The oldest Public Theatre in Europe

The historic Hvar Theatre, which is situated on the first floor of the Arsenal building is a monument of national importance to Croatia, as well as one of the most significant historical building of its kind in Europe.

The Arsenal Building

The Renaissance Arsenal was used for boat building, boat repairs and to store the Commune’s galley. It was built in its current form in the middle of the 16th century in place of the previous 14th century structure. Built at a time when the Hvar Commune was powerful because of its key geopolitical status with the Venetian Empire. It is one of the most beautiful and best preserved arsenals of the Mediterranean sea.

Duke Pietro Semitecolo was a man of great vision who governed the Commune according to democratic principles from 1611 to 1613. He repaired the Arsenal building and brought peace to the local population.

Anno Pacis Primo MDCXI

in the first year of peace 1611

Over the eastern door to the Arsenal’s ground floor the achievement is marked as inscribed.

Semitecolo marked the end of the building’s work with an inscription over the main door on the Belvedere, stating ; “ANNO SECVNDO PACIS MDCXII” in the second year of peace 1612

It is significant that Semitecolo chose to commemorate the establishment of social peace by creating a building for cultural activities, especially at a time when there were only a few theatres in palaces and conservatories all of which were private.

Interior of the Hvar Theatre looking towards the auditorium

The History of European theatres reveals that chronologically the Hvar theatre is the third oldest surviving theatre in Europe, however because of its social and cultural significance it is in fact the oldest public theatre in Europe.

The Theatre Association was first created in 1803 founded as “Societa del teatro” and is one of ten well preserved Neo-Baroque theatres in Europe.

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