Makarska is one of the oldest towns of the eastern Croatian Adriatic. Archaeological finds provide proof of continuous human settlement going back as far as 6000 BC. The settlement on the small peninsula of Sveti Petar was founded around 2500 BC and evolved into the Phoenician colony of Mukron around 1200 BC. The arrival of the Phoenicians from the eastern Mediterranean was prompted by the local extinction of the Murex sea-snail, used to manufacture the expensive purple dye. The Roman Muccurum (1st-6th cent.), situated in the area of the present town, reached its peak with the establishment of a diocese in 533. The town’s name was Mucru in the 7th century, while in the 10th century it was a fortress town named Mokron, as described by the Byzantine emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos in his work De Administrando Imperio. The remains of medieval Makarska are visible in the random street layout east of its main square. Until 1468, the entrance to this part of town was dominated by the Franciscan monastery and the Church of St. Mary, a single-nave church with a rectangular apse. From the end of the 15th century until 1684, Makarska was largely under the Ottoman rule. The Venetian rule, lasting from the end of the 17th century until 1797, provided fertile ground for the spread of west-oriented art and culture.
The Baroque cathedral of St. Mark was built between 1700 and 1758 at the initiative of Bishop Nikola Bijanković (1696-1730). Although initially designed by Giacomo de Varanneo in 1697, Venetian military engineers (Giuseppe D’Andrea, Francesco Melchiori, Bartolo Riviera) modified his original design of the cathedral. The interior is an excellent example of the Venetian Baroque style that is only moderately present on the exterior. The main altar, nowadays located in a side chapel, is the most beautiful Late Baroque sculptural piece in Makarska. It was made in 1786 by the Venetian sculptor Pietro Onigha. The church also contains the altar of the patron saint of the town, St. Saint Clement the Martyr, whose body was brought back from Rome in 1725.Exceptionally unique in its simplicity (vaults, windows and side altars), the monastery church of St. Philip Neri was completed on the coast in 1758.
The chapel of St. Anthony of Padua was added to the Franciscan church in 1694, and an altar was built inside the chapel in 1705. Some earlier additions were the monumental 1680-1681 painting “The Last Judgement” by Antonio Molinari and the 1680 altar polyptych “The Assumption of Mary” by Pietro de Costera, a Flemish painter. The absence of a lion next to St. Mark, the symbol of the Venetian Republic, suggests that “The Last Judgement” was ordered during Ottoman rule. Constructed by master builders Andrija Ruspini and Vicko Panigo, the biggest and most beautiful bell tower in Makarska was built separately from the church, with open double arch windows on the upper levels and human heads placed in between the arches. A four-nave cloister was also built as a place for monks to pray and meditate. The restoration of the Church of St. Peter, called a cathedral in 1615, was under way, and new churches were under construction in the villages around the town.
In the 18th century, the area around the cathedral evolved into a square with a flag pole in its centre, which was built in 1767 and adorned with a relief of St. Mark given that it was intended for the flag of the Venetian Republic. The construction of a drinking fountain adorned with the coat of arms of Makarska began in 1775. The Karalipeo Mrkušić and Babić-Lozina palaces were erected on the sloped terrain. Stretching from the square towards the west and meeting up with smaller vertical streets, the main street Kalalarga was formed where the stone palaces of the families Alačević, Miličić, Vuković, etc. were built in the Dalmatian Baroque style, under the influence of the residential architecture of Dubrovnik and Venice. In the eastern part of town, next to the monastery gardens and the beach, the Ivanišević family built a palace with a porch and a gallery overlooking the sea. On the opposite side of the beach, the Ivičević family started building in 1773 a country manor, known as the Tonoli Palace. Along with the palaces located in the old town, these are among the most beautiful examples of 18th century Baroque residential architecture in Dalmatia, the abundance of which is very characteristic of Makarska.
Under French (1806-1813) and Austrian (1813-1918) rule, the town underwent some public and secular construction. Initially placed in the small port next to the monastery, the monument to the French army or marshal Marmont from 1809 was moved far beyond the west entrance of the town. It is still here today, but within the wider town area. The splendour of Makarska is best exemplified by the coastal neo-stylistic Municipal Palace dating from the 2nd half of the 19th century and the Old School behind the cathedral. At Mala obala, the palaces of the Kačić-Peko and Ivanišević family were built in 1895 in the Neo-Historism style, along with other structures in the town. In 1890, a bronze statue of the poet friar Andrija Kačić Miošić, made by I. Rendić, was placed in the rectangular centre underneath the cathedral. For a long time, it formed part of a horticultural complex along with a fountain and peripheral allegorical statutes. West of the town, a sanctuary to Our Lady of Lourdes was founded in 1909 at Vepric. The villas of the west Donja luka were built between 1930 and 1940. The monumental Franciscan church, built between 1938 and 1940 based on the design of architect Stjepan Podhorski, is a neo-stylistic addition to the existing monastery. Modern Makarska is characterised by scattered monuments in a defined space extended along a coastline dotted with hotels.