Emilio, it is by the factory Tvornica papira commemorating 150 years of its existence. It is a well that has become a monument. From the parts of an old factory paper millestone, kolodrob, Emili created a unique work of art to commemorate many generations of workers. Just as water flows from the amphora on Rijeka's coat of arms, so the water pours relentlessly from this fountain, water that has been a blessing in Rijeka since the time of the ancient Roman settlement Tarsatica.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the Ivan Kobler Square was no longer the centre of the city, and all of its significance was transferred to the Korzo. In its immediate vicinity is the Old Roman City Gate, the most ancient architectural monument in Rijeka after which the street was named, which was a former entrance to the palace of the Praetor of the claustra Alpium Iuliarum. There is disagreement among many authors on the date when it was built, but all of them agree that the arch was built from stone blocks with no binders or mortar and despite that it still remains standing. The Old Roman City Gate connects the Ivan Kobler Square with the Principia at Tarsatica located at the former Late Antique military command complex called Principia, dating from the 3rd century, situated at the Juraj Klović Square.
Rijeka gained a new and extremely attractive city square that displays all the historical layers of the city, has the capacity for numerous cultural and art manifestations and provides a new tourist attraction that will most surely fill the endless visitors of the city on the Rječina River with joy and awe. It has become a place of new life and a meeting place at the centre of Rijeka. We should also point out that after the Principia at Tarsatica was open to the general public, decorated in accordance with the ideas of the architect Nenad Fabijanić, the first public display of a principia was enabled in Croatia (which are rare even in Europe).
Every moveable archaeological finding found during the excavation is placed at the Maritime and History Museum of the Croatian Littoral Rijeka. One of the numerous artefacts excavated at the archaeological site at the centre of the city is a small leaf dating from the 3rd century that is presumed to be a part of a bronze laurel wreath that was usually placed on top of bronze statues during that period. With the help of a 3D printer, a replica of a valuable archaeological finding was made that represents a new souvenir of Rijeka.
It is clear that, apart from the Ivan Kobler Square and the Principia at Tarsatica, new light has been cast at the history of Rijeka, revealing new interesting stories regarding the elusive identity of Rijeka, the changes it has experienced, the urban life and culture, its European spirit, open-mindedness and cosmopolitanism and all that makes Rijeka, particularly in the Croatian context, a unique place. Therefore, to all of you who still have not had the chance to visit Rijeka, what else is there to say but come and see for yourselves.