“Incredible strange feelings“
Something that you should not miss in your life is to visit of this magnificent city! True, it is too expensive to have a holiday but to have excursion is generally available to everybody. One day in Dubrovnik, when it must be on that way, is just enough to get know him better. So if you spend your summer holiday on the coast of Montenegro and Dalmatia, do not miss the opportunity to visit Dubrovnik …
If your coming in Dubrovnik is organized by tourist agencies, sightseeing tour begins on the west city side, on a bus station where in the column buses bring tourists who can’t wait to meet “The Pearl of Adriatic Sea”.
The first building you’ll see after you leave the bus is beautiful Hotel Hilton Imperial, which dominates the landscape outside the old city walls. It is placed in an unusual building and completely belongs to the surrounding even though it is unusually big.
In the old city you can entered through a draw-bridge, where stand armed guards, dressed in traditional costumes of Dubrovnik.
These scenes in the city are not unusual. In the Stradun you can meet “Dubrovnik’s gentlemens” walking in traditional city costumes and introducing themselves to the tourists. Passing through the inner city gate, you are coming right into the Middle Ages
In a modern shape, you are entering in a unreal world of Dundo Maroje…
You will have “incredible strange feelings” when you walk into the Square near great Onofrio Fountain and will grow more and more as you walk further on … and this direction takes you to the Stradun or, as the local people say, the Placa – main street. The “Sradun” is insulting and invective name, but it is commonly accepted name and it literally translated means “big street” and it is gotten in the time of the Venetian occupation.
Let’s take back to the story about the “incredible strange feelings” which strength varies depending on the time and building or monument to which the tourist guide focuses your attention whether it is a kind of significant buildings, a legend or something else.
The “Incredible strange feelings” should culminate in the moment when you come to the end of the Stradun and find yourself on the main square, which is simply called “In front of a Palace” and then realize that you know where you are.
According to the reactions, this place has been seen by those people who were first time in Dubrovnik! Middle of the square is dominated by Orlando’s pillar that once was used as a platform from where they read declarations “It is given to the knowledge …” as well as it has been used as a “pillar of shame” for which were tied down those people who were convicted to shame (then citizens threw them with tomatoes). There is the famous Church of St. Blaise in which yard you can see the sculpture of the Saint – the patron of the republic, holding a model of the city from the time before the great earthquake that destroyed the city. At the first sight it is obvious that the city looked completely different once. There is also famous Ducal Palace after whom the square was named, the palace Sponza, the small Onofrio Fountain, the city bell tower and some other city sights.
“Strange feeling” would culminate maybe but will not leave you all the time while you are sightseeing with a guide or independently. On the square “Pred Dvorom” street goes to the Gundulić Square and the Marin Držić Square. These Squares named after famous writers are significant and representative in their own way: the Gundulić Square is famous for the tame pigeons flying down on people’s hands, don’t be frightened how many pigeons there are. At the Držić Square it is dominated the City Cathedral, the building that is no less representative that the Church of St. Blaise. The square is very picturesque and inspiring From here we went to a large aquarium located in the bastion St.Ivan – the tower guarding the entrance to the old city port.
Maybe your guide or agent in the tourist info center will not suggest you, but listen to us and from the Gundulić Square turn into a Street “Od puča “(people) where you will see behind the third corner something that you would not believe – the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Museum of icons! All this is written in Cyrillic! Once you recovered from the shock, you’ll notice that it is open, restored, beautiful … Tourists enter unsecure how to behave themselves indoors, make a picture and admire … but you’ll feel different, perhaps more freely, when you go out. “Strange feeling” at the beginning of the story will change and become even more strange.
Here is the right time for a short break. The famous street “Prijeko“, the street parallel to Stradun is an unique ambience famous for many beautiful restaurants. The tables are literally placed in the middle of the street but it doesn’t disturb the peaceful atmosphere because there aren’t many people passing by.
After a short break, it goes the most comprehensive tour – sightseeing the city walls. The walls are completely preserved and represents the place with magnificent breathtaking that you will never forget. From some points, for example from a high tower Minčete there is fantastic panoramic view of the whole city and the sea. From the walls you can find some place hidden in the street where you will never get walking through the city. Extremely small and hidden beach makes the greatest impression to me, to which you can access only through a very small and narrow door of the wall. This place you can not find in the tourist map.
After this city walls sightseeing, if you still have enough strenght, than go to the island Lokrum situated near the old town or to the nearest beach Banje, which was that year declared the most beautiful beach in the whole of Croatia. Every 15 minutes from the old port goes boats to the Lokrum Island. From the boat you can see the city from some other perspective. However, the biggest impressions are magnificent cruiser ships anchored between the coast and Lokrum.
We were lucky to see the biggest cruiser ship sailed trumpeting into the city port. It was so unreal size that we were not sure if there were enthusiastic tourists who were waving with their hands, or it just seemed to us … but incredible noise lowering anchors into the sea, back us to reality. It is a big cruise ship “Westerdam” which is, as I found later information on the Internet, only slightly larger than the famous Titanic! It is indeed “strange feeling” :)
Let’s go back to the Lokrum Island: according to the legend the Lokrum was enchanted island which was cursed by Benedictines after they had to hand local monastery over to the Franciscans, sailed three times around the island with candles turned upside down … By the same legend, anyone, who has visited this island, will be followed with a bad fate just as the Austro-Hungarian prince, Franz Ferdinand, who went from here to Sarajevo, under Gavrilo Princip’s feet … Is it a truth or not, I really don’t know but what I know is that on our way back home from the island, we broke a camera and we luckily had a cost around a hundred euros for reparation a display:)
If you don’t want defy fate, go to Banje, a relatively small beach near the old city part. Here you can even rent a bed with a canopy in the middle of the beach and to have exotic Thai massage :)
Here is the story about Dubrovnik’s “strange feeling” does not end but it’s hard that you will have the strength and time for anything else further.
The history of Dubrovnik
Read the article “History of Dubrovnik”
In the small area, surrounded with monumental walls, it has been founded unique, and simple city of magnificent beauty. Its walls, towers and bastions, which surround and protect Dubrovnik, make this city unique and monumental at the same time.
Beside its complexity in fortification meaning, Dubrovnik has another value: it is regulated completely according to the plan and it was built almost the whole city.
The largest part of the urban area is already regulated in 1272 and 1296, and some smaller parts have been already solved in the X century. Every street, every building and nearly every stone is part of its thousand years old history placed into a narrow area of the old Dubrovnik fortress, which could be seen in one sight. This city, its streets and its houses were survived so many troubles in the past: destroyed by fires, earthquakes and explosions, ravaged by the plague, but still it survived.
The old Lava (Lausu) with its old history, that was attractive as the nucleus of the origin and development of present-day Dubrovnik, even with the influence of modern life stile today, kept still spirit of old times and an ancient lifestyle. Sense of city planning reflects in the best way, even it is founded later, the northern part of the city.
However, walking down the beautiful and famous streets Prijeko that cuts all streets north of the famous Placa Stradun- the main street, we will come into the area with its correctly built buildings and streets, which reflect order, measure, simplicity and austerity of the old Dubrovnik rules of living and building. The Placa – Stradun is the main artery of the old city center and according to the public rating it is considered one of the most beautiful street in the world. Dubrovnik has been declared one of the world’s cultural heritages and has been protected by UNESCO and the UN too.
Sights in Dubrovnik
The imposing Dubrovnik’s walls built in wreath consisting of fort, towers, bastions and fortress, make this city unique and famous worldwide. These walls are one of the greatest curiosities because they still stand intact in the same shape from the time of their most useful functions. Many medieval Mediterranean towns were identified by similar walls, but Dubrovnik is one of a few, maybe the only one, that has preserved them completely untouched.
Keeping pace with development of Dubrovnik, the Laus Island was also developing his defensive walls at IX and X century and after filling the channel at XII and XIII century, it built the walls around the city and during the XIV century building the towers and bastions was strengthened walls construction, after the liberation of Venice (late XIV century) built the present fortress. After the fall of Constantinople it was built the wall toward the mainland. This wall was built in record time, built it day and night by the locals and the nobility. The city walls are 1940m long and 4-6m widely to the land and 1.5 to 3m to the sea and the height is around 25 m in some places. Walls are supported with five bastions, with 3 round and 12 tetragonal towers, 2 angle forts and big Mulo fortress – St. Ivan, which closes the old city port.
Most impressive is a big, round tower Minčeta, placed at the northwest corner of the city, masterpiece of Jurij Dalmatinac from the second half of the XV century, which became a symbol of Dubrovnik.
The west and north city walls have also one line walls in front strengthened with one larger and 9 smaller half rounded bastions, and ends at the south-west side with the casemate fortress Bokar from the 1462 , the oldest preserved fortress of its kind in Europe.
To have better city defense, Dubrovnik’s wise politicians built two independent fortresses; on the west side there is Lovrijenac fortress proudly standing on the 46-m high sea rock and on the east side Revelin fortress land side of the old city port.
The city has four gates: two turned toward to the land – in the east and west – and two turned to the city port. In front of the gate toward the mainland, there are stone bridges that were to the gate connected with movable wooden bridges. During the Austro-Hungarian occupation it was opened another door “Buža Gate” at the north.
The entire defensive system was for that time, relatively well armed with a considerable number of different guns of domestic production. All guns had made a relief image of St. Vlaha, the patron of the city. In a time before the fall of the Republic there are were more than 120 guns in the walls. This fortification system was considered almost impregnable.
In 1462 at the east side of the fortress it was built the Revelin fortress conceived as a independent fortress, which further ensures access to the east city gate of Ploce. This fortress is named after fortification forts built opposite the gate to have better defense function from enemy attack. The construction was done very thoroughly and well, and was not destroyed by devastating earthquake in 1667. At the top there is a big Revelin stone terrace, the largest in Dubrovnik, so today it held Dubrovnik Summer Festival.
The most prominent point of the Dubrovnik‘s defense system to the mainland is the round Minčeta tower. It is named after the famous Dubrovnik’s Menčetić family, on whose former property it was built. With its impressive height and volume the Minčeta tower is dominated to the northwest city part and high walls. The Minčeta tower was completed in the 1464 and represents a symbol of the invincibility of Dubrovnik.
Dubrovnik’s famous fort was raised on the sea cliffs of 37m high. It was destroyed in the large earthquake in 1667, and is restored in the XVII century. In areas where is a big possibility of external attacks, width of the wall reaches almost 12 meters.
The great stage potential of space and three terraces on the Lovrijenac fortress has been noticed early, during the searching suitable place for the Dubrovnik Summer Festival. It is especially suitable for Shakespeare’s Hamlet, so its performance on a Lovrijenac stage become a cult and a symbol of Dubrovnik Summer Festival.
ST. JOHN FORTRESS
St. John Fortress, known as the Mulo tower too, is complex and monumental building dominated on the southeast side of the old city port, completely protected and has control over the entrance to the city port. Its present look dates from the XVI century and in its most part is a work of Dubrovnik builders Paskoje Miličević. Here is settled maritime museum, which preserves and exhibits objects, paintings and documents related to one of the historically most important business of the Dubrovnik. At the first floor of the fortress is placed the famous Aquarium. In a special fortress part are 27 aquariums of different sizes in which can be seen various examples of the Adriatic fauna.
OLD CITY PORT
Large complex of the city walls surrounded the old city center as well as the city port. Dubrovnik was maritime city and this port has primary importance for him. Therefore, it was also functional resolved and had, beside binding place for ships, which were complete safety once they entered the port, large and small repair service and shipbuilding. On the southeast side dominated the St. John fortress, and on the north side is St. Luke tower (Revelin), now without its high crown place.
These two forts with artificial breakwater “Kaše” in the middle of the bay, defended the entrance to the port. Once between the towers and “Kaše” stretched long steel chains (Verige), which prevented access to the port and the city from the invasion of pirates.
Duke’s palace was building representing the seat of the Duke and government. Simple but still representative Duke’s palace belongs now to the Gothic style and was built according to the builders concept of Dubrovnik’s water supply system Onofrio della Cava, in a place fortified castle from the XII or XIII century, which was destroyed in a explosion in 1435. Arcade on the main facade was rebuilt by famous master Salvi di Michele in the Renaissance style after the second explosion in 1463.
Duke’s palace was quite damaged in the catastrophic earthquake in 1667 too. During the Dubrovnik Republic in the Duce’s palace, the residence of the duke, were situated all government offices, rooms for receptions, guard, military and prisons. Today in the Duke’s palace is historical department of the Dubrovnik’s Museum with ambient exhibition, while the atrium of the Duke’s palace represents beautiful concert hall in the whole Dubrovnik.
On the north side of the Luža Square is the monumental Gothic-Renaissance palace, one of the most beautiful city palace-Sponza. It is named after Italian word “spongia”, because previously here was place where was collected rainwater. It was built according to the project of the most famous builder in Dubrovnik Paskoje Milićević in 1522 in the Gothic-Renaissance style, which was the main characteristic of the major palaces of that time on the eastern Adriatic coast. Masonry work was performed by the famous sculptor Andrijić from Korčula. It was built very solidly and wasn’t damaged in earthquakes and it is likely that this fact saved the Republic. It was used for the customs house, as a mint, state treasurer and the bank. In its big hall was the meeting place – Academy educated Dubrovnik’s citizens, and two floors above were used as a warehouse for wheat. Today, here is the Historical Archives of the Republic of Dubrovnik.
Today in the building of Sponza palace is the most important cultural institution of the Dubrovnik, Dubrovnik’s archive. It is indeed one of the most important historical archives in the world by a variety of documentary material.
MAIN GUARD BUILDING
Next to the former palace of the City Council is the City Guard building, as an important facility for the safety of the Republic. It was built between 1706 and 1708, and it was built by Marin Goropelli from the the Venetian Republic. Earlier the City Guard building was in the form of lodges, and was next to the old St. Vlaha Church but it burnt together with the church in the 1706th.
The popular Stradun, appropriately called Placa, is a favorite promenade in Dubrovnik for the locals as well as for the touristss. “Stradun” is an insult to this harmonious street – augmentative Stradun, or in translation “Uličetina”, is the name given to the famous Placa by the unwilling Venetians. It was built after the big earthquake in 1667 by the fast Urban Renewal Plan and got this modest and calm looks but so dignified and beautiful in its simplicity of stone architecture. Before the earthquake there were beautiful and luxurious palaces in Stradun. After the earthquake devastated city had to think first about the continuation of life and the city defend, and every plan and project has a focus to achieve those goals. All the buildings on the Placa were built after the earthquake according to the project that was previously approved by the Republican Senate. All buildings have equal facades and equal height, and a similar schedule, because every building must have a few “stores” on the first floor. This reflects the trade spirit of the Republic.
CITY BELL TOWER
Next to the building of the City Guard was built city bell tower in 1444, 31m high
It dominates the metal watch on the City Bell Tower, needles of lunation, and two bronze figures that show the right time and they are representing the famous “zelenci” symbols of passing time. In addition to “zelenci” auditory effect provides the bell of the famous Dubrovnik’s founder John Ribljanin from the 1956′s.
In a big earthquake the tower stability had been damaged and there was a risk of falling down. Therefore, in 1929 it was completely built newly using the same previous method.
At the most spectacular place, in the middle of the Luza square, is high stone pillar, standing completely independently with a white flag – Orlando’s pillar. The Orlando’s pillar is tetragonal pillar where is carved figure of the legendary medieval Knight Orlando (Roland) in armor, with sword and shield. Permanent figure of the proud Knight Orlando is a good example of the monumental Gothic sculpture. There is still one very interesting question: how could it be that the Knight Orlando, characteristic figure of Northern European cities, was in south Adriatic coast. Although according to the legend there was a legendary knight, who defended Dubrovnik‘s citizens from the Saracen pirates attacks, and was a solution to this political problem. In the XV Century Dubrovnik‘s citizens were under the protection of King Sigismund, Hungarian-Croatian and Czech king, and later German emperor as well. The Sigismund was the earl of the Brandenburg province, where were so many Orlando’s pillars while he ruled.
Thus, Orlando’s pillar in Dubrovnik is symbol of respect to the King Sigmund, whose protection of Dubrovnik was very important in the fight against the constant aspiration of the Venetian. Orlando’s face was once turned to east toward the door of customs, but it is often moved . In the 1825 it was broken down by strong winds and more than fifty years lying in the warehouse. When it was placed again its face has been turned to the north. It is interesting that the length of his elbow on his right hand was taken as a measure of length, so called Dubrovnik’s elbow, which is 51.2 cm long.
The Orlando’s pillar is a symbol of a liberal trade city. On the pillar is flagstaff the flag. From this place it has been declared government commands and ceremonies, and in front of him the public punishments. Since 1418, when it was placed, a full four centuries waved white flag of the free Dubrovnik Republic with the figure of its patron, Saint. Vlah. Today, there is Croatian state flag and during the Dubrovnik Summer Games flag “Libertas” the official flag of Dubrovnik.
THE CHURCH OF SAINT VLAHO
Across the Sponza Palace rises a magnificent church of St. Vlaha (Saint Blaise) with its sumptuous decoration. It was built on the same place where was an old church in Roman style, built by many famous art masters, but a big earthquake significantly damaged the old church and later in 1706 it was burned to the ground in a fire. A as it was required by the Dubrovnik government, the present church was built by the Venetian architect Marino Goropelli in 1715th and was modeled after the Venetian church of St. Mauricia.
The St. Vlaha church is magnificent sacred object with an oval dome in the middle, a large ornate portal and a wide stairs at the entrance. The church interior is very richly decorated according to the requirements of the Baroque style by which it was built. The most impressive are magnificent altars of various marble. On the main altar in the church is silver-plated statue of St. Vlaha which represents a masterpiece of great value by unknown master of Dubrovnik’s school from the 15th century. The statue is also interesting from a historical point of view. St. Vlaha held in his hands a model of Dubrovnik from the time before the earthquake destroyed it and it is an excellent view what was the city look like, the palaces and churches too before the accident happened.
Dubrovnik Republic celebrated St. Vlaha on the 3rd February every year for many years, as the patron of the City and Republic. Icons of the St. Vlaha were a symbol of invincibility, and with his statues were decorated almost every front doors, towers and all forts on the walls.
The Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin in Dubrovnik with its present look has existed since the beginning of the XVIII century. It was built after the almost total destruction of earlier Romanesque cathedral from the XII-XIV century in the disastrous earthquake in 1667. Earlier, the Romanesque cathedral was according to history a very luxurious basilica with a dome, richly decorated with sculptures. Dubrovnik Republic has sought to rebuild destroyed Romanesque cathedral as soon as possible. In these efforts an important role has one of the leading intellectuals of that time in Dubrovnik, Stjepan Gradić. His idea was to renew the Dubrovnik’s Cathedral in the Roman-Baroque style. Drafts for that church drew Andrea Buffalini who saw a new cathedral three-nave church with a cupola. Front part of the church was rising above the seven steps. It is very emphasize the central part of the facade with the main portal, where dominated four high Corinthian pillars. The Dubrovnik Cathedral was without doubt one of the richest on the Adriatic coast, but was unfortunately destroyed in the earthquake. Those remains, saved from the ruins and ashes, testify today about the great artistic wealth that has kept the church in Dubrovnik. Among the most significant treasures certainly are relics of the head and hands of the patron of Dubrovnik, St. Vlaha. Relics of the head are shaped as Byzantine imperial crown decorated with medallions and precious stones.
The main street of the old city part begins and ends with fountains. Two Onofrio fountains were placed in the ground basis of Dubrovnik as the end point of an imaginary church where a large fountain with a sixteen heads, a slender small fountain under the bell tower is just bowl for holy water! In the 15th century, when Onofrio Jordanov built the Onofrio Fountain, the water was understandable and has a strong theological meanings and it is not a coincidence that in 1438 Italian from the Cave emphasized that dimension in the basis of his fountains. How theological and ideological weight has the water then, telling us the fact that from the Onofrio fountain Jews could not drink water, only from their smaller Jewish fountain.
In the center of a small but well-balanced Square is the big Onofrio Fountain. It was built in 1438 by the Neapolitan architect Onofrio della Cava, with whom the Dubrovnik Republic signed an agreement to build a municipal water supply system.
While most of the cities of Venetian Dalmatia solved the problem building large water tanks for rainwater, Dubrovnik is decided to bring spring water.
Water brought to the city, Dubrovnik opened to the public at two key places, in the western main entrance of the city built a large polygonal building which was the water reservoir, and at the eastern city part placed a small fountain which supplied with water the market at the Luža Square.
Right next to the main Guard’s building is settled the Small Onofrio fountain. The Small Onofrio fountain, built in the 1438, was built in celebration of the construction ending of water supply system and it is a masterpiece of harmonious connection of functionality and taste. The sculptor Petar Martinov from Milan has processed it to the final look. In the Middle Ages water had religious significance and could be served only Christians. Nearby was Jewish fountain, now transferred to the Pile, from which could take water only people of Jewish confession.
PALACE OF THE BIG COUNCIL
From the Duke’s Palace, through the door above which is still the caption: OBLITI PRIVATORUM PUBLICA CURATE (Forget private things and do public affairs), it could be entered once in the Palace of the big Council, which was also built in the Gothic style, with a similar style symbols as the Sponza Palace has. In the first half of the XIX century this palace destroyed in a fire, and on its place in 1863 was built the present building “the Hall of the City Council” (Municipal Assembly) and “Theater” (Theatre) “Marin Držić” in Neo-Renaissance style. Under the one part of the Palace of the Big Council was so-called a large arsenal of ships, and today this place was turn into “City Restaurant- Cafe”.
Luža -old bell tower, Dubrovnik’s Cathedral, Treasure of the Dubrovnik’s Cathedral, the Dominican monastery and church, the Franciscan monastery and church, Franciscan Pharmacy, Church St. Salvation, the Onofrio Fountain, Collegium Ragusinum and St.. Ignatius, the Benedictine Monastery of St.Jacob of Višnjica, Ploče, Pile, Lazareti … are
only some of the unspecified sights, certainly unforgettable, but this time unspecified, as I sad before, because of the limited space.
Dubrovnik, perhaps only its old city part or its history certainly represents too much for each of the author or, in other words, it is difficult to describe and to print a few papers, but several books – maybe would be the right measure.
So this is just my subjective selection which described only one piece of cultural heritage and the legacy of its majesty – Dubrovnik.
Written by M. Bronzic
translated and adapted by Natasha Ljubojevic
Published on: 08.01.2011