Petar Hektorović’s Tvrdalj (1487 – 1572) with a fish-pond and a dove-cot over it, is the most famous building in Stari Grad. This renaissance poet built it throughout his entire life and it had the same importance for him as his literary work. With it he realized his idea of microcosm – a small, enclosed world where all divine creatures – fish, birds, plants and people had a space to live.
Tvrdalj is also a stone book – Hektorović carved more than twenty Latin stone inscriptions. His own life motto is carved in Italian: Fede e realtà o quanto è bella – How lovely faith and reality are. Only one inscription is in Croatian, the one above the house for travellers and paupers. Poet, Christian thinker and architect, Petar Hektorović worked on the construction of his Tvrdalj obsessively and persistently throughout his long life. It was conceived as a summer villa and left to his heirs as a well-rounded introverted microcosm devoted to the Creator of all things – Omnium Conditori.
The playful interior of Tvrdalj is the antithesis of façade’s simplicity. Pond, surrounded by a portico, where fish live, small tower over it, with stone nests for pigeons and holes for sparrows, garden with plants that were sent to him by his friends, poets from Dubrovnik, and again inscriptions all around. The largest of those warns about the transience: Remember that neither riches nor fame, beauty nor age can save you from death, which takes all.