Historic theatre of Hvar

Hvar theatre, situated in the building called Arsenal is a highest level monument of national significance to the Republic of Croatia.

The theatre was built in 1612 on the first floor of Arsenal during the reign of the industrious duke Petar Semitecolo. Monumental Arsenal in the center of the historical core of Hvar is one of the most significant military-maritime buildings of its kind on the Mediterranean. The transom of the gate to the theatre on Belveder – Fontik terrace along the northern facade of Arsenal reads: ANNO SECVNDO PACIS MDCLXII. The year 1612, as stated in the sign is the second year of social peace between the squabbling classes of the Hvar Commune.

By building the theatre Semitecolo offered to all classes equally the facilities for cultural and social events. This way, in at that time almost unimaginable democratic way, he created first European public theatre.

In the chronology of European oldest theatres, right after Teatro Olimpico, Vicenza from 1585 and Teatro all'antica from Sabionetta (1588) we have the theatre of Hvar from 1612. This early year of creation ensures the theatre of Hvar to enter the overall history of theatre.

In the absence of archives and material remains from the early 17th century we can assume that the Hvar theatre originally had a renassaince form. Preserved interior – stage and auditorium with boxes, originates from 1803, when the Theatre Society was founded, which as an association of progressive citizens has completely restored the space ruined by military. Restored and redecorated, its present neobaroque appearance Hvar theatre has preserved since the middle of the 19th century, making it one of ten oldest European baroque theatres. Humble dimensions of the stage and a relatively narrow lodge, and especially the close contact between audience and scene give an extremely human dimension to this theatre which made many actors to enjoy performing here. In European standards it is also rare to have two preserved wall sets on the back wall of the stage. The older fresco dating from 1819 is still on the stage. It was painted by master Petar Galasso during preparations for the Carnival season. Second painting, illustrating the duke's court somewhere around 1900 was painted by Nikola Marchi. It was restored and placed on moveable set pieces.

In the absence of archives and material remains from the early 17th century we can assume that the Hvar theatre originally had a renassaince form. Preserved interior – stage and auditorium with boxes, originates from 1803, when the Theatre Society was founded, which as an association of progressive citizens has completely restored the space ruined by military. Restored and redecorated, its present neobaroque appearance Hvar theatre has preserved since the middle of the 19th century, making it one of ten oldest European baroque theatres. Humble dimensions of the stage and a relatively narrow lodge, and especially the close contact between audience and scene give an extremely human dimension to this theatre which made many actors to enjoy performing here. In European standards it is also rare to have two preserved wall sets on the back wall of the stage. The older fresco dating from 1819 is still on the stage. It was painted by master Petar Galasso during preparations for the Carnival season. Second painting, illustrating the duke's court somewhere around 1900 was painted by Nikola Marchi. It was restored and placed on moveable set pieces.

The building of Arsenal is currently undergoing constructions and static restoration as a prerequisite for restoring the theatre and revitalizing cultural and stage life of this veteran of theatre history. The long desired process of restoration of this exceptional monument complex will restore life to the building and renew the scene which has marked the cultural history of Hvar, but also Croatia.

Senior curator prof. Mirjana Kolumbić
Hvar heritage museum

Poll

VIRTUAL TOUR HVAR