Hvar - UNESCO island

Stari Grad and Stari Grad Plain

The large plain occupies the island’s central area. Its name kept changing with the successive arrival of different rulers. First known by the Greeks as Chora Pharou (Xορα Φαρου), it became Ager Pharensis in Roman times, to be replaced by the medieval name of Campus Sancti Stephani (Plain of St. Stephen). It is now known as Stari Grad Plain. It has sustained the life on the island for thousands of years. The Plain is in fact a cultural landscape, formed by thousands of years of human labour. Its ancient man-made features originate from 24 centuries ago when Greek colonist divided the Plain into rectangular plots of 1x5 stadia, (ca. 180x900 m), each fenced in with dry stone wall. The Plain was crisscrossed with major roads cutting through it in regular longitudinal and transversal directions.

Today we can identify the point in the Plain, located at a road intersection; from which the Greek surveyor began his measuring – omphalos, the navel of the Plain. Also, the name of one of the plot owners from Greek times is known: Mathios (son) of Pytheas had his name carved into the boundary stone, now kept in the Archaeological Museum in Zagreb. In the area of Kupinovik, below Dol, the land was first owned by Komon (son of) Phyloxenido (Κομων Φιλοξενίδο), and later by a Roman, Caius Cornficius Carus, municipal councillor of Pharia who built there a large manor house.

Remains of dozens of villae rusticae were found in the Plain. In the course of the long Roman rule, the Plain was a well-organised system of large and wealthy estates with numerous prosperous farm holdings. In the Middle Ages, the Hvar Statute from 1331 speaks of ancient roads (via antiqua) running through the Plain of St. Stephen. The roads remained in use thanks to the continuous farming. From the Middle Ages onwards, the large land holdings were cut up into smaller plots, with the present-day boundaries inside the great ancient estates standing witness to the changes and centuries gone by. The Statute recorded the Slav-descended vineyard owners, a proof that Slavs completely took over the Roman Pharia, making Hvar a truly Croatian island in the Middle Ages.

For centuries, Stari Grad Plain has been covered with vineyards, and in the course of Antiquity and the Middle Ages people also grew wheat. Fig trees grew at plots edges and in less fertile zones. Almond trees were planted nearer to the settlements, almost touching the gardens. Olive groves, than as today, covered the low hills surrounding the Plain. Carob trees grew among the olive trees. Still higher lay, until quite recently, terraced fields of lavender. Now, Aleppo pines are slowly taking over and are gradually descending to the edges of the settlements. 

In 2008, Stari Grad Plain, as the best preserved Greek cadastre in the Mediterranean, was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List along with the historic centre of Stari Grad.

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