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The culture of Croatiamarker has roots in a long history: the Croatian people have been inhabiting the area for fourteen centuries, but there are important remnants of the earlier periods still preserved in the country.

Ancient Heritage

Ancient monuments from the Paleolithic era are very poor and consist of simple stone and bone objects. Some of the earliest remaining historical features include 100,000 year old bones of a Neandertalmarker man near Krapinamarker (Krapina-Zagorje countymarker).

The most interesting Copper Age or Eneolithic finds are from Vučedol culture. Out of that culture sprung out Bronze Age Vinkovci culture (named after city of Vinkovcimarker) that is recognizable by bronze fibulas that were replacing objects like needles and buttons.Bronze Age culture of Illyrians, ethnic group with distinct culture and art form started to organize itself in 7th century BC. Numerous monumental sculptures are preserved, as well as walls of citadel Nezakcij near Pulamarker, one of numerous Istrian cities from Iron Age.

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Greeks from Syracusemarker in Sicily in 390 BC came to islands of Vis (Issa), Hvarmarker (Pharos) and Korčulamarker (Corcyra Nigra) and there have founded city-states in which they lived quite isolated.While the Greek colonies were flourishing on the island, on the continent the Illyrians were organizing their centers. Their art was greatly influenced by Greek art, and they have even copied some. Illyrians even conquered Greek colonies on Dalmatian islands. Famous was the queen Teuta of Issa (today island of Vis) which waged wars with the Romans. But finally, Rome subdued the Illyrians in first century, cesar and after that the history of these parts is a history of Illyrian provinces of Rome and Byzantium.

The Romans organized the entire coastal territory by transforming citadels to urban cities. There have been at least thirty cities in Istriamarker, Liburnia and Dalmatia with Roman citizenship (civitas). The best-preserved networks of Roman streets (decumanus/cardo) are those in Epetion (Poreč) and Jader (Zadarmarker). The best preserved Roman monuments are in Pola (Pulamarker) including an Amphitheater (an arena) from the 2nd century).

In the 3rd century AD the city of Salona was the largest (with 40,000 inhabitants) and most important city of Dalmatia. Near the city emperor Diocletian, born in Salona, built the Diocletian's Palace (around year 300 AD), which is largest and most important monument of late antique architecture in the World.In the 4th century Salona became the center of Christianity for entire western Balkans. It hade numerous basilicas and necropolises, and even two saints: Domnius (Duje) and Anastasius (Staš).

One of few preserved basilicas in western Europe (beside ones in Ravennamarker) from the time of early Byzantium is Euphrasian Basilicamarker in Porečmarker from 6th century.

The early Middle Ages brought the great migration of the Slavs and this period was perhaps a Dark Age in the cultural sense until the successful formation of the Slavic states which coexisted with Italic cities that remained on the coast, each of them were modelled like Venicemarker.

Croatian Art

In the 7th century the Croats, along with other Slavs and Avars, came from Northern Europe to the region where they live today. The Croats were open to roman art and culture, and most of all to Christianity. First churches were built as royal sanctuaries, and influences of Roman art were strongest in Dalmatia where urbanization was thickest, and there were the largest number of monuments. Gradually that influence was neglected and certain simplification, alteration of inherited forms and even creation of original buildings appeared.The largest and most complicated central based church from the 9th century is St Donatus in Zadarmarker. From those times, with its size and beauty we can only compare the chapel of Charlemagne in Aachenmarker.Altar enclosure and windows of those churches were highly decorated with transparent shallow string-like ornament that is called Croatian pleter (meaning to weave) because the strings were threaded and rethreaded through itself. Sometimes the engravings in early Croatian script – Glagolitic appeared. Soon, the glagolic writings were replaced with Latin on altar boundaries and architraves of old-Croatian churches.

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joining the Hungarian statemarker in the twelfth century, Croatia lost its independence, but it didn't lose its ties with the south and the west, and instead this ensured the beginning of a new era of Central European cultural influence.Early Romanesque art appeared in Croatia at the beginning of 11th century with strong development of monasteries and reform of the church. In that period, many valuable monuments and artifacts along the Croatian coast were made, such as the Cathedral of St. Anastasia, Zadarmarker (natively - St. Stošija) in Zadar (13th century).In Croatian Romanesque sculpture we have a transformation of decorative interlace relief (Croatian pleter) to figurative. The best examples of Romanesque sculpture are: wooden doors of Split cathedral done by Andrija Buvina (c.1220) and Stone portal of Trogir cathedral done by artisan Radovan (c. 1240).Early frescoes are numerous and best preserved in Istriamarker. On them we can evidence the mixing of influences of Eastern and Western Europe. The oldest miniature are from the 13th century – Evangelical book from Split and Trogir.

The Gothic art in 14th century was supported by culture of cities councils, preaching orders (like Franciscans), and knightly culture. It was the golden age of free Dalmatian cities that were trading with Croatian feudal nobility in the continent. Largest urban project of those times was complete building of two new towns – Small and Large Stonmarker, and about 7 kilometres of wall with guard towers (14th century).Tatars destroyed the Romanesque cathedral in Zagreb during their scourge in 1240, but right after their departure Zagreb got the title of a free city from Hungarianmarker king Bela IV. Soon after bishop Timotej began to rebuild the cathedral in new Gothic style.

Zadarmarker was an independent Venetianmarker city. The most beautiful examples of gothic humanism in Zadar are reliefs in gilded metal as in Arc of St Simon by artisan from Milanmarker in 1380.Gothic painting is less preserved, and the finest works are in Istria as fresco-cycle of Vincent from Kastv in Church of Holy Mary in Škriljinah near Beram, from 1474.From that times are the two of the best and most decorated illuminated liturgies done by monks from Split, – Hvals’ Zbornik (today in Zagreb) and Misal of Bosnian duke Hrvoje Vukčić Hrvatinić (now in Istanbulmarker).

Cathedral of St James in Šibenik from 1555, UNESCO World Heritage
In 15th century, Croatia was divided between three states – northern Croatia was a part of Austrian Empiremarker, Dalmatia was under the rule of Venetian Republicmarker (with exception of Dubrovnikmarker) and Slavonia was under Ottoman occupation. Dalmatia was on the periphery of several influences so religious and public architecture with clear influence of Italian renaissance flourished. Three works out of that period are of European importance, and will contribute to further development of Renaissance: Cathedral of St.Jamesmarker in Šibenikmarker, in 1441 by Giorgio da Sebenico; chapel of Blessed John from Trogir in 1468 by Niccolò Fiorentino; and Sorkočević’s villa in Lapad near Dubrovnik in 1521.

In northwestern Croatia, the beginning of the wars with the Ottoman Empire caused many problems but in the long term it both reinforced the northern influence (by having the Austrians as the rulers). The Ottoman advance was known for its violence.With permanent danger by Ottomans from east, there was modest influence of renaissance, while fortifications thrived, like fortified city of Karlovacmarker in 1579 and fort of Ratkay family in Veliki Tabor from 16th century.Some of the famous Croatian renaissance artists lived and worked in other countries, like brothers Francesco and Luciano Laurana, miniaturist Giulio Clovio and famous mannerist painter Andrea Schiavone (teacher of El Greco).

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In the 17th and 18th centuries, Croatia was reunited with the parts of country that were occupied by Venetian Republicmarker and Ottoman Empire. The unity attributed to sudden flourishing of Art in every segment.Large fortifications with radial plan, ditches and numerous towers were built because of constant Ottoman threat. The two largest ones were Osijekmarker and Slavonski Brodmarker. Later they become large cities. Urban planning of Baroque is felt in numerous new towns like Karlovacmarker, Bjelovarmarker, Koprivnicamarker, Viroviticamarker etc.Cities of Dalmatia also got baroque towers and bastions incorporated in their old walls, like the ones in Pulamarker, Šibenikmarker or Hvarmarker. But biggest baroque undertaking happened in Dubrovnikmarker in 17th century after catastrophic earthquake in 1667 when almost entire city was destroyed.Wall painting experienced flourishing in all parts of Croatia, from illusionist frescoes in church of Holy Mary in Samobormarker, St Catherine in Zagrebmarker to Jesuit church in Dubrovnik.An exchange of artists between Croatia and other parts of Europe happened. The most famous Croatian painter was Federiko Benković who worked almost his entire life in Italy, while an Italian – Francesco Robba, did the best Baroque sculptures in Croatia.

In Austrianmarker countries on the beginning of 19th century Romantic movement in Croatia was sentimental, gentle and subtle.At the end of 19th century architect Herman Bolle undertook one of the largest projects of European historicism – half-kilometer long neo-renaissance arcade with twenty domes on Zagreb cemetery Mirogojmarker. At the same time, the cities in Croatia got an important urban makeover.Pseudo building that emphasizes all three visual arts is former building of Ministry of Prayer and Education (so called "Golden Hall") in Zagreb (H. Bolle, 1895). Vlaho Bukovac brought the spirit of impressionism from Parismarker, and he strongly influenced the young artists (including the authors of “Golden Hall”). On the Millennium Exhibition in Budapestmarker they were able to set aside all other artistic options in Austro-Hungary.

The turbulent twentieth century re-oriented Croatia politically on many occasions and affected it in many other ways, but it could not significantly alter its already peculiar position at the crossroads of many different cultures.


People in Croatia enjoy free government-sponsored education at the primary and secondary level, and partially free university education. There are over 800 primary schools and over 400 secondary schools in the country.

The higher education is also government-sponsored, and mostly free for students who enroll with better results. There are thirty two various polytechnic schools, as well as seven universities in seven larger cities: Zagrebmarker, Splitmarker, Rijeka, Osijek, Zadar, Dubrovnik, Pula. Each of the universities in Croatia is composed of many independent "faculties" (Croatian fakultet, meaning college or department), which focus on specific areas of learning: Natural Sciences, Philosophy, Law, Engineering, Economy, Architecture, Medicine, and so on.

There are also a number of other educational and scientific institutions, such as institutes (most notably the Ruđer Bošković Institute) or the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Artsmarker, a learned society promoting language, culture, and science from its first conception in 1836.

The Roman Catholic Church was instrumental in the founding of many educational facilities in Croatia. The Church continues to maintain numerous seminaries and theological faculties in the country, as well as the Pontifical Croatian College of St. Jerome for Croatian students in Rome.


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Some of the people Croats take special pride in include:

This list is far from inclusive: the list of Croatians includes all the people who influenced the Croatian culture and history.


The UNESCOmarker has marked six places in Croatia as World Heritage:

Regarding conservation and natural beauty, Croatia has eight national parks, mostly situated along the Adriaticmarker coast.


Croatian cuisine is heterogeneous, and is therefore known as "the cuisine of regions". Its modern roots date back to proto-Slavic and ancient periods and the differences in the selection of foodstuffs and forms of cooking are most notable between those on the mainland and those in coastal regions. Mainland cuisine is more characterized by the earlier proto-Slavic and the more recent contacts with the more famous gastronomic orders of today - Hungarian, Viennese, Vietnamese and Turkish - while the coastal region bears the influences of the Greek, Roman and Illyrian, as well as of the later Mediterranean cuisine - Italian and French.

A large body of books bears witness to the high level of gastronomic culture in Croatia, which in European terms dealt with food in the distant past, such as the Gazophylacium by Belostenec, a Latin-Kajkavian dictionary dating from 1740 that preceded a similar French dictionary. There is also Beletristic literature by Marulić, Hektorović, Držić and other writers, down to the work written by Ivan Bierling in 1813 containing recipes for the preparation of 554 various dishes (translated from the German original), and which is considered to be the first Croatian cookbook.




Line notes

  1. Roman Art
  2. C.Michael Hogan, "Diocletian's Palace", The Megalithic Portal, A. Burnham ed., Oct. 6, 2007
  3. Valentin V. Sedov, Slavs in the Early Middle Ages
  4. The First Croatian State

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