As you arrive in town Hvar on Hvar island, after we have enjoyed swimming, sunbathing and tasting delicious Mediterranean cuisine in Palmizana on island St. Klement, a part of Pakleni islands archipelago, the path will most certainly take you to the main square in Hvar called St. Stephen square.
The first thing you will notice is the sheer length of the square. With its 4,500 square meters, it is the largest square in Dalmatia. The most interesting thing about the main square in Hvar is the fact that it used to be a bay. The sea was coming all the way to the place where todays cathedral of St. Stephen stands on the far east corner of the square.
The sea inside the bay was being covered throughout the centuries and in the 15th century the square was finally formed. At the beginning it was an area dividing the two fortified towns, town called Grode on the north and town Burga on the south. The square was much wider when it was first formed with the gardens on its side. But because of the lack of space within the fortified town the houses were built on the north part of the St. Stephen square.
The square received more significance when the communal well was built in the center of the main square (Pjaca as it is called locally) in 1520. The well was restored in the years 1780 and 1830. Pjaca got its present-day appearance when it was completely paved over in the year 1780.
At the North side of the St. Stephen square stands the St. Stephen cathedral, the most important sacral building in Hvar town. Pope St. Stephen, the bishop of Rome in the years 254 to 257, is the patron saint of Hvar town and thus Hvar’s cathedral and the main square bear his name.
It is not known how old the St. Stephen cathedral is and when its construction originally started. It was built on the site of the old church from 6th century and, when the Hvar town assumed the Bishopric from Stari Grad in 13th century, it received a cathedral status.
St. Stephen Cathedral was finished at the height of Dalmatian Renaissance in 16th and 17th centuries. The most recognizable feature of the cathedral is its Renaissance bell tower constructed from 1549 to 1550 by local masters, raising four levels, with each level being constructed more elaborately. As in many cathedrals and churches that were constructed throughout two or more centuries, one can see elements of different architectural styles. Therefore, on the Cathedral of St. Stephen in Hvar you can recognize elements of Gothic, Romanesque and Renaissance architecture.
There is one more element of the St. Stephen cathedral which reveals the way people used to live in this area. The cathedral has two entrances. The set of stairs on the left leading inside the cathedral is all worn out suggesting that countless number of people walked these steps to enter inside. On the right side of the cathedral is another set of stairs, but this set looks almost as it was built yesterday. The explanation for this lays in the fact that the left entrance was used by common people, while the right entrance was used by Hvar’s noblemen. This reveals the fact that society in Hvar was divided by social classes. The class difference is also apparent in the position, size and building style of different palaces and residential houses in Hvar town.