Elegance, proportion, beauty and harmony are attributes which only partially describe the beauty of this unique Mediterranean jewel. When it comes to urban planning, in all parts of Dubrovnik an element of proportion is felt in an almost geometrically even distribution of the town. Significant Italian architects, such as Michelozzo, Bonino di Milano, Onofrio della Cava, Gropelli, as well as the locals Juraj Dalmatinac, Paskoje Miličević and many other grand masters had an immense influence on the architecture.
The walls of Dubrovnik are the most important monument of the town. The strong walls, almost 2 kilometres long, have been protecting the town for centuries. The walls were built from the 13th to the 17th century, are 25 metres high, 1.5-3 metres wide on the southern side and 4-6 metres wide on the northern side. It holds many beautiful forts and fortresses, most famous being Minčeta, Revelin, St John, Bokar and the separated Lovrijenac.
The Rector’s Palace is the most important building in the city, a kind of a representative palace, the centre of the government and the location of the Rector. As early as the 13th century, we come across mentions of this luxurious gothic and renaissance building. The Palace has survived two powerful gunpowder explosions in the 15th century and the Big earthquake of 1667, which changed it greatly. The redecoration of the Palace was conducted by the great masters; Onofira, Michelozzo and Juraj Dalmatinac.
The Sponza or Dogana Palace is a famous customs office built in the 16th century in the gothic-renaissance style. It has survived all the troubles, including the Big earthquake without changing its original appearance. It served as the state money mint, the treasury, a bank, school, granary, warehouse and armoury.
The Franciscan Monastery is the national treasury of culture and arts housing the renowned Romanic-gothic cloister built by Mihoje Brajkov in the 14th century. Furthermore, the monastery is home to one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe dating from 1317, as well as a library which, among other literary jewel, contains the only preserved copy of Marulić’s Judith first edition. A wing of the monastery holding the archive and the library burned down in the fire following the Big earthquake of 1667. The Franciscan Monastery also holds a beautiful garden with oranges and medicinal plants once used by the Franciscan pharmacy.
The Dominican Monastery – The first mention of the Dominicans of Dubrovnik reaches as far back as 1225, but the Dominican monastery complex within the walls was finished in the 14th century. The architectural drafts were designed by the famous Michelozo di Bartolomeo, and the construction was conducted by different local and one foreign master Bonino di Milano, who designed the southern portal of the Church. The monastery houses a beautiful gothic-renaissance cloister with wonderfully crafted rosettes and arches which connect the space into a unique whole. It also holds a pharmacy, and a very rich library, relics and the largest collection of paintings by the Painting School of Dubrovnik.
The Dubrovnik Cathedral is a baroque building built after the Big earthquake, finished in 1713. It holds a treasury containing important saint relics and an art collection. The most valuable pieces are Titzian’s Assumption of Mary and Raphael’s Virgin and Child. Beneath the church there are archaeological findings containing remnants of two older cathedrals. The oldest was built in the Romanic style and this is the one we connect with the very beginning of Dubrovnik. The newer one, built in the Byzantine style, was ruined by the Big earthquake of 1667.
The Synagogue of Dubrovnik was erected in 1408. It is considered the oldest synagogue of the Sephardic type in the world, and the second oldest in Europe. Spanish Jews had their own ghetto in the City, and the Jewish religion was the first non-Catholic religion allowed to build a place of worship within city walls. The museum part contains many ritual objects dating from the 15th and 16th centuries, thus adding another culture to the wealth of the city.
The Church of Saint Blaise features a baroque style. It was built in 1715 in place of an older Romanic church. The façade is one of the most recognizable and dominant features of Dubrovnik, and St Blaise is the patron saint of the City. It was constructed according to the designs of Marin Gropelli, whose work managed to unify the beauty and harmony of a building worthy the city’s patron saint.
Big Onofrio’s Fountain was built by Onofrio in 1435, as the end point of the pipeline 13 kilometres long. Water was by all means the most important resource critical to the spreading of the city. Unfortunately, the pipeline was ruined in the earthquake of 1667, even though one part of it just above the fountain is still visible within city walls. Because he manages to thrill the aristocracy, Onofrio is one of the most well paid architects in the entire history of Dubrovnik, up until abolishing the Republic in 1808. The fountain is decorated by 16 masks diving out of the water fountain. Even today, during the summer heat, people often drink the cold water of Onofrio’s fountain.
Orlando’s Column is situated in front of the baroque St Blaise church. It was built by Bonino di Milano in 1419. The medieval gothic quadric-angular engraved stone statue of the young knight Roland in armour with a shield and a raised sword in his right hand symbolises the independence of Dubrovnik. Form the top of the column a flag of the Republic with the image of St Blaise, the patron saint, used to stand proudly. The length of the knight’s elbow used to present the Dubrovnik length measuring unit, the so-called ‘lakat’ (‘elbow’) – 51.2 centimetres.
Plaza or Stradun is the central street of Dubrovnik 300 metres long. It contains all the elements of a tourist attraction. Any important festivity and especially the festivity of St Blaise on the 3rd of February take place here, at Stradun the main vein of the city, its inhabitants and many visitors.
The beauty of the old city harbour in Dubrovnik must leave a memorable impression on every visitor of this city. It was the heart of Dubrovnik economy and the centre of enormous trade flowing from Asia to Europe. The old city harbour saw some organisation changes in the 15th century under the strong hand of Paskoje Miličević, who built the breakwater in 1484, thus increasing harbour capacity by 40 percent, enabling even more ships to dock and trade safely.