Lace in Croatia

Lace in Croatia - Hands making lace

If you are looking for highlights far from tourist tours, follow the trace of the Croatian lace, hand-crafted art from the World Cultural Heritage. This protected intangible cultural heritage will lead you to three beautiful places that still cherish precious lace-making tradition. Each is different and unique, and yet they share a common thread – the delicate lace, created by filigree-like movements of hard-working hands of generations of women, who have invested their patience and skill into creating these tiny works of art. In the past context of European culture and society, handmade lace crafts were reserved for monastic orders, and only the wealthiest or royalty members of society could afford this luxury. Lace-making has been a cherished tradition in Croatia for centuries, especially in small rural communities, where homemakers left their mark in the long history of this folk art form.

Lace-making in Croatia began in medieval times with the Order of Saint Paul in the town of Lepoglava and then the Benedictine nuns on the islands of Pag and Hvar, where they created the delicate pieces in quiet devotion and humble surroundings. Originally used to decorate religious spaces and for ceremonial purposes, it later became part of clerical clothing. With time lace was included in traditional clothes and shoes, as the nuns selflessly imparted their knitting skills to the common folk. Thus, the lace-making tradition found its way into every home, including the court of Empress Maria Theresa for Pag lace. In addition to the Lepoglava lace, renowned for its delicacy and unique patterns, the lace from Pag is highly valued as well due to its particularly decorative quality, and its use of very fine thread.

A special story lies behind the lace from the island of Hvar, still cherished by the Benedictine nuns. They use a painstaking method of extracting threads from the spiky agave plant found everywhere on the island, after which they retreat to pray and devote themselves to creating wonderful works of art, as well as hold an exhibition of this unique piece of world heritage in their small lace museum. The lace, an intricate decorative piece made from thousands of delicate threads, was once considered as a kind of relic for personal devotion. In the early twentieth century, it was gradually revived due to the attention of the royal family, and it has in recent years seen a true revival as a genuine Croatian souvenir that represents and preserves the Croatian lace-making tradition in a beautiful and unique way.

In 2009, Pag, Hvar, and Lepoglava lace was registered in the list of intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO.