Having experienced hundreds of years of foreign occupation, Croatia has a rich and multifaceted cultural heritage that has left Greek and Roman ruins overlaid with later layers of Venetian Gothic and Hapsburg splendour.

This influence is seen clearly in the architecture and cathedrals, particularly in the work of such sculptors as Juraj Dalmatinac of Zadar in the 15th century. His outstanding cathedral of St Jacob in Sibenik has apses that feature the faces of local people. Dalmatian artists worked closely with Italian artists, adopting the Italian Renaissance style, and much of their work sits today in international museums. Also of Dalmatian origin was the loth-century sculptor Ivan Mestrovic, whose simple, emotionally powerful work won him many admirers, including Rodin. A large collection of his sculptures can be seen at his former home in Zagreb.

In classical music, Croatia has produced many excellent musicians. Perhaps the most famous is the 18th-century composer Franz Joseph Haydn, who was born in a Croatian sector of Austria. His music is largely influenced by folk melodies, an area in which Croatia makes its most original musical contribution to the world of music.Croatian literature, like its art, was strongly influenced by the Italian Renaissance and flowered in the Dalmatian region. One of Dubrovnik's most famous writers, Ivan Gundulić, was born in the late 16th century. He is considered Croatia's greatest poet. His epic poem, Osman, which celebrates the Polish victory over the Turks in 1621, is a Croatian classic.The plays of 16th-century playwright Marin Držie (after whom the theatre in Dubrovnik is named) are still performed and enjoyed today. Among more contemporary writers, Miroslav Krleža is a giant: a novelist and playwright whose books have been translated into English. Ivo Andrić, born in Bosnia of Croatian parents, won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1961 for his work, which includes The Bridge on the Drina (1945).

Dubrovnik's annual highlight is the Summer Festival when the whole town becomes a stage. International figures in the worlds of opera and music come to perform at the 45-day festival that culminates in a huge fireworks display. The cultural scene for the rest of'the season' (roughly May to October) is equally rich: Dubrovnik has its own symphony orchestra, theatre groups and dance ensembles. The indefatigable symphony performs year-round in a number of venues, such as the Revelin Fortress,just outside the Ploče Gate, and the Church of Our Saviour just inside the Pile Gate. Throughout the summer there are impromptu open-air rock and jazz performances. Folk dancing and folk music are tremendously popular with young and old alike. Dubrovnik has one of the country's most famous troupes - the Soo-strong Lindo ensemble. on Sundays from May to October there are also regular traditional dances and bands playing in front of St Blaise's Church. One special folk-dance show is staged in the village of Cilipi, 25 km (15'/2 miles) south of Dubrovnik, on Sundays after mass.


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