HVARSKA PJACA (Square of St. Stephen),
CATHEDRAL OF ST. STEPHEN AND EPISCOPAL PALACE
If you visit Hvar, all the streets will lead you to Hvarska pjaca (Hvarʼs square), the centre of cityʼs public and social life and the largest square in Dalmatia. The eastern side of the square is surrounded by the Cathedral of St. Stephen that was built on the foundations of an early-Christian church from the 6th century and that acquired its present appearance in the 16th and 17thcentury. The Cathedral is dedicated to St. Stephen, a pope and martyr, the protector of the Diocese and the city of Hvar. The renaissance bell-tower of the Cathedral and Hvarʼs other bell towers (St. Mark, Franciscan and the ruined one of St. Venerande) are considered to be the nicest ones in Dalmatia. Hvarʼs Cathedral preserves many valuable items and paintings of famous painters like Stefano Celesti, Palma Junior and the Spanish painter Juan Boschettus, but the most renowned painting is definitely Madonna, an example of the proto-Venetian art and one of the oldest in Dalmatia originating back in 1220. In the Episcopal Palace standing next to the Cathedral, a collection of objects of art, sacred vessels, archival documents, old books and liturgical vestments was founded in 1963. The Episcopal Museum is open daily to visitors from 9 a.m. - noon and from 4 p.m. - 6 p.m.
HVARʼS THEATRE ARSENAL
Once you are on Hvarʼs square you will certainly wish to visit Hvarʼs theatre that holds an unavoidable place in the general history of theatre. Its foundation in 1612 made it become the first civic theatre in Europe.
The theatre was erected above the Arsenal, the most recognisable outline of the city of Hvar, a place that was used for the repair of galleys and served as a warehouse for nautical accessories.
Today Hvarʼs theatre is open for public use and right at the entrance, there is a wooden bow figure head Zvir from Hvarʼs galley St. Jerolim that gained fame for its participation in the fight against the Turkish ships in the famous naval battle at Lepanto in 1571. In the same venue there is also the Gallery of Contemporary Art that is open to visitors during the tourist season from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. During the low season you can phone number 021741009, but its working hours are usually from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
If you walk from the square towards the west, you will reach a small port of Mandrač that always served for the protection of small vessels. It acquired its present appearance in the 18th century and it is believed that it was constructed at the same time as the Arsenal.
KNEŽEV DVOR (PRINCEʼS PALACE)
Immediately next to the square across Mandrač lies the former Knežev dvor, todayʼs Hotel Palace. The clock tower with a bell from the 15th century and the city loggia built at the begging of the 17th century have been preserved from the original Princeʼs Palace. Below the loggia there is a preserved flag pole from the 15th century that is still used for the same purpose. According to tradition, it was also used as a shame pole and different public proclamations were read out to the general public on this location.
CHURCH OF ST. MARK AND THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL COLLECTION
There is a view of the bell tower of St. Markʼs church from Hvarʼs square. The church unfortunately is in ruins, but it has been partially reconstructed in the 19th century. Today there is only an archaeological collection and a collection of stone monuments that holds the name of Grga Novak, the famous archaeologist and historian from Hvar. The outer frame of the former church with the collection of stone monuments is intended for events of chamber music and vocal concerts. During the tourist season the museum is open to visitors from 10 a.m. – noon and from 8 p.m. – 11 p.m. During the low season, your visit must be announced and can be arranged by phone: 021 741 009.
THE FORT FORTICA (ŠPANJOLA)
If you walk from the square to the north, passing the main city gate or Porta di datallo (Gate of Dates) ascending the stairs through the old part of the city in which there are palaces built in the 15th and 16th centuries, through small bends that give out the aromas of Mediterranean plants, you will reach Hvarʼs fort Fortica or how the locals call it Španjola. It was built at the beginning of the 16th century (during the Venetian rule) and was reconstructed in 1579. Today the fort holds a collection of amphora and other exhibits from antiquity and the Middle Ages. Besides experiencing its exquisite architecture, you will experience an unforgettable panoramic view of the city of Hvar, its surroundings and the Pakleni islands. You can reach the fort by car as well by taking the road that goes from the bus station, behind the hill, to the western part of the city.
CHURCH OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
If you stroll down the streets of the old part of the city, you are bound to come upon the Church of the Holy Spirit, one of the many old churches of Hvar. The church was completed in 1493. It is managed by the brotherhood of St. Nicholas, especially during the religious holidays and festivities. The church holds an interesting altar painting painted by A. V. Padovanino.
FORT NAPOLJUN - NAPOLEON
To the right of fort Fortica there is fort Napoljun built during the French rule at the beginning of the 19th century. You can reach it by car. Today there is an observatory of the Faculty of Geodesy in Zagreb from which stars and the Sun can be monitored. The observatory is not open for public, but you can enjoy a spectacular view of the city under the fort walls.
An easy stroll from Hvarʼs square, along the sea and the waterfront soon brings you to the Franciscan monastery. Within the peace and quiet of the monastery walls, you can enjoy a rich display of museum exhibits (collections of Greek, Roman and Venetian coins, liturgical items, atlas of the ancient cartographer Ptolemaeus, rare exhibits of amphora, etc.), as well as paintings of Venetian artists like Francesco Santacroce and Palma Junior. The monastery is known for its magnificent painting of the Last Supper (2 x 8 m) which leaves everyone breathless. Some critics believe it is the work of a painter from Ravenna Matteo Ingoli, whilst others think that the painting belongs to the school of Palma Junior. One more rarity that makes the monastery famous is the 300-year old cypress that is located in the garden of the monastery. During the tourist season the monastery is open to visitors from 10 a.m.- noon and from 5 p.m.- 7 p.m. whilst during the low season its working hours are only between 10 a.m. and noon.
If you walk through the main city gate towards the north, ascending the stone stairs along the picturesque street of the old part of the city, you will reach the Benedictine nunnery. The Benedictines or as the people of Hvar call them koludrice are a very strict order because they do not go beyond the boundaries of the nunnery, unless it is a matter of extreme emergency. The nunnery was erected on the location of a gothic-renaissance house Lucić and within the building there is a collection of selected art works, paintings and icons from the 16th century and liturgical items. The Benedictine nuns from Hvar have gained world fame for their decorative embroidery, especially the agave lace. The extraction of fibres from agave leaves and its processing to produce fine threads for embroidering are demanding tasks that require exceptional knowledge and patience. For the knitting of the agave lace a special skill is required that the Benedictine nuns have been working on for hundreds of years. Each lace is one of its kind, therefore, it holds special value and is inscribed in the UNESCO Representative list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage List of Humanity.