Dubrovnik Old Town
The Old Town of Dubrovnik juts out into the Adriatic Sea and features a rugged limestone mountain as its backdrop. It's considered as one of the finest and best preserved medieval cities in Europe. At one point in history, Dubrovnik rivaled Venice for its reputation as a trading port.
The entire city is also built with a wall. These huge and sturdy stone walls that were built from the 11th to the 17th centuries provided protection to the entire city-state. To this day, these walls remain standing and have become a huge part of Dubrovnik’s identity, particularly within the historic center.
The Old City and historic center of Dubrovnik are remarkably the best places to see in the city. Despite being a small area, there are many attractions to see. It's easy to explore the place by foot since it's a small space. Medieval ramparts surround the entire historic center that offer a sense of protection throughout this entire settlement especially during the Medieval times. To enter the historic center of Dubrovnik, you must pass through the Pile City Gate.
This serves as the main entrance to the city, which is overlooked by 2 forts. Minceta Fort is one of the most beautiful forts in the world and has become a symbol of the city of Dubrovnik. Meanwhile, Bokar Fort is built to defend the city from any attacks coming from the sea. Today, the fort serves as a venue for performances, particularly during the annual Dubrovnik Summer Festival.
Upon entering the city gate, the beautiful and awe-inspiring Onofrio Fountain will greet you. This is the favorite meeting place for the youth in the city. Another one of the most interesting monuments within the Old City of Dubrovnik is the Franciscan Monastery. This monastery features the perfect blend of Gothic and Romanesque architecture.
As you continue exploring the historic center of the Old Town of Dubrovnik, you will be able to explore the most popular street in Dubrovnik: Stradun. Souvenir shops, cafes, bars, coffee shops, and galleries fill this street. Here it's never quiet and is always bustling with people. There are also several street entertainers that delight the crowd of tourists.
When you reach the end of the Stradun Street, you will find a lovely square that is another favorite among tourists. This square is home to many important historical sites within Dubrovnik. One of them is the Sponza Palace, built in the 16th century and now used for housing the National Archives today.
Another magnificent historical and architectural feature is the Rector’s Palace. This is a Gothic-Renaissance structure that features finely carved capitals and is best known for its ornate staircase. Meanwhile, the St. Savior Church is right next to the Franciscan Church and Monastery. These two are important remnants from the Renaissance period.
Orlando's Column Dubrovnik
Roland was a knight in service of Emperor Charlemagne, the Frankish emperor who unified much of Europe under his rule. He was also the military governor of the Breton March when Charlemagne marched against the Bretons. Roland accompanied his master in a campaign against the Saracens (the Muslims of the Umayyad Caliphate) in Spain.
That war did not go well for the Franks, and Charlemagne had to retreat. As Charlemagne’s forces made their way back through the Pyrenees, the local Basque tribes, never firmly controlled by the Franks, rebelled again. They ambushed the Frankish army at Roncevaux Pass, a narrow, thickly forested gorge.
According to legend, Roland died protecting the rear of Emperor’s army. Roland’s fame grew after his death. He became one of the central figures in the Matter of France, a cycle of medieval poetry comparable to the Arthurian legends in Britain. As the years went by, Roland’s legend spread all over continental Europe.
In Italy, he became Orlando, the main character of two masterpieces of renaissance poetry, Orlando Innamorato (Orlando in Love) and Orlando furioso (Mad Orlando).
The legend of Roland
In the legends, Roland becomes the chief paladin of Emperor Charlemagne and his most trusted knight. And in the Late Middle Ages, he became a symbol of imperial authority over the local nobility. Gradually, so-called “Roland’s columns” arose here and there. They symbolize the free cities independence protected by an emperor—a protection pitted against that of local rulers. The first such column came in place in 1404 in Bremen.
In much the same way, Orlando’s column in Dubrovnik came in place as a symbol of the city’s sovereignty and freedom amid the hostile neighboring powers.
Orlando’s column is in the main square of the old city, in front of the Saint Blaise Cathedral. It came in place in 1419, just as the Republic of Dubrovnik was entering its most illustrious phase in history.
Dubrovnik Cathedral Treasury
The 12th - century Dubrovnik Cathedral in Croatia is home to an extraordinary reliquary museum containing more than 200 ornate gold and silver reliquaries.
The cathedral’s treasury, protected from visitors by a wall of glass, is like a curio cabinet for holy body parts. The beautifully gilded shelving was custom-built for relics of all shapes and sizes. Each bone fragment and mummified part in its proper place. The reliquaries themselves haves shapes like the objects they hold. Arm-shaped reliquaries hold arm bones, leg-shaped reliquaries house leg bones, and head-shaped reliquaries hold skull-caps.
Relics of special note include the gold-plated arm, leg, and skull of Saint Blaise believed to be baby Jesus’s swaddling clothes (delightfully translated into English as Jesus’s diapers), and a piece of the true Cross.
If you enter the Old Town of Dubrovnik by the Pile Gate, as you walk along the Stradun, the main street, look carefully and you might spot a strange gargoyle head protruding from a stone wall.
It’s on the left side, just next to the entrance to the Franciscan monastery and the stairway that leads up to the city’s famous walls. The head stands some half a meter above the ground. It sticks out barely fifteen centimeters. Its top surface has a marble-like polish. The wall above it is noticeably greasy from the touch of a thousand hands.
Legend has it that if you manage to hop on the head, keep your balance, and take off your shirt while still standing facing the wall, luck in love will follow you.
The gargoyle head supposed to represent an owl. It was once the end of a pipe that drained rainwater from the top of the building. Rerouting of the pipes took place a long time ago. Water doesn’t flow from its mouth anymore.
The Relic of St. Silvan Dubrovnik
At the altar of the Church of Saint Blaise lies the waxy body of a 4th-century martyr.
His head is thrown back on the pillow to show a bloody gash on his neck, indicating the means of his martyrdom. Not much is known about St. Silvan or his history, but his impressive incorruptible body has earned him a special display.
His face does seem to be created out of wax nor the gash to be painted, and it's claimed that he has indeed never decayed in the more than 1500 years after his death.
Old City Walls Dubrovnik
Walk the entire circuit around the old city from the 25 meters high city walls. Building and fortification took place between the 13th and 16th centuries. The protection offered by this structure is astounding. Bring your camera as the different views around each bend all make for excellent photo opportunities.
Daksa Island Dubrovnik
Croatia’s lovely little island of Daksa is up for sale, yet despite its historic Franciscan monastery, idyllic lighthouse, and verdant woodland, the island cannot shake the memory of the dozens of people who were executed there in a post World War II furor.
In the aftermath of WWII, rooting out remaining Nazis and Nazi-sympathizers became almost an act of nationalist pride in some European countries. Unfortunately for the victims of the Daksa Massacre of 1944, this anti-Nazi frenzy turned into more of an angry mob that took the lives of dozens of people without trial.
On October 18th of that year, Yugoslav partisans entered the coastal Croatian city of Dubrovnik. They arrested hundreds of citizens on suspicion of being Nazi sympathizers. Just days later, without trial or review, the partisan enforcers rowed as many as 53 (although some accounts say that number could be almost twice as much) of the accused to the small island of Daksa just off the shore and shot them down. The bodies were simply left to rot on the island, laying where they fell. Among the dead were Dubrovnik’s priest and mayor.
While the guilt or innocence of the deceased victims was never determined, nor were the executioners ever investigated or processed. The entire tragic incident seemed to simply happen.
In 2010 a number of the bodies were given proper burials, yet many in Dubrovnik still claim that the island is haunted by the unstill spirits of the massacre victims. The island is now up for sale, and for a surprisingly cheap price, but no one has yet to put in a bid. While it is probably not ghosts keeping buyers away, the memory of the massacre itself is haunting enough to dissuade new owners.