Tvrdalj of Petar Hektorović

Tvrdalj of Petar Hektorović, the fotrified holiday house of its namesake poet and author of Fishing and Fisherman’s Talk (orig.  Ribanje i ribarsko prigovaranje), the first realistic epic of the Croatian Renaissance, is the most famous building in Stari Grad and one of its symbols.

This Renaissance poet, Christian thinker and builder, built this fort meticulously for a long time, and it held as much meaning for him as his literary work. By building the Tvrdalj, Hektorović realized his idea of creating a microcosm; a small, enclosed space for all God’s creatures – fish, birds, plants and people.

Tvrdalj’s most prominent feature is its fishpond surrounded by a porch, inhabited by fish (mullet), and with a dovecot rising above it. It’s most likely that the fish pond originated from an ancient pool or port related equipment. Behind it, towards the south, lies a carefully tended garden with plants sent to him by his friends, the poets of Dubrovnik.

Tvrdalj is also a stone book into which the poet carved tens of inscriptions in Latin and Croatian, and one in Italian. The inscriptions are mostly written in the moralistic spirit of humanism, with an entire set dedicated to the Creator of All (OMNIVM CONDITORI). One of Tvrdalj’s many curiosities is the lavatory located northeast of the altana, and the inscription above it reading: If you know what you are, why are you arrogant?  (SI TE NOSTRI CVR SVUPERBIS). The inscription above the entrance indicates that the poet built the Tvrdalj for himself and his friends, but other inscriptions show that hospitality was also extended to travellers (PRO ITINERANNTIBUS) and the poor (PRO PAUPERIBUS).

There are inscriptions adorning the fish pond as well, the largest of which serves as a warning of the passage of time: Bear in mind that neither riches nor worldly fame can save, for death takes us all.

In the west wing of Hektorović’s Tvrdalj you’ll find an interesting little ethnographic collection consisting of objects from everyday island life, but also those relating to the economy, especially winemaking and olive cultivation. The collection was formed in 1964 from preserved original items, many of which are to this day an integral part of a typical Dalmatian tavern.

The Tvrdalj of Petar Hektorović is open to visitors from May to October, and all other information is available on +385 (0)21 765 068.

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