Saturday, 22 January 2022
Dry wall landscape Dry wall landscape Ivo Pervan

A dying art that has left its mark all over Croatia

Written by  Feb 15, 2017

Apart from the crystal clear sea, wonderful beaches and numerous islands, the Croatian coast is also known for its dry walls (suhozidi or gromace).

The ancient art of dry wall construction is a building method by which structures were built from stones without any mortar to bind them together. Dry stone walls have been traditionally used as arable land and pasture boundaries (in south Europe, Croatia, Ireland, Switzerland and Austria), as well as in building wells and roads.

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Due to the karst landscape, many of dry walls along the Croatian coast and on islands were built out of agricultural necessity. It was very hard work for local farmers; they had to move rocks and stones to clear space if they wanted to grow olive trees and grapevines. Then they used those rocks to construct walls that sometimes stretched for kilometres. On the steep slopes, those walls were built as retaining walls or terraces that held the soil and protected plants against the strong winter winds.

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The appearance of dry walls often depended on skill level. It was very difficult to fit stones together so effectively so they could withstand for centuries without falling. On the other hand, the form of dry walls followed the function; for example, on the island of Pag dry walls were not built only for agricultural purposes but mainly to divide territory and herd sheep. In some parts of Istria the dry stone technique was used to build shelters that resemble small stone houses (kazuni).

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The dry wall technique is centuries old and so are most of the walls. The dividing parcels of land in the area of Stari Grad on the island of Hvar, one of Croatia’s seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, date back to the 4th century BC.

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In December 2016 the Croatian Ministry of Culture proclaimed the art of dry wall construction the permanent intangible cultural heritage and put it in the Register of Cultural Goods of the Republic of Croatia.

Photos by Ivo Pervan

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