A WALK THROUGH THE HISTORICAL PARTS OF DUBROVNIK
There used to be four gates leading into the city of Dubrovnik: the Pile Gate, the Ploce Gate, the Peskarija Gate and the Ponta Gate. An interesting anecdote from the 15th century tells of how the citizens of Dubrovnik considered opening another gate in the northern wall. However, they could not agree, since some claimed it would be useful because goods could then be brought into the City more easily, while others feared it would weaken the City's defenses. So they invited two of the best-known town planners of the time, one from Ancona and the other from Genoa, to come to Dubrovnik to advise them. The town planners arrived and both of them advised that the gate be opened. On the day after their departure the Rector convened the council and said, "lt is now easy to reach a decision. Both the gentleman from Genoa and the one from Ancona think it would be most useful to us if the gate were opened. Therefore, notary, write down this: We, just in case, will not open the gate". However, a gate was opened in the northern part of the walls after all, but during the time of Austrian rule - the so-called Buze Gate.
The city of Dubrovnik is encompassed by two kilometers of fortification walls with several towers and bastions, of which the best-known is the Lovrijenac Tower on the west of the City, with an inscription in Latin above the entrance gate to the tower which reads, "Non bene pro toto libertas venditur auro" (Liberty should not be sold even at the price of gold). The Minceta Tower is on the nort-west side of the city, and the Revelin Tower on its east. The walls were built from the 13th to the 18th century, constantly added to and strengthened, without ever having to be used for the purpose for which they were built, thanks to the skillful diplomacy of Dubrovnik. Because of its monumental walls and well--preserved cultural monuments, Dubrovnik has been included in UNESCO's Register of World Architectural Heritage (Luxor, 1979).
We shall start our walk through the Old City by entering the Stradun from the Pile side. The Stradun is the biggest, longest and widest street in Dubrovnik, of which its inhabitants are proud. The name Stradun is a pejorative augmentative used to name this really beautiful street by the jealous Venetians. Its real name is placa, and it dates from the 13th century, but it acquired its present appearance in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. This street, 292 meters long, is the commercial, entertainment and spiritual center of Dubrovnik, frequently celebrated in song by its ancient and modern poets.
On the left, when one enters the Placa from the Pile Gate, is the beautiful Renaissance church of the Holy Saviour (Sveti Spas), about which it is said that the women of Dubrovnik, both plebeian and patrician, carried the stones for its erection and strengthened the mortar with milk and egg whites. In any case, this church withstood the earthquake of 1667, which destroyed over three-fourths of the City, surviving it without any damage.
On the right we can see a splendid polygonal fountain, called Onofrio's Large Fountain, after its architect. On the eastern end of the Stradun there is a second fountain, Onofrio's Small Fountain, carved by the sculptor Pietro di Martino in 1442 according to designs made by the engineer Onofrio de la Cava of Naples.
Next to the church of the Holy Saviour there is a small and narrow narrow street through which one enters the Franciscan monastery which, like the Dominican monastery, the citizens erected immediately next to the entrances to the City for defense purposes. In case an enemy managed to enter the City, then the monks would be the first to defend it because they were unmarried and therefore had no wives and children to protect. The cloister and a part of the atrium of this monastery, which is called the "Friars Minor", was built by Mihoje Brajkov of Bar in the second quarter of the 14th century. The slim double capitals in the shape of human and animal heads are especially noteworthy. The monastery church has an opulent late Gothic portal with a sculpture or the Pieta, made by local stonemasons, the brothers Leonardo and Petar Petrovic, in 1498.
On the opposite side of the City, immediately next to the north-eastern walls, there is a Dominican monastery with a church, which was finished in the early 14th century, while the monastery was completed in the late 15th century. On the south side of the church there is a splendid, although, unfortunately, damaged portal of the romanesque type with late gothic ornaments, made by Bonino of Milan in 1419. Adjoining the church is the 15th century chapel of St. Sebastian. The Dominican cloister is one of the most beautiful pre-Renaissance cloisters in Dalmatia. The slender arcades in the gothic style were designed by the Florentine artist Maso di Bartolomeo and carved by local craftsmen.
At the very end of the Stradun, on its north-east side, the most splendid profane building, the Sponza palace, was built in the period from 1516 to 1521 as the commercial center of medieval Dubrovnic with a mint, a Custom-House, a weights and measures office, etc. The Sponza Palace was built according to the design of the best-known Dubrovnik architect, Paskoje Milicevic, and the brothers Andrijic. This gothic-Renaissance palace now houses the Historical Archives, one of the oldest institutions of this kind in Europe. The oldest document kept in the archives dates from 1022, and from 1301 to the end of the 19th century, books, records and documents which reveal the socio-economic, political and cultural conditions of the ancient Republic were stored here.
Opposite the Sponza palace (Divona) there is a church dedicated to the patron saint of Dubrovnik, St. Blaise (Sv. Vlaho). It was erected in 1715 in the Venetian baroque style, and is the work of the well-known Italian architect Gropelli. Orlando's pillar, the work of the local sculptor Antun Dubrovcanin and the master sculptor Bonino da Milano, was erected in front of the church of St. Blaise in 1418. The pillar symbolized the free commerce of the city and was generally a symbol of liberty, from which the flag of Dubrovnik with the inscription Libertas streamed on all festive occasions. Public punishments were carried out underneath this pillar, and today the opening of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival is announced from Orlando's pillar.
Turning off the Stradun on the south-east, we arrive at the most important building of the Old City, the Rector's Palace, the seat of the rector and the administrative building of the Republic of Dubrovnik. This beautiful gothic-Renaissance building has a very dramatic history. From the time its erection started in the romanesque period, the building was destroyed several times by gunpowder explosions, fires and numerous earthquakes, of which the most catastrophic was the one in 1667. After its reconstruction in the late 17th century, the Palace also acquired some baroque characteristics in the disposition of space, the beautiful staircase etc. There is an interesting inscription in Latin on the door leading to the hall of the Great Council which means, "Forget private affairs, attend to public business". This is certainly an inscription, which could appropriately be placed at the entrance to our new administration buildings. The facade of the Rector's Palace was reconstructed in the mid - 15th century with beautiful arches and richly sculptured capitals, the most noteworthy of which is the last one on the right, the so-called capital of Aesculapius, dating from the period of the architectural alterations carried out on the Palace by Onofrio de la Cava in 1440.
In the atrium of the Palace there is a monument, the bust of the wealthy Dubrovnik seafarer from Lopud, Miho Pracat. It is interesting to mention that the aristocracy of Dubrovnik debated for several years about where to put this monument, because they owed this plebeian gratitude for his contribution of large amounts of gold which he donated to the Republic at a time of great economic crisis, and yet they did not want a plebeian to be accorded too much respect. The wisest solution to this problem was provided by an old councilor who, to avoid placing the monument in a public square, suggested that it be placed in the Palace atrium, because it would be less seen there, and he justified this with the words, "lt would not be good to put it somewhere on the square outside, because it would not be fitting to have cats or dogs pee on it".
South of the Rector's Palace is the Cathedral of Dubrovnic, a baroque building erected on the foundations of a romanesque cathedral which was completely demolished in the earthquake of 1667. During repairs to the Cathedral, while archeological investigations were being carried out over the past few years, underneath the romanesque cathedral an even older basilica dating from Byzantine times, from the 6th or 7th century, was discovered. The church contains an exceptionally rich treasury. The cathedral is also famous for the very valuable paintings by old masters. The altar polyptich is the work of the Italian Renaissance master Tizian.
Across the very picturesque square, called Buniceva Poljana one reaches Gunduliceva poljana, where a monument to the greatest Dubrovnik poet Dzivo Gundulic, the work of the sculptor Ivan Rendic of Split, was put up in 1893. They say the poet's face has a worried look because the vegetables and fruit sold by his pedestal are the most expensive anywhere, and also because the pigeons are bad mannered enough to persistently belittle the great poet.
The most beautiful steps, the work of the Italian master Passalaque, were built on the south side of this square in the baroque period after the earthquake of 1667. These elegant steps, built in a convex-concave form, lead to the elevated poljana Rudjera Boskovica where the Collegium ragusinum, the Jesuit monastery and the baroque church of St. Ignatius are situated. One of the greatest mathematicians, philosophers and physicists of international repute, Rudjer Boskovic, after whom the square is named, lived and worked in this monastery for a time. On returning down the steps to Gunduliceva poljana, one should turn into a side street on the north-west part of the square to arrive at Zlatariceva Street where the first orphanage was situated. From 1434, the women of Dubrovnik brought their children who were born out of wedlock here.
Wrapped in a dark veil, the women approached the orphanage door at night and laid the baby on a specially built rotating platform, called the "ruota", rang the bell and melted into the night. They say that anyone who dared approach the unhappy mother and discover her identity was most severely punished, either by exile from the City or by death. If we continue our walk down Zlatariceva Street it will lead us back to the Stradun, and we shall finish our short stroll with a visit to the beautiful Renaissance convent of the Poor Clares, which is situated opposite the Franciscan monastery. Since this was a convent mostly inhabited by the daughters of aristocratic families, evil tongues claim that there is an underground passageway connecting it to the monastery of the Friars Minor. The story about such "forbidden close encounters" is supported by a sculptural composition representing a friar with two women, standing above the Pile gate.
Since we have finished our short historical stroll through the City, it is up to you to decide whether you wish to walk once more down the world's most beautiful promenade, the famous Stradun or Placa, and turn into another parallel street, Prijeko, where there are beautiful gothic-Renaissance palaces and equally interesting restaurants, and sit down with a drink in your hand to listen to the twittering of the swifts and enjoy the city, which the inhabitants of Dubrovnik call simply the City. You can also stroll to the Gradska Kavana (the City Cafe) because its southern terrace affords a view of the old port, the fortress of St. John and the Ploce quarter, while the cafe itself is in the harmonious space of the former Dubrovnik Arsenal, situated between the city bell tower and the Town Hall.
This text is from the book "This is Dubrovnik" (copyright(c) ITVM LTD. Dubrovnik. Author of the text is Tomislav Suljak)
Miles and miles (over 1100) of striking coastline bordering the Adriatic Sea contrasts with the lush, dense hills filled with groves of trees, vineyards and plantations - this is Croatia. Add to the equation important archeological sites, ancient architecture and rich culture and one begin to appreciate Croatia's inclusion as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Dubrovnik, located in the Southern Dalmatian region of Croatia, was once known as the Republic of Dubrovnik (Ragusa). A historically and economically significant city that dates from the Paleolithic times, the republic made a name for itself as a rich maritime port at the entrance to the Adriatic Sea. Once occupied by the Venetians (for more than 150 years), Dubrovnic enjoyed a long period of independence beginning in the middle of the 14th-century. during the 400 or so years of independence, the city become successful, maintained neutrality and thrived culturally. A devastating earthquake in 1667 destroyed a large part of the city and many lives were lost. Focus was placed on rebuilding the city but economically, Dubrovnik began to suffer. In 1806, Napoleon's troops occupied the city, ended the Republic of Dubrovnik and ceded the area to Austria under whose rule it remained until 1918.
Tragically, Dubrovnik became internationally known in 1991 when the world watched the bombing and destruction that took place in the city as Croatians fought to gain independence from Yugoslavia. Today, Dubrovnik has again struggled to rebuild and preserve its extensive history and once again host the millions that have appreciated the varied cultural influences and dramatic archeological offerings.
At the entrance to the walled city, standing guard, is a statue of St. Blaise, the patron saint of Dubrovnik. Pass through the outer gate that was raised each evening and through the inner gate that dates from the middle of the 15th century to begin your tour of Old Town. Outstretched before you is a marvelous marbled promenade known as the Placa or Stradun
Although heavily damaged during the earthquake of 1667, the portal over the entrance, dating from the late 15th century, and a middle 14th century Roman cloister inside the monastery remain. The monastery is also a home to Europe's third-oldest operational pharmacy. Dating back to 1391, the museum exhibits a collection of laboratory equipment and old medical books as well as works by goldsmith's embroideries and paintings. Note the painting of Dubrovnik prior to the earthquake.
Built in 1438, the fountain is part of an elaborate water supply system, however it suffered substantial damage during the earthquake of 1667.
A columned courtyard with elaborate stone carvings greets visitors to this 16th century building that was originally the Customs House and mint. Today it houses the State Archives.
DOMINICAN MONASTERY AND MUSEUM
Begun in 1228, this impressive Renaissance-styled church resembles a fortress more than a religious center as it was design to provide defence and spiritual guidance for Dubrovnik. The museum contains a valuable collection of 15th and 16th paintings that were created during the city's cultural boom.
CHURCH OF ST. BLAISE
Built in 1715 in honor of Dubrovnik's patron saint, this ornately decorated church is complete with marble altars and silver statue of the Saint with a model of dubrovnik in his hands, depicting the city prior the earthquake.
This palace, with its outstanding sculptural ornamentation witnessed many attacks (and earthquakes) throughout the years. Built on the site of a smaller castle that was destroyed by an attack, the current palace dates from the middle of the 15th century and was designed by Onofrio di Giordano de la Cava, the Neapolitan architect who designed the Onofrio Fountain. Due to a later attack, the palace was restored in the 17th century by Florentine architect Salvi di Michele. It was built for the Rector who governed Dubrovnik for only one month. today the palace houses are museum with permanent exhibitions of Dubrovnik's coins, medals, weaponry, furniture and artifacts in the restored rooms.
CATHEDRAL OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE VIRGIN
Rebuilt in 1713 after the original cathedral was destroyed during the devastating earthquake of 1667. The Cathedral Treasury is rich with gold and silver artifacts - a collection that is one of the most famous in the region and in fact, prior to the earthquake, all of Europe. Today it is home to the St. Blaise Reliquary that were created in the 11th-15th centuries by Dubrovnik's artisans. An extensive collection of religious paintings and other artifacts are also on display.
ST. IVAN'S FORTRESS
Dating from the Middle Ages, the fort currently houses the Aquarium. Complete with more than 20 aquatic displays of Adriatic sea life: rays, sharks, eels and other fish as well as displays of marine plants and invertebrates: corals, sponges and sea weeds.