Delicate and durable Pag lace is the pride of Pag island and prized throughout Croatia.
Even now, it’s possible to see ladies pouring over their lace work on the streets of Pag town The finest examples of lace workmanship are on display at the Lace Gallery in Pag town where Benedictine nuns keep alive the tradition. Smaller examples of Pag lace are for sale in shops around town.
The uniqueness of the Pag lace design and technique has been recognized as “Intangible Heritage” by Unesco. The exact origins of the lace-making tradition in Pag are unknown but it probably began in the Renaissance as ornamentation for the traditional white linen shirts and neckerchiefs worn on Pag island.
As traditional dress began to die out in the 20th century, lace edging decorated tablecloths, altar cloths, bedspreads and handkerchiefs. In 1906 a School for Lace Making was established in Pag and the lace began to assume the geometrical shapes you see today.
In 1911 Pag’s lace received wider attention as a result of the efforts of an Austrian writer, Natalie Bruck-Auffenberg, who presented a lace blouse to the Archduchess Maria Josephine. The archduchess travelled to Pag to place an order and more noble ladies followed suit. During the reign of Queen Maria Theresa (1717-1780) a lace maker from Pag resided at the royal court in Vienna.
Lace-making requires a needle, thread, clean hands, good eyesight and a lot of time. The needle is an ordinary mending needle and the work is done on a backing, which is usually a hard stuffed pillow. Lace makers work without drawings, based on designs handed down from generation to generation to which each lace maker adds her own personal touch.
Within the many variations there is a solid geometric structure called the reticela that is the skeleton of each design. At the centre is a circle that is traversed by eight thread sticks that radiate outward through an intricate web of circles and triangles. The result is a piece of handiwork that is as delicate as a snowflake but stiff and durable enough to withstand laundering.