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. 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 the island’s center in the 13th century) stands – Pharos.
Hvar gained glory and power during the Middle Ages being an important port within the Venetian, naval empire. Today, it is the center of the 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 is from the 15th century as a single-nave Gothic structure replacing the small Chapel of the Holy Cross. Croatian nobles and ship captains visiting Hvar financed it with donations. 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 window of the main portal is the work of Niccolo Fiorentino.
The north aisle of the church with the Renaissance Chapel of the Holy Cross is from 1536. Inside 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 includes a library, a museum collection, and a centuries-old cypress.
The Arsenal Hvar
The most important public building of Hvar emerged after 1292. Venice ordered it. The Arsenal is from 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 a new one replaced it in the 16th century. This building did not last long. The Turks burned it down in 1571.
The Arsenal got its present look in 1611 after restoration and expansion during the reign of Prince Pietro Semitecolo. The “Fontik”, a hay store, appeared 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 facade was partly changed and received its present appearance.
Cathedral of St. Stephen
Dominating Hvar’s harbor-side main square, the Renaissance cathedral has a trefoil pediment and a 17th-century bell tower standing to one side. The interior houses many works of art: a Virgin and Saints by Palma il Giovane, a Pietà by Juan Boschetus, a Virgin with Saints by Domenico Uberti, and a fine 16th-century wooden choir.
The cathedral treasury boasts a rich collection of reliquaries and silverware.
|Address||Trg svetog Stjepana, Hvar|
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, evoking the days when Hvar was a lynchpin of the Venetian empire.
Together with the town walls, Fortiza protected the town for centuries. It was so important to Hvar’s development that it’s depicted on the town’s coat-of-arms. The Venetians completed the fort in 1551 but the foundations were older. It was to protect an earlier Illyrian settlement in the first millennium BC. This early fort later became the site of a Byzantine citadel, around the 6th century AD.
A shelter against the Turks
Traces of this earlier fortress are still 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. Still, 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 enemy plundered the town and set it on fire. And eight years later, a lightning bolt struck the fort igniting a store of gunpowder which blew up and caused massive 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.