Exploring Croatia’s UNESCO Heritage: the Lepoglava Lace Festival

Total Croatia News

Croatia has a proud lace-making tradition, inscribed as intangible UNESCO heritage. A visit to Lepoglava in Varazdin County, which hosts an international lace festival each September. 

One of the things I have learned in my time in Croatia is that there is a surprise around most corners, and the country’s diverse traditions and heritage make for some rather fascinating festivals and tourist attractions.

Take lace, for example, not a commodity I will confess to spending much time thinking about in the past, but Croatia has three completely different lace-making centres which are inscribed as UNESCO intangible heritage – the islands of Pag and Hvar, and the town of Lepoglava in Varazdin County in northern Croatia, a UNESCO tradition which has been celebrated each September for the last 20 years.

According to the official UNESCO website:

The difference between the lacemaking in other European countries and in Croatia lies in its creators. In Europe, lacemaking was in the hands of nuns, bourgeoisie and nobility, while in Croatia it was transferred from them to the hands of rural women in small villages. They have made lace for traditional clothes and furnishings.

The skill of making ribbon bobbin lacework from flax fibres that the rural women from Lepoglava made for decorating their garments or for sale, resulted in the making of fine lace with different forms.

You can learn more about the lace-making traditions on Hvar, Pag and in Lepoglava on the official UNESCO video below. 

I was fortunate to attend the 2014 festival. Not having much pre-conception as to what a lace festival might actually consititure, I was surprised not only by the diversity of exhibits on show, but also by the international presence  – some 13 lace-making countries were present at the festival.

And there were some quite extraordinary things to marvel at, none more so that this fabulous tent made entirely of lace.  

Called “Shelter for the feeling” by Japanese artist Akiko Sato, it was one of the most impressive lace creations at the festival. How was it made? This great video below is a fabulous timelapse of the whole process. 

One doesn’t have to be in Lepoglava very long to get an understanding of just how proud the locals rightfully are of their lace-making tradition, a tradition which permeates through all sections of society, and one of the highlights for me was watching the next generation, cutely attired in traditional dress, attending lace-making workshops during the festival. They were really good! It would seem that the Lepoglava lace festival is in safe hands for many years to come. 

Take a look at some of the highlights of a previous Lepoglava Lace Festival in the video below.

This year’s festival, the 20th, will take place from September 22-25..

And you are never too old to learn the lace-making techniques of Lepoglava, as this correspondent learned below on a visit to the town earlier this year. For more information on tourism in Lepoglava, visit the Varazdin County Tourist Board website.  

Leave a Comment