History and Culture

The name Hvar derives from the Greek name for the island and town, that was located where today’s Stari Grad (Hvar became the island’s center in 13th century in its place) is located – PHAROS. Hvar gained its glory and power during the Middle Ages as an important port within the Venetian Empire. Thanks to its position on an ancient sea route, history has left many traces on Hvar, more than on any other Adriatic island. Constant battles for the island only confirm its importance and the value of its territory.

The history of the island goes back to prehistoric times, proving the existence of life on the island even 6000 years ago. After the fall of Syracuse in the middle of the 4th century BC, Pharos remained unprotected and was taken over by the Illyrians. In 219 BC, the Romans conquered Pharos and renamed it Pharia. During Roman times, numerous villae rusticae were built all over the island, mainly in Hvar, Stari Grad and around present-day Jelsa. Some historians assume that, at that time, the Greek polis Heraclea was located on the spot of today’s town of Hvar.

In the early Middle Ages, Croats came to the island of Hvar, adding to the culture of the island. The Venetians conquered Hvar in 1420 and remained there until the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797. At that time, Hvar became the main Venetian port on the eastern coast of the Adriatic.

The Austrians came in 1797 and the French in 1806. In the second half of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, Hvar underwent a new revival, after being re-conquered by the Austrians. At that time, all of the ports on the island were renovated. Hvar became very important in nautical and tourism terms, thus already at that time there were four consulates in the town of Hvar: Greek, Parmesan, Papal, and Napolitan.

In 1858, the first meteorological station in Croatia was opened in Sv. Veneranda Monastery in Hvar. Getting to know the climate conditions facilitated the promotion of Hvar’s tourism. As a result, the first tourism association in Europe was founded in 1868.

In 1918, the island once again fell under the control of the Italians, all the way till 1921 when Hvar, along with the rest of Croatia became a part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, and after World War II, the Republic of Yugoslavia.

With the recognition of the independent Republic of Croatia (1992), Hvar acquired its new role in independent Croatia.

Outstanding palaces and churches, valuable paintings and sculptures, important literary and musical works that have been created since prehistoric time to the present are the result of the inexhaustible inspiration of the island of Hvar. Hvar is one of the cultural centers of Croatian Renaissance literature and belongs to one of four literature circles. Hanibal Lucić, Petar Hektorović, Vinko Pribojević, Mikša Pelegrinović… are only some of the protagonists of Croatian culture who lived and worked on the island.