Culture, arts and tradition
The Vukovar area has always been a place of continuous succession of cultural events, a meeting place over many long centuries of two very different world views – the western, central-European and the eastern, that of the Balkans.
In accordance with its economic and administrative position, Vukovar grew into an educational, cultural and healthcare centre. Volksschule-education began in Vukovar in 1730. A Franciscan school in Old Vukovar developed into a Volksschule. New Vukovar had its own school. Confessional schools for children of Orthodox and Jewish faith were also active, as well as schools teaching in German and Hungarian. An apprentice school was founded in 1886, a gymnasium in 1891. A printing house began operating in 1867 and the first German-language newspaper in Vukovar, Der Syrmier Bote, was published.
German Counts of Eltz played a significant role in the economic and cultural life of Vukovar. German, Hungarian, Jewish, Rusyn, Slovak and Ukrainian immigrants moved into the area, so it became multi-national.
The dominant style-layer of the historical Vukovar is certainly its well-rounded baroque complex with many architectural landmarks of exceptionally high visual arts and ambience value.
Vukovar’s baroque centre is the town’s recognisable vista. Houses with baroque arches located left and right of the centre were built in the Maria Theresa-style and used to indicate the affluence of the wealthier Vukovar residents. Nowadays, the entire area is protected as an urban historical complex. If you embark on a tour which begins right here, in the baroque centre, moving towards the Vuka river, you will first come across the Grand Hotel, the most famous work of monumental historicist architecture. The Grand Hotel was built at the end of the 19th century and in addition to its accommodation facilities, it also included a theatre hall. The hotel was sold for the second time in 1919 to workers who bought it using funds from the sale of their cooperative shares and it became the Workers’ Hall. After you cross the bridge over the Vuka river, you will find yourself in front of the birth house of Nobel laureate Lavoslav Ružička. Across the road from his family home is Eltz Manor, where the Vukovar Municipal Museum is nowadays located. Eltz Manor is one of the most representative buildings from the Baroque era in Croatia. Opposite the Manor you can find the Syrmia County Palace, built in the 18th century. It is registered as an “A”-category cultural monument and it has been restored to its historical image.
If you walk towards Eltz Manor via the promenade alongside the Danube, you will see the Franciscan monastery, the Saint Philip and Jacob Church as well as the Gymnasium. The construction of the monastery and the church began on 24 June 1723 and continued throughout the 18th century. Before the wartime devastation, which did not spare even the vast Franciscan legacy with its the old monastery library containing 17,000 tomes, the monastery with the Saint Philip and Jacob Church was the oldest preserved Baroque monument and the oldest building in Vukovar in general. The church and the monastery are protected cultural monuments. The Vukovar Gymnasium was established in 1891.
The Vučedol archaeological site (the Troy of the Danube), situated near the bank of the Danube near Vukovar, is a place of permanent settlement and one of the most important archaeological sites. Because of the value of its finds, an entire Eneolithic culture was named after it and it is also its point of origin. Vučedol was a settlement of farmers, cattle breeders, hunters and copper smelters that had its “golden age” between 3000 and 2200 BC. The Vučedol Dove was found at the Vučedol site in 1938.
The Vučedol Culture Museum is a unique museum dedicated to a single culture that spread from its current site to 13 European countries.
Vukovar currently has two modern European museums: The Vukovar Municipal Museum located in the Eltz Manor and the Vučedol Culture Museum. The permanent exhibition of the Vukovar Municipal Museum was reopened in 2014 and currently offers three permanent exhibitions and the Oranžerija Gallery. The Franciscan monastery of Saint Phillip and Jacob houses a library with one of the most valuable holdings and a museum, which hides a treasure of immense cultural and artistic value.
A wide variety of cultural and art-related events are held at Vukovar’s museums and Croatian Hall Vukovar, which hosts different events, performances, theatrical performances and it has its own Scena Martin. The Birthplace of the first Croatian Nobel laureate Lavoslav (Leopold) Ružička, with its Memorial room and congress centre, is also a part of Vukovar’s Croatian Hall.
Numerous folk ensembles remain the guardians of the culture and tradition of the area. One of the oldest ensembles in Vukovar is the Dunav folk ensemble, whereas minority communities preserve the traditions and customs of their home countries with their own activities, thus enriching Vukovar’s cultural scene.