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TOWN HISTORY

In 384 BC Greeks founded the town which became an independent state ( polis ). It minted its own money, had its own pottery workshops and enjoyed an abundance of food from its fertile plain – CHORA FAROU. The plotting of the field divisions and the construction of roads, which traversed it horizontally and vertically at right angles, was a characteristic architectural enterprise of the ancient world, and today the Stari Grad Plain presents one of the best-preserved examples of Greek land parcelation across the Mediterranean. When the people of Paros came to the island of Hvar, they found there a strong Illyrian community. Its settlement lay at the lower end of Stari Grad Bay, defended by two now ruined strongholds on the north and south hillsides overlooking the harbour (Glavica and Purkin kuk).

the Roman consuls Paulus and Marcus Livius guilefully defeated Demetrius's great army in Pharos in 219 BC.

The town was quickly restored, but henceforth subservient to Rome.

The inscription from the 2nd century BC, Pharos Psephysma, talks about the Pharians and their delegation to the Greek island of Paros and the oracle at Delphi. It makes mention of the Roman senate and the people [ who are ] well disposed and benevolent towards the city of Pharos from the times of their ancestors.

Various inscriptions, mosaics, tombstones, stone reliefs, fine pottery, jewellery, coins, villae rusticae in the Plain relate the way of life of this ancient town.

In the 5 th century AD, the Christian community of Pharia erected the first church in the southeast corner of the town, close to the city walls, on the foundations of what was once a Hellenistic house, and where probably only a century before the community conducted its meetings in secret.

In the 6 th century, this strengthened Christian community raised, on the site of the old church, a twin basilica with a baptistery dedicated to St Mary and St John.

In the 7 th century, after the fall of Salona, the capital of the province of Dalmatia, it seems likely that its people sought refuge in Pharia, since, according to the chronicler Tomo the Archdeacon and his History of the Salona Diocese , Salona's inhabitants fled to the nearby islands.

When the Slavs finally forced their way onto the island at the beginning of the 8 th century, they found there a small Roman community protected by city walls.

In the first surge of attack the town was burned down. This cannot have happened any later than 776 – a fact borne out by the remains of the burnt roof beams of the Early Christian church of St Mary and St John found strewn on the mosaic floors.

In the 10 th century, they came under the Neretva Principality – Pagania.

The 11 th century was a time of political quiet and of first more substantial medieval restorations. The twin churched of St Mary / St John were being renovated in the Early Romanesque style.

In the surrounding area of the old Farr (Choar, Quarr), new settlements were being raised – the villages of Dol (Veli Dol and Cihalj Dol), Vrbanj and Pitve, all of them situated on the fringes of the large Plain that had undergone continual cultivation since antiquity.

The 12 th century saw the formation of the first island noble families and in 1147 the first Hvar Diocese.

1278, the townspeople as well as the islanders at large, tired of the endless piracy and attacks by the people of Omiš (a town in the vicinity of Split), fully authorised their bishop Šimun to hand over their island to the governing authorities of the Venetian Republic. In a contract with Venice they undertook to build a new town on the site of the present-day Hvar, where once the ancient/medieval town of Lisina (Liesna, Lesina) had stood. This was a perfect location for the refurbishing and the resupply of Venetian galleys sailing to the Levant.

The “New Town” soon developed into a strong communal centre, achieving its fastest growth after the second – and much longer – stretch of Venetian administration, which began in 1420. The old town of Stari Grad, also referred to as “Old Hvar”, remained the centre of the most densely populated part of the island, the area surrounding the large plain.

The following century saw the coming of the Dominicans. In 1482, friar Germanicus of Piacenza, who arrived on the island to join the bishop of Hvar, the Venetian Nikola de Crucibus, built, with the help of the people of Stari Grad, the monastery of St Peter the Martyr.

Besides the fortified summer residence Tvrdalj of the renaissance poet Petar Hektorovic (1485-1572), and the summer residence of his contemporary and fellow poet Hanibal Lucic (1485-1553), both descendants of the oldest island nobility, many newly emerging eminent figures had summer houses built there.

It was not easy to recover from such a heavy blow, but already at the end of 16 th century the Dominicans were rebuilding their monastery, and in 1605 the townspeople, after tearing down the old ruins, started building a new parish church on the site of the old St Stephen's Cathedral and the episcopal palace.

During the 17 th and 18 th centuries, Stari Grad's orientation was increasingly towards the sea; its many captains, ship-owners and ship-builders were growing into an influential social class. First the extension of the old waterfront (Stara Riva), then the building of St Stephen's bell tower in 1753 - these were harbingers of the vitality Stari Grad would achieve in the 19 th century. It was then that Stari Grad's population grew most significantly (in 1880 there were 3789 registered inhabitants), and the town underwent a major architectural and urban transformation. Stari Grad as we see it today was shaped in the course of the 19 th century.

In 1797 Napoleon overthrew the Venetian Republic. After a short-lived term of Austrian rule, the island fell, for several years, under the rule of the revolutionary French government – the Illyrian Province of marshal Marmont. In the revolt against the French one Stari Grad family in particular deserves a mention. For their service in this revolt, the Vranjican brothers were both awarded the title of nobleman, and later they became one of the most eminent Croatian noble families, Vranyczany–Dobrinovic. In 1811 the French conferred the status of an autonomous province on the town of Stari Grad.

In 1813, Stari Grad became part of the Dalmatian Kingdom, which was in itself part of the larger political body of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. One peaceful century within a large monarchy brought the town unprecedented prosperity.

When in the late 19 th century phylloxera attacked the island's grapevines, this foreshadowed the stagnation that was to envelop the life of this ancient town throughout the first half of the 20 th century. Many of the vineyards were destroyed, and the town's sailing vessels could not compete with the new steam ships. Large numbers of people emigrated to the South and North Americas, and the First World War further decimated the impoverished population. Whilst the previous century had been the century of peace, the forthcoming 20 th century was to be a century of war. After the First World War came the Second in 1941 and another, this time the domovinski rat (the homeland war) broke out at in 1991. The second was the hardest. Over half of the town's population was evacuated to El Shatt into the Sinai desert in December 1943. When at the end of the war, in 1945, the people returned, they came to what was a bleak and almost deserted town.

The sixties saw the building of the hotel complex Helios, which marked a turning point in the life of this seaside town. When the first bathing complex was built across the bay in 1927, only a handful of champions of the new holidaymaking fashion were beginning to join the ranks of the so-called Society for the Embellishment and Progress of Stari Grad . Today, however, the vast majority of Stari Grad's populace believe that tourism is the only thing that can sustain this town into the twenty-fourth century of its existence.