Dubrovnik Stories

Dubrovnik is a place of a million stories and legends, and some of them are the topic of today.

The most current archaeological investigations prove that a settlement existed in the same place where Dubrovnik stands today in the 6th century.

After becoming free of the Venetian influence with the contract of Zadar in 1358, Dubrovnik started to pave its path to statehood. By the 14th and 15th century, Dubrovnik became one of the most important maritime trading centres alongside Venice and Ancona.

In the 15th century, the Dubrovnik Republic was officially formed. The state began electing rectors and councillors, money was made, the states flag with the st. Blaise figure, as well as the Statue book, were made and the Republic gained the right to establish consulates.

Since the beginning of the Republic until its end in 1808, Dubrovnik named exactly 5366 rectors. The rector was elected monthly. This frequent alternation in Rectors prevented the individuals from rising above the state and tasting the “sweetness of power”.

The Republic was known also for its “mad” diplomatic skills. Without an army and with the Osman Empire breathing down its neck, the state managed to survive and profit by accepting Turkish sponsorship and payment of tribute but receiving on the other hand freedom to trade in the whole Turkish empire with only 2% tax.

Most of the sailors from Dubrovnik once embarked on a journey never came back home. It was their way of life.

Jugo makes the thought weary, but Bura, the north wind blows the strongest in Dubrovnik. At one occasion Bura was so strong that it knocked over the statue of Orlando who landed directly on – his nose!

Which brings us to the statue of Orlando situated in front of the church of the patron saint of Dubrovnik – St. Blaise.
Made in stone, the statue shows a knight with a sword directed upwards. This kind of statue is characteristic for Germany and outside it there are only 4 others like it including the one in Dubrovnik. Historians link the making of the statue with the myth of Roland who helped the city in the fight against the Saracens. In front of Orlando decisions of the state were proclaimed as well as important news. It was also the place of execution of punishments of the Republic. The Dubrovnik elbow, measured 51, 2 cm and it was the exact length of Orlando’s elbow.

Nikola Primorac, a Dubrovnik sailor, made a bet in a Liverpool club that he will, for a thousand pounds, sail the Atlantic ocean in a converted lifeboat – and he did. The year was 1869.

The Archbishop of Dubrovnik from 1545 until 1553 was Giovanni Medici from Milan. He became the Pope in 1560. History remembers him under the name he took then; Pius the IV.

During the building of the biggest tower of the Dubrovnik walls, the tower Minčeta, there was a shortage of stone in the City so a provision was made for everyone entering the city to bring along a stone according to their body constitution.

Already in the middle ages, the Republic sought to employ capable and educated connoisseurs of the art of medicine. They employed doctors from Italy, Spain, Grece and of course Jews, who were considered the best doctors in the world. From 1280, 134 doctors and 102 surgeons were in the service of caring for the health of the people of the Dubrovnik Republic.

The first pharmacy in Dubrovnik is also one of the oldest in Europe and was established in 1317 as a part of the Franciscan Monastery. This pharmacy is still active in Dubrovnik at the same place. As a part of the monastery, it is possible to visit the museum which features some of the original inventory of the pharmacy.

Dubrovnik jewellery is not only jewellery but a story of prosperous and rich history. In the times of the Republic, Dubrovnik was the European goldsmiths’ centre and many noble families from abroad competed for the jewellery of the Dubrovnik goldsmiths.
To complete only one piece of traditional Dubrovnik jewellery, like for instance the Dubrovnik Perusini, a goldsmith will need up to 8 straight hours of work depending on the size.
The most remarkable piece of art which was made by the goldsmiths is for sure the reliquary head of st. Blaise. Hand made out of gold, porcelain enamel and pearls with the help of Italian goldsmiths, it is brought out of its resting place every year in procession in honour of St. Blaise on the 3rd of February.
How important goldsmiths were in Dubrovnik best reflects in the fact that a street in the Old town was named “Zlatarska” or “Goldsmith” street
Unfortunately, many items were lost in the great earthquake and fire in 1667. Witnesses of the event told stories of melted silver and gold pouring out of the “Zlatarska” street in streams.

And one more for the end.

In the middle ages, Dubrovnik was an important spy centre. It was a unique occurrence for a city of the west to be in good terms with the Osman empire. This and the fact that Dubrovnik was the only state allowed by the Pope to trade with the Osmans made it desirable to many European countries. Spy from both parts came to Dubrovnik to find out what the other side is thinking and scheming. The interesting thing about this is that there is evidence that a rector of Dubrovnik, Marin Zamanja, was at the same time a spy for the Spanish King Charles V giving him important information about the Turkish sultan.