Part of the central Dalmatian archipelago, Hvar is the longest island in Croatia, known for its lavender fields, hillside vineyards, and delicious delicacies from the Adriatic Sea. In between wandering the ancient marble streets, exploring the beaches and discovering the hidden underwater caves, you can try one of Hvar’s many fine restaurants.
Its name derives from the Greek name for island and town, that stood where today Stari Grad (Hvar became an island’s center in the 13th century) stands - Pharos.
Hvar gained glory and power during middle ages being an important port within the Venetian, naval empire. Today, it is the center of island’s tourism and one of the favorite destinations in Dalmatian Riviera - a town of smiling and courteous people, who are almost only dedicated to tourism.
Franciscan Monastery Hvar
The church dedicated to the Virgin Mary was built in the 15th century as a single-nave Gothic structure in place of the small Chapel of the Holy Cross. It was financed by donations from Croatian nobles and ship captains who came to Hvar. Once completed, it became the church of the sailors, as indicated by many inscriptions by Venetian naval commanders in and around the church. The relief of the Madonna and Child in the lunette of the main portal is the work of Niccolo Fiorentino.
The north aisle of the church with the Renaissance Chapel of the Holy Cross was built in 1536. Inside the church are 16th century altars, a Renaissance sanctuary by Venetian masters, also dating back to the 16th century, as well as the grave of the Croatian poet Hanibal Lucić. A larger than life painting of the Last Supper, a work by Matej Ponzoni, hangs in the refectory. The monastery also includes a library, a museum collection, and a centuries-old cypress.
The Arsenal Hvar
The most important public building of Hvar was built after 1292, ordered by Venice. The Arsenal must have been completed by 1331 when it was first mentioned in the Statute of Hvar as a finished building serving as a shipyard for galleys. The first building of the 13th century became dilapidated over time and was replaced by a new one in the 16th century. This building did not last long; it was burned down by the Turks in 1571.
The Arsenal received its present look in 1611 when it was restored and expanded during the reign of Prince Pietro Semitecolo. The "Fontik", a hay store, was added to the north side of the Arsenal in 1612. The Belvedere, a terrace above the Fontik, led to the theater. In the 19th century the façade was partly changed and received its present appearance.
Fortica (Spanjola) in Hvar
Hvar's Venetian fort, Fortiza or Spanjola (in local usage), is a highlight of any visit to Hvar town. Its striking position perched on top of a 100 meters high hill makes it hard to miss, which of course was the point. The climb up to the fort is gentle and pleasant and the views from the top are majestic.
The multi-leveled fortification system has been well-restored, vividly evoking the days when Hvar was a lynchpin of the Venetian empire. Together with the town walls, Fortiza protected the towns for centuries and was so important to the development of Hvar that its image is on the town's coat-of-arms.
The Venetians completed the fort in 1551 but the foundations were laid much earlier, probably to protect an earlier Illyrian settlement in the first millennium BC. This early fort later became the site of a Byzantine citadel probably around the 6th century AD. Traces of this earlier fortress can be found on the southern side of Fortiza.
Construction of the current fortress began in 1282 shortly after the town turned to the Venetians for protection against the pirates rampaging through the Adriatic. Nevertheless it was the town that financed the construction from the proceeds of selling salt. At one point in the 14th century, Spanish engineers participated in the project which is how the fort acquired its nickname, Spanjola.
When Turks attacked the town in 1571, the entire population took shelter within the fort as the town was plundered and set on fire. Only eight years later however, a lightening bolt struck the fort igniting a store of gunpowder which blew up and caused substantial damage to the fort and its substructure. Repairs ensued and when the Austrians took over in the early 19th century, the fortress was remodeled with larger barracks and raised battlements.