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Gallerion exhibition

Gallerion Exhibition

Gallerion is a unique collection that has been developed over a span of 40 years, dedicated to showcasing the renowned Imperial and Royal Navy of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, along with the significant historical period of Pula, the Monarchy's main port. Following the prestigious Vienna Military Museum, it ranks as the world's second-largest collection and the foremost one in the Adriatic region.

In 2023, more than 50 large and 300 smaller models of historic sailing ships, cruisers, heavy battleships, submarines, yachts, and seaplanes were relocated from Novigrad to a 500m2 space within Fort Verudela. This location serves as the headquarters for the Mediterranean exhibition of the Aquarium Pula.The Gallerion collection showcases the results of scientific-maritime research conducted by the Imperial and Royal Navy. Notable model ships on display include the "Novara" and "Admiral Tegetthoff," as well as model replicas of the famed Battle of Vis, such as the "SMS Erzherzog Ferdinand Max" and "RN Re d'Italia.


In 1850, Emperor Franz Joseph I. decided to make Pula the main naval port of the Austrian navy, and to build a naval arsenal with a shipyard. While Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian (1832 – 1867), brother of Emperor Franz Joseph I, was the commander of the Austrian Navy from 1854 to 1864, he laid foundations for the development of Austria as a military and naval power. Owing to the archduke, the Navy received significant support from the imperial family and public attention.

The modern development of Pula from the mid-19th century until 1918 is inextricably linked with the rapid growth of the Imperial and Royal Navy in that period. The Imperial and Royal naval arsenal was ceremonially opened in 1856 in the presence of the Emperor and Empress Elizabeth, and it employed numerous artisans, craftsmen, workers, technical staff and engineers, which resulted in the rapid immigration of the population to the city. Pula became the seat of a large garrison, composed mainly of members of the navy and artillery, who were stationed in numerous forts (such as Fort Verudela, Fort Bourguignon, etc.). The immediate city defence consisted of a chain of fortifications with 104 heavy cannons and 157 light cannons and a combat set of 79,414 pieces of ammunition. In 1910, there were about 16,000 military personnel in the city.


Battleship models and other exhibits at the exhibition show the technical development of the imperial and royal navy and the construction of large battleships in Pula, Trieste/Monfalcone and Rijeka shipyards from the second half of the 19th century until the First World War. The approximately 3-metre-long model of the last ship, “Viribus Unitis”, occupies a special place; it was the flagship of the imperial and royal navy fleet, which was sunk by two Italian naval saboteurs in the port of Pula on 1 November 1918, just two days after the decision of Emperor Charles I. to dismantle the imperial and royal navy.

In that period, four modern “dreadnought” warships were built, with a displacement of 20,000 tonnes (“Viribus Unitis”, “Szent István”, “Tegetthoff” and “Prinz Eugen”), making the imperial and royal war fleet the eighth naval power in the world in terms of fleet strength. It is important to note that this fleet was not built for imperialistic purposes, such as the conquest of colonies that the Habsburg Monarchy did not possess; the Navy’s primary task was to defend the Monarchy’s Adriatic coast.


The Austrian war fleet served not only to exert military power, but also for scientific purposes. The Austrian Navy expeditions intensified the training of the crew and “displayed the flag” in almost all the seas of the world, giving them the chance to acquire scientific knowledge.

Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, commander of the Navy, improved the officers’ and crew’s education by organising regular overseas warship voyages. In 1869, Admiral Wilhelm von Tegetthoff, after a four-year education at the Rijeka Naval Academy for naval cadets, made the decision to regularly organise overseas instructional trips every year.