Hvar’s Arsenal Wins European Heritage Award

Total Croatia News

May 8, 2020 — Hvar’s Arsenal won a “Europa Nostra” award, the continent’s most prestigious prize in the heritage field, honoring the rejuvenation an unavoidable focal point in the city’s port.

One of Hvar’s enduring symbols won in the category of “conservation” for the renovation and strengthening of the Arsenal’s load-bearing structure. 

The “Europa Nostra” awards recognize successful conservation and restoration initiatives. Hvar’s Arsenal joins 21 other projects in 15 countries which also earned a “Europa Nostra”.  It’s now eligible for the Public Choice Award, decided by an online vote on the European Heritage site.

Independent juries composed of experts from across Europe chose the winners, following a detailed evaluation of applications submitted by organizations and individuals from 30 European countries.

The jury noted that “this respectful revitalization project has adapted a very significant building to the modern needs of the community and adds a new cultural dimension to the tourism of the area. The stratification of the 16th-century building and the later 18th-century theater has been properly recognized in the conservation works.”

The City of Hvar, the Ministry of Regional Development, Split County and Ministry of Culture financed the project. Split-based Spegra carried it out. The company has rehabilitated significant structures for over three decades. It has also fixed Mostar’s Old Bridge, the Bishop’s Palace in Ston, and many other recognizable historic icons in the region.

“This is a joint recognition of the Government of the Republic of Croatia, the Ministry of Culture, the Conservation Department in Split, us in Spegra,” the company’s director Berislav Borovina said. “It is proof that we have done the right thing. The world has recognized this and placed us alongside the highest quality European companies in terms of the restoration of monumental heritage.”

The Arsenal was originally a Venetian shipyard, erected in 1292 to repair and refit war galleons until the Ottomans destroyed it. Hvar’s residents built its replacement — the current stone building — in 1612.

The building needed the rejuvenation. Wear-and-tear began betraying the building’s four centuries of existence. Spegra’s work added no extra weight, creating “invisible” improvements while increasing the Arsenal’s stability.

The project took decades of effort, starting with studies and a conservation report that started in 1989, a four-year reconstruction of the load-bearing structure, as well as a lengthy renovation.

The work paused after Roman artifacts and the remains of a first-century building emerged from the ground under the Arsenal. 

“It is a very demanding facility that required a high percentage of skilled labor and top craftsmen and workers, and it is specific in its dislocation,” Borovina said. “The execution was very complex, and this is one exemplary example of modern renovation and strengthening of the structure for some future times.”

Its upstairs space was the first public theater in Europe, letting commoners peasants and aristocrats mingle.

The building reopened last year, joining a flood of restorations wrapped up on the 150th anniversary of organized tourism on Hvar. It included both the Arsenal and the theater, and the Hotel Palace Elisabeth.

This isn’t the first time Croatia’s won a Europa Nostra award. In fact, many of its landmark structures and events earned the designation over the last two decades, including the Alka of Sinj Museum and the Betina Museum for Shipbuilding.


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