Luki Guardian of Hvar's Treasures: Tor

Published in About Animals

Luki and his human minder Ivica are keeping the old footpaths viable: Jelsa's historic Tor is one of their favourite destinations.

Luki, King of the Castle! Luki, King of the Castle! Photo: Ivica Drinković

Tor is well worth a visit for those fit enough to get there.In a hill to the south-east up above Jelsa are the remains of a small hillfort and watchtower known locally as 'Tor'. It dates back to prehistoric times, and the partially rebuilt rectangular watchtower with its massive stone blocks is still impressive. Luki, guardian of Hvar's treasures with his two-legged pet parent Ivica, knows all the routes to Tor well.

Church of Our Lady of Health. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Tor has to be reached on foot. It stands at 235 m above sea level, so it is quite a climb. From Jelsa the path is relatively easy at first, becoming increasingly difficult as it ascends. When Sir Richard Burton visited in 1875, he warned: "Beyond the Madonna della Salute [Church of Our Lady of Health, Crkva od Gospe Zdravlja in Croatian] the goat-path became stiff and stony, slippery withal under mud and rain." He was unlucky with the weather (well it was late December), but even without the difficulties caused by the inclement conditions, he was sceptical of local people's estimates of the time the hike would take: "The time would take an " oretta "- beware of the " little hour" in Dalmatia and Istria. On this occasion, however, it was only double."

Luki and his pal Đuro setting off up the path towards Tor. Photo: Ivica Drinković

Nowadays, the walk takes about 40 minutes, if you are reasonably fit. As it is an uphill climb, and the path passes through beautiful cultivated and uncultivated countryside, you may want to take it more slowly. Make sure you have water with you, and wear comfortable shoes and appropriate clothing.

The old path is blocked! thwarting orchid enthusiast Frank Verhart. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

The path to Tor still starts from the Church of Our Lady of Health, overlooking Jelsa at its southern edge, but there have been some changes since Burton's visit. The path is probably better, at least at the beginning, and it is marked. The start point has been moved. Originally, it went off to the right from a point more or less level with the front of the church. However, the building of Jelsa's new by-pass road, formally opened in 2015, created a forbidding chasm which cut it off. So now one has to walk towards the back of the church, keeping right, for the new starting point, (again heading off to the right) which takes a detour to a place where it is possible to cross the road. It is marked at intervals along the way, until you reach the point where the path splits, and a signpost directs you to go left for the Galešnik fortress, or right for Tor. The direct route to Tor is steep, and the terrain is relatively difficult. It is much easier if you go via Galešnik, which adds about another twenty or thirty minutes to the walk, through very pleasant surroundings, with magnificent views.

Tor. Photo: Ivica Drinković

Sir Richard Burton found the effort of getting there well worth it. "Presently we came upon the Torre di Gelsa; the Slavs call it "Tor," or sheep-fold (e.g. ui-Tor, nell' ovile), but perhaps the latter is a mere corruption of the former. I was delighted; my rough and rainy walks had not been in vain. The site is singular; the apex of a rocky arete, utterly without water, except from rain, and apparently isolated, although large cut-stones, which may have belonged to it or to its outworks, were scattered around. The inside was filled up with earth; externally it showed from four to five isodomic lower courses of large ashlar, calcaire from the mountain on which it stood, and nowhere was there a trace of mortar. The largest parallelopipedon measured 2-06 metres (=6 feet 9 inches) by 0-76 (==2 feet *59 inches) in height. The angles, especially the north-eastern, showed the draught extending through the courses from the lowest to the highest. The western exterior consisted of four lower courses of large stones, capped by three modern, or, at least, smaller layers; and the emplectori, or "old English bond," popularly called "headers and stretchers," were apparently not unknown to the builders. The stones were all boldly bossed, like those of Salona, with chiselled draughts, and the height of the projection might have been 6 to 8 inches. The magnetic meridian passed through the angles, and the slope was an oblong rather than a square. The northern side measured 7-25 metres (=23 feet 9 inches); the southern 7-14; the eastern and the western 6-66 (21 feet 10 inches)."

Massive stone blocks. Photo: Ivica Drinković

The Adriatic Islands Project had its beginnings in the 1980s, culminating in the publication of its extensive archaeological findings in a series of books, Volume 1 of which was 'The Archaeological Heritage of Hvar, Croatia'. In it, Tor is described: "A partly reconstructed Greek tower with maximum dimensions of 6.17 x 7.33 m. and up to 6 m. in height. The walls are of drystone construction composed of massive blocks and with anthyrosis at the corner angles. The south wall has an entrance reconstructed from very tenuous evidence. The site is situated on a prominent north facing ridge with excellent views to Stari Grad, Brač and the mainland. The tower has been inserted into the ramparts of a small hillfort."

The view from Tor. Photo: Ivica Drinković

It seems Sir Richard Burton missed the presence of the hillfort completely. He had difficulty imagining why the watchtower was there, in the absence of a human refuge: "The general aspect reminded me of the garrison-stations on the Roman high roads, especially of that near Khan Khuldeh, supposed to be the "Mutatio Heldua" of the Jerusalem Itinerary, near Bayru't, on the way to Sidon. But here there is no sign of cement. I found no traces of a highway, and the site, commanded on the southern side, and occupying the roughest of rocky ground, where enemies might everywhere lie in ambush, and where half a dozen square yards of tolerably level surface cannot be had, renders it equally unfit for a refuge place and for a settlement. It might perhaps be an outwork and a look-out commanding the sea; still there remains the curious contrast of elaborate finish with an object for which the simplest building would suffice."

Sir Richard Burton with Jelsa Mayor Captain Niko Duboković, 1875. Photo held in the Niko Duboković Nadalini Family Archive, reproduced with kind permission from Ecija Benković-Duboković

In describing the hillfort as they found it, the archaeologists of the Adriatic Islands Project gave it a meaning: "A small hillfort protected on three sides by steep terraced slopes and on the gentler southern side by a drystone rampart with internal revetting. The rampart dimensions are c. 46 m. in length, 16.4 m wide and 3.6 m high. A small area of terracing to the north of the rampart may represent the settlement area. The rampart was excavated by M. Zaninović and [V.] Mirosavljević. Zaninović has interpreted finds from the site to suggest a date of the 4th to 3rd centuries for the associated Greek tower. However, Kirigin ... has cast some doubt on the dating of the material."

Aerial view of Tor. Photo: 'Kantharos', courtesy of Eduard Visković

Tor was described as a defensive structure in the 1331 Hvar Statute. The 16th century Dominican humanist Vinko Pribojević included Tor among six significant defensive structures ranged across Hvar, which were separate from the towns and the many villages. Writing in the 20th century, Nikša Petrić, an archaeologist, historian and poet from Hvar, stated that in Hellenistic times the function of Tor, like the nearby fortress Galešnik, was defensive, as their position was strategically important because they were sited in the central part of Hvar Island where the eastern and western halves met.

Luki contemplating history. Photo: Ivica Drinković

Tor is registered as a protected Croatian National Asset, categorized as an archaeological site. It has been studied extensively over the centuries. A project for further research and excavation, together with preservation and renovation measures, was initiated in 2017 by the Jelsa Council Museum, financed by the Croatian Ministry of Culture. In the 19th century, Jelsa's long-serving Mayor, Captain Niko Duboković, whose statue occupies a commanding position in Jelsa's Park, earned Sir Richard Burton's praise and gratitude through his courtesy, hospitality and respect for Burton's researches. It is good to know that the current Mayor, Nikša Peronja, is following the tradition of nurturing Jelsa's historical heritage.

Memorial to Mayor Captain Niko Duboković in Jelsa's Park. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Following due preparation of all the necessary documentation, the work of the project was started. The plan for 2020 was twofold. The terraces below the watchtower were to be examined. They are part man-made, part natural, and there have been finds of prehistoric and antique terracotta ceramics and tiles, lending weight to the theory that this was a residential area. A second line of research was to investigate the area some hundred metres lower down, where the land is relatively flat and cultivated with vines, at the beginning of the steep rise to the watchtower begins. Various finds have indicated that this was the site of an Illyrian-Greek burial ground, most probably containing Illyrian graves created with Hellenistic materials.

Excavations under way. Photo: 'Kantharos', courtesy of Eduard Visković

Tor itself is Hellenistic (i.e. Greek) in style, but it is not certain whether it was actually built by the Greeks, who established their colony in Pharos (modern-day Stari Grad) in the 4th century BCE, or by the Illyrians who were their predecessors in the area, and whose architecture was known to have been influenced by Greek styles. That is why Tor is referred to variously as Greek, Illyrian or Graeco-Illyrian. Unfortunately, the works planned for 2020 did not progress, as the Ministry had to withdraw the promised funding, in order to prioritize the necessary renovations following the devastating earthquakes in Zagreb and then in Petrinja, Sisak and their surrounding areas. So the questions will remain unanswered for a while longer.

Luki and his pals enjoy the pathfinding at all times of year. Photos: Ivica Drinković

Luki and Ivica, as true guardians of Hvar's heritage treasures, visit Tor each year in the spring and/or autumn. For Luki it is a great adventure, a chance to enjoy fresh sights and smells every time, and to be 'King of the Castle', looking down over the exquisite landscape and the blue waters of the Adriatic. For human visitors the walk up offers endless opportunities to enjoy the wildflowers and varied vegetation of the season; reaching the ruins means being able to rest and savour the magical atmosphere of history from unknown ages long past, as well as enjoying the spectacular views.

© Vivian Grisogono MA(Oxon) 2020.

Special thanks are due to Ivica Drinković (and Luki!) for permission to use their splendid photographs; to Ecija Benković-Duboković, for preserving her family archive - Jelsa, pomorska povijest - crtice, - and allowing the use of the historical photograph of Mayor Duboković with Sir Richard Burton; and to Eduard Visković, founder and owner of the archaeological firm 'Kantharos', which offers specialist site photographic services, for letting us use the photographs from the excavation works.

Sources:

Burton, R. F. 1876. “The Long Wall of Salona and the Ruined Cities of Pharia and Gelsa Di Lesina.” The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, vol. 5, pp. 252–300. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/2840891. (p.293) https://www.jstor.org/stable/2840891?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents

Novak, G. 1972. Hvar kroz stoljeća. Izdavački zavod Jugoslavenske Akademije Znanosti i Umjetnosti. 3. izdanje (str. 29)

Duboković Nadalini, N. 1989. Hvar, Stari Grad, Vrboska, Jelsa. pub. 'Turistkomerc', Zagreb, in the series Pocket guides for tourists. English translation Karla Cizelj (p. 91)

Gaffney, V., Kirigin, B., Petrić, M., Vujnović, N., Čače, S. 1997. The Adriatic Islands Project. Contact, Commerce and Colonialism 6000 B.C. - AD 600. Volume 1. The Archaeological Heritage of Hvar, Croatia. TEMPUS REPARATUM. BAR International Series 660. (p.151)

Petrić, N., ed. Maroević, T. 2015. Zavičaju Hvaru. Sabrane studije i članci. Matica Hrvatska Hvar, Književni krug Split. (p. 189)

You are here: Home about animals Luki Guardian of Hvar's Treasures: Tor

Eco Environment News feeds

  • Exclusive: major supplier to brands including KFC and Nando’s used offshore companies allowing them to reduce UK tax payments, investigation suggests

    The global megacompanies supplying some of Britain’s most popular meat brands, including KFC, Nando’s chicken and Sainsbury’s organic range, appear to have been using offshore companies that allow them to avoid paying millions of pounds in tax in the UK.

    An investigation by the Guardian and Lighthouse Reports has found that two companies – Anglo Beef Processors UK and Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation (owned by Brazilian beef giant JBS) – appear to have reduced their tax bill by structuring their companies and loans in a way that allows them to take advantage of different tax systems, in what one expert has described as “aggressive tax avoidance”.

    Continue reading...

  • Nature protection rules in proposed investment zones would in effect be suspended

    There was little room for doubt about the reaction to the prime minister’s plans to scrap environmental regulations this weekend. “Make no mistake, we are angry. This government has today launched an attack on nature,” tweeted the RSPB, its most forceful political intervention in recent memory.

    Liz Truss’s proposals to create investment zones, where green rules on nature protection would in effect be suspended, represented a step too far for some of Britain’s biggest environment charities. “As of today, from Cornwall to Cumbria, Norfolk to Nottingham, wildlife is facing one of the greatest threats it’s faced in decades,” the RSPB went on.

    Continue reading...

  • Prominent members of farmers’ union express dismay after comments by Minette Batters

    Farmers are threatening to quit the National Farmers’ Union after its leader said she supported the UK government’s apparent move to scrap post-Brexit nature subsidies.

    This weekend, the Observer revealed that the government was poised to abandon the “Brexit bonus”, which would have paid farmers and landowners to enhance nature, in what wildlife groups have described as an “all-out attack” on the environment.

    Continue reading...

  • Stars of film about 500-mile trek to Scotland for Cop26 hit the road again for Bristol premiere

    There will be no red carpet, no designer outfits and definitely no limousines. In fact, the stars of the film have shunned any sort of mechanical transport and instead walked 135 miles from London to Bristol for the premiere, and are asking their audience to accompany them by foot on their last leg before the screening.

    The film, which is being premiered on the harbourside in Bristol on Tuesday evening, is Of Walking on Thin Ice (Camino to Cop26), which tells the story of a group of climate pilgrims who hiked 500 miles from the south of England to Scotland for last year’s climate conference in Glasgow.

    For more details and tickets visit the Encounters film festival website.

    Continue reading...

  • Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire:It feels like sitting in a crypt – I am surrounded by the skeletons of dried perennials

    I try not to make excuses so I’m just going to tell the truth: everything in my garden is dead. The drought was fierce and I was sick, distracted. I couldn’t bear to look at it but I’m trying to look now.

    It feels like sitting in a crypt. I’ve pulled up a damp chair and I am surrounded by skeletons, the limbs of my perennials dried, bent and snapped. The hydrangea’s flowers have turned to ghostly brown lace too soon, drooping leaves turned almost black like prayer flags. There is copper, rust and blood; piles of viburnum leaves dropped early in fright. The penstemon looks as if it has been set alight then frozen, its orange flames still and hellish. When the rains finally came, too late, the parched snails came out of hiding and ate everything that was left. Talk about overkill.

    Continue reading...

  • Movement aims to make the mass damage and destruction of ecosystems a prosecutable, international crime against peace

    California winemaker Julia Jackson has long grasped the threats posed by the ongoing global climate change crisis, from more intense wildfires and hurricanes to rising sea levels. But for her, those ideas crossed over from the abstract to the tangible when her home was razed by the Kincade wildfire that devastated her native Sonoma county in 2019.

    “I lost everything – all my belongings,” Jackson said. “It shook me to my core.”

    Continue reading...

  • The deaths within days of 11 sturgeon, a species unchanged for thousands of years, have puzzled scientists

    When the first spindly, armour-clad carcass was spotted in the fast-flowing Nechako River in early September, Nikolaus Gantner and two colleagues scrambled out on a jet boat, braving strong currents to investigate the grim discovery.

    Days later, the remains of 10 others were spotted floating along a 100km stretch of the river in western Canada.

    Continue reading...

  • Defra accused of ‘all-out attack’ on environment by wildlife groups

    The government is to scrap the “Brexit bonus” which would have paid farmers and landowners to enhance nature, in what wildlife groups are calling an “all-out attack” on the environment, the Observer can reveal.

    Instead, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) sources disclosed, they are considering paying landowners a yearly set sum for each acre of land they own, which would be similar to the much-maligned EU basic payments scheme of the common agricultural policy.

    Continue reading...

  • Super Typhoon Noru tore its way out of the northern Philippines on Monday, leaving casualties, floods and power outages. Government work and classes at schools have been suspended in the capital and beyond

    Continue reading...

  • David Malpass apologises after saying he ‘doesn’t know’ if he accepts climate science

    David Malpass, president of the World Bank, faces an uncertain future this week, after the White House joined a chorus of influential figures in condemning his apparent climate denialism.

    Malpass remains in post for now but under severe pressure, despite issuing an apology and trying to explain his refusal last week to publicly acknowledge the human role in the climate crisis.

    Continue reading...

Eco Health News feeds

Eco Nature News feeds