from the local point of view

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Updated: Jan 30, 2020

  • The precise age of Dubrovnik is still unknown

Until 1981 there was a firm belief that Dubrovnik was founded in the 7th century, however, during the reconstruction works that followed the earthquake of 1979, the remains of until-then-unknown cathedral were found in the foundations of the existing cathedral. Based on those remains, it was deducted that the unknown cathedral had been erected much prior to the 7th century. This gave space to many theories about the origins of Dubrovnik, but none of them has been confirmed as the right one.

  • Dubrovnik used to be an independent state

The period from 1358 until 1808 (450 years) is known as the time of the Republic of Dubrovnik. (The term ‘Republic’ was officially introduced in the 15th century). During that period, Dubrovnik gained the status of relevant Mediterranean city-state, important for its maritime trade.

  • Dubrovnik’s strongest weapon was diplomacy

It is hard to imagine that the little state like Dubrovnik could survive throughout centuries in its turbulent historical context. In order to overcome the challenges of the history, Dubrovnikans developed their diplomatic skills, which even today provoke admiration and respect.

  • The only monument that the aristocratic republic erected to honor a real person during its long existence, was the monument dedicated to a plebeian

Miho Pracat was born into a poor family and at very early age had to provide for their living. Since he was fast learning and very skillful, he became one of the richest people of the Republic. What made him worthy of the monument was the fact that he bequeathed a considerable amount of his enormous fortune to charities, brotherhoods, churches and monasteries. The bronze bust of this Dubrovnik’s benefactor can be found in the atrium of the Rector’s palace.

  • The island Lokrum is believed to be cursed

Lokrum is situated in the immediate vicinity of the Old town. It is one of the favorite relaxing spots, both for locals and for tourists. What makes it intriguing is the story that the island is cursed. Legend has it that Benedictines, who had lived there for centuries, were obliged to abandon the island because the government of Dubrovnik had decided (and Pope had approved) to sell it in order to get money for Dubrovnik’s charitable institutions. Prior to their forced departure, Benedictines, shrouded in black habits and hooded, processed around the island three times, carrying lit candles turned upside-down, cursed by death or heavy misfortune any future owner of the island. The fact is that Lokrum saw numerous owners who died in tragic or unexplained circumstances, or they faced bad financial situation so they had to sell their portions of the island.

  • Dubrovnik was ruled by a ‘prisoner’

The head of the government of the Republic was a rector (even though his role was more symbolic and representative). His mandate lasted one month, during which he lived in the Rector’s palace, without his family. He was allowed to leave the palace only for state and protocol duties.

  • Dubrovnik often proved to be ahead of its time

Medieval sewerage

By the end of the 13th century Dubrovnik adopted an ecological codex which manifested in provisions for construction & maintenance of sceptic tanks and sewerage channels and also in decision on paving streets and managing the rainwaters’ drainage. Even today the Old town’s sewerage and rainwater systems are mostly based on the medieval network.

Dubrovnik against slavery

By abolishing slave trade on the Republic’s territory in 1400 and by banning the transportation of slaves on Dubrovnikan ships in 1416, the government of Dubrovnik started the process that led to the complete eradication of slavery by the end of the 15th century.

Spring water was brought to the thirsty city in the first half of the 15th century

Not many European cities can compete with this remarkable achievement occurred in Dubrovnik in 1438. Since the traditional water supply methods did not meet the requirements of Dubrovnik at that time, the government of the small state decided to build an aqueduct, which would bring fresh water from a 12 km distant spring. Two Italians (Onofrio della Cava actually gets all the credit, two fountains were named after him) were contracted by the government to execute the delicate project to bring the fresh water to the city. Since Dubrovnikans were suspicious about positive outcome, two Italians agreed to bear the expenses themselves in case of failure. However, they succeeded; they finished the project on time and remarkably improved the life of Dubrovnikans.

Dubrovnik manifested the humanitarian character from its early beginnings

Dubrovnikans knew that the state and the progress of the society could be measured by the care that the society took for their most vulnerable members. Written sources witness that the awareness of the importance of the humanitarian work existed in Dubrovnik society already in the second half of the 13th century. The care about abandoned children in Dubrovnik draws the most attention. We know about the existence of a private orphanage within St. Clare’s convent in 1290. In 1432, the government of Dubrovnik decided to found the state orphanage, which is considered one of the first such institutions in Europe. The institution has been active since then.

Quarantine – Dubrovnik way to prevent epidemics of contagious diseases

In 1377, after many people had died due to the Black Death, which, as it was believed, had come to Europe from Asia, the government of Dubrovnik decided to introduce a quarantine, where all those arriving from countries affected by contagious diseases, had to spend 40 days in isolation before entering the city or the territory of the Republic (word ‘quarantine’ derives from Italian ‘quaranta’, which means forty). The Republic built many quarantines on different locations. The last one, which is well preserved, was built in the suburb of Ploce in 1624.

Dubrovnik had one of the first pharmacies in Europe

Established in 1317, the pharmacy within the Franciscan monastery is one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe and it is still operating.

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