St. Lawrence’s Church, Vrboska
Vrboska’s 15th century parish church of St. Lawrence lies to the west of the fortified Church of Saint Mary of Mercy. It was burnt down twice in the 16th century, during the Hvar Uprising (‘Hvarske bune’) in 1512, and then during the Turkish invasion of Hvar in 1571. It was renovated in Baroque style in the 17th century.
The church has five richly decorated altars. and holds the richest fundus of artworks on Hvar, indeed, one of the most important artistic collections in the whole of Dalmatia. On the main altar is a painting of St. Lawrence with St. John the Baptist and St. Nicholas, with an array of vignette scenes showing St. Lawrence leading the poor before the Emperor Valerian, and St. Lawrence under torture. It is now considered to be the work of Paolo Cagliari (Veronese), dating to the 1480s, although it was previously attributed to Tiziano Vecellio.
On the ceiling there are scenes depicting the Father, Son and the Coronation of St. Mary, encircled by high-ranking Church dignitaries evangelists. The author of this 18th century work is unknown. On the ornate side altars are works by Leandro Bassano, Antonio Scuria, Stefano Celesti, and Giuseppe Alabardi, as well as altar paintings by the well-known 20th century Croatian painters Celestin Medović and Marko Rašica, among others.
Due to damp problems in the fortified Church of St. Mary of Mercy, many of that church’s artworks are now held in St. Lawrence’s Church, among them the magnificent Baroque Cross reputedly made by Benvenuto Cellini from a relief by Tiziano Aspetti (possibly the Younger, although it was previously attributed to Aspetti the Elder).
St. Lawrence is the patron saint of Vrboska, and his feast day is celebrated annually on August 10th, with music, dancing, wining and dining – all the festive trimmings creating a truly memorable occasion in this magical little town at the height of the summer.