Jelsa Heritage


The historical structure of Jelsa was shaped in the Middle Ages at the site of Glavica near the Church of Our Lady next to the coast at a spring of water. This description has been preserved in the Hvar Statute of 1331 (…ad fontem vocatum Jelsa, qui est prope mare salsum…). Not far from the Church of Our Lady and near the Church of St. Ivan houses were built in the 15th century, and right at the end of that century they were built on the western side where the Church of St. Rocco is located, framing the space of the southern portion of the bay called Vela Banda. The northern side of the bay, known as Mala Banda, began to be developed in the 15th century next to the Church of St. Mihovil.

The preserved assemblage was completed in the 18th century, but it experienced a particular blossoming, when because of the renovation of the port in the mid-19th century, the swamp between Vela and Mala Banda was drained and in 1871 the most beautiful formal gardens in Dalmatia were laid out.

Access to the sea from the port is naturally protected from the southern side by the Gradina Peninsula once surrounded by a wall with a total circumference of 800 meters, within which there were six and a half hectares of space. Access to the peninsula is still closed today by a preserved wall that is 172 meters long, 1.3 meters wide and whose height in some places can reach three meters.

Some researchers think that the entire fortified area of the Gradina Peninsula is most probably the old fortified settlement of Jelsa – Civitas vetus Ielsae – from the medieval Hvar Statute.

An Augustinian monastery with a church was built within the walls of the Gradina Peninsula in 1605. It was granted permission to celebrate Mass in 1611. Within the court of the monastery are buried members of the great brotherhood of Our Lady of Consolation. Deconsecration of the church and monastery at the end of the 19th century led to the beginning of its fall into disrepair, however, only the brotherhood remained, which was abolished in 1807. With the expansion of the municipal cemetery in 1950, the monastery began to be torn down, while the church was renovated and reconstructed in 1867.

How impressive the ancient and medieval history was in the area of today's district of Jelsa can be shown by a description of its monuments at the beginning of the 16th century in the book De origine suceessibusque Slavorum of the Croatian Dominican Vinko Pribojević printed in Venice in 1532.

With this place about which I speak, two other places on the coast, which are daily being more developed, are competing with the ruins of the palace and the temple (Jelsa and Vrboska)...

Even today among the hills there is an almost intact wall (Gališnik) rising above the city, which took up the eastern part of the field. At the range of a bow shot there is the tower (Tor) of four angled stone of an unusual size with a single narrow entrance, which because of its age no trace of plaster can be seen.

It is interesting that even today the architectural remains in the immediate vicinity of Jelsa are very visible. Integrated into the Mediterranean ambience with the place itself it is a mirror of a preserved cultural landscape from ancient times.

The abundance of water and the fertile field, where even today workers use the ancient roads and the remains of Roman villas, represent a unique cultural area on the island, settled so long ago in prehistory.

South of Jelsa – about a 30-minute walk – an old road rises toward imposing buildings with unique monuments that have been preserved from prehistory to medieval times. To the west is the well-known ancient tower of Tor, erected at the end of the 4th century BCE. Not far from Tor, at the range of a bow shot, as Pribojević would say, is the fortress of Gališnik, the beginnings of whose fortifications reach back to late antiquity. Because of its unique position and architecture Gališnik is also mentioned when determining the border of the territory of the medieval district: Confines territorii …eundo per filum ad Castrum Vetus, quod vocatur Galicnich.

—  Municipality of Jelsa
Photo by Juloml, Hvar Jelsa, 2006, CC BY-SA 3.0,