10 Most interesting stories from Dubrovnik history
Legend of Richard the Lionheart & The Island of Lokrum
One of the most popular Kings of England, Richard I the Lionheart is also the main actor in one of the most famous stories from Dubrovnik history. He was also one of the best military leaders of its time. He lived and ruled during the twelfth century. Like many other brave European Kristian Kings and nobles, Richard the Lionheart went to the Crusades to fight in a holy war. As you may imagine Richard couldn't use an airplane to get there. So, the poor Kind had to use horses and ships to come to the Holy Land and swing his sword. Lucky it all went well during his battles in the third Crusades, but Richard fell into problems on his way back home. We can read in Dubrovnik archives that a big storm almost sunk his ships near the island of Lokrum in front of Dubrovnik.
Our brave hero Richard somehow reached the Island of Lokrum and saved himself from drowning. He was so grateful and decided to spend some money to thank God and Blessed Virgin Mary for saving his life. As we may read in Dubrovnik's chronicles Lionheart gave an incredibly big pile of Ducats for the church of Blessed Virgin Mary to be built on the Lokrum. Dubrovnik Aristocrats somehow convinced the King that that money would be better spent to build the main Dubrovnik Catedral. They also promised to build a smaller church on the island of Lokrum in his honor.
Dubrovnik Republic archives are verifying many parts of this more than 800 years old legend. Truth or not, we encourage all tourists visiting Dubrovnik to go to the island of Lokrum and experience this legend from the first hand. For the full experience, don't miss sitting on the original Iron Throne from the Game of Thrones series. It is a little bit hidden, but we are sure that you can find it and sit on it as an ultimate ruler and become a part of Dubrovnik history.
How is the history of Dubrovnik Republic and the United States of America connected?
Many tourists are not aware that History of the Dubrovnik Republic and the United States of America are connected. If there was one word to describe the Dubrovnik Republic it would be Freedom! Word freedom is written on the Dubrovnik Republic Flag (Libertas). The official motto of Ragusa was "Liberty is not sold for all the gold in the world". Even one of the most popular Dubrovnik poets Ivan Gundulic wrote "Ode to freedom", an unofficial anthem of Dubrovnik
This fact was also shown in the Dubrovnik Republic foreign policy. When 13 American colonies decided to leave a mighty British Empire Dubrovnik Republic was the first nation-state to recognize the United States of America independence in 1776. We have to put this fact in the perspective of the late 18th century. During that time the USA was just a weak colony, while the British Empire was the most powerful country in the world. .
The decision to recognize the United States independence so soon is just showing that Freedom was much more than just a word on the flag for people of Dubrovnik Republic. So dear visitors from the United States when you spend holidays in Dubrovnik it is like spending them in the old friend's house. We hope you feel like that while staying in our hometown.
Every summer "Libertas" flag is being raised for an opening of Dubrovnik Summer Festival
Abolition of slavery in Dubrovnik 600 years ago
To stay on the subject of Freedom and its meaning for Dubrovnik through its history we must mention the abolition of slavery. I am so proud to be born in the town that stopped this disgusting and inhumane abuse of human beings so early. At the beginning of the 15th century in 1416. trading another human being at the territory of Dubrovnik Republic was outlawed.
And to show that they really mean it Republics Senate predicted draconian punishments for anyone trading slaves in Dubrovnik territory. A half year in jail was predicted for minor offenses and bigger slave traders could be blinded or even hanged. This kind of laws results with Dubrovnik bein free of slavery very quickly. It is a real shame that we had to wait more than 4 centuries for other counties to follow the example of Dubrovnik and fully abolish slavery.
First Quarantine in the world
Probably the worst health disaster in the history of the world was a plague (Black Dead) that hit Europe during the 14th century. The number of Europeans that died from it is just staggering. Most of the experts concluded that more then a half of the European population was executed by this terrible pandemic. What's even worst there were more terrible diseases in Europe during that period without a real cure for them. People were left in the hands of God and the facts tell us that he was not merciful.
Lucky for us the Dubrovnik Republic invented a first functional quarantine in the world and thanks to that has stopped all dangerous diseases from entering a town. In 1377. the law was introduced that all passengers coming from foreign countries affected by disease need to spend one month in the Quarantine before they were allowed to enter inside the town. Just think about this for a moment, and compare it with a speed of life we live today. Would you as a tourist spend a month in quarantine before we give you permission to enter Dubrovnik :)? I don't think so, but what you can do is visit Lazareti, situated near Ploce gate and imagine what was like spending a month in there. Lazareti was used as a quarantine same as islands near Cavtat Mrkan and Bobara before them. In our times Lazareti are used for many cultural manifestations same as occasional rave parties rather than for stopping the black death.
Republic of Ragusa diplomacy
The history of the Dubrovnik Republic was so long and successful primarily because of smart diplomacy.
You have to be a clever and a little bit tricky to preserve your independence for hundreds of years and at the same time become one of the most powerful and wealthy trading powers on the Mediterian sea. The Dubrovnik Republic was small in size (1500 Km2) and almost without an army, but when it comes to diplomacy and foreign Dubrovnik a real superpower. From the 14th to 18th century there where many powerful states in this area of Europe. Venice was a constant threat and the biggest st power of that time, same as the Ottoman Empire. Republic was paying considerable amounts of gold to the ottomans to keep their freedom and to be allowed to trade at its territory. The art of Diplomacy was so developed through the web of consultants, diplomats, and spies that were made of hundreds or even thousands of aristocrats, traders and even simple peasants.
I would like to emphasize just one interesting historical fact from which you can realize the genius of Dubrovnik diplomacy. When today's tourists travel to Dubrovnik by car from the northwest of Croatia cost they need to pass through small coastal part of Bosnia and Hercegovina that cuts Croatian territory in two parts. That small part of the territory Republic of Ragusa gave to the Ottomans so Venetians could not invade republics borders without passing through Ottomans territory. Even this political act proved to be successful in the defense of Dubrovnik Republic borders during its history it became problematic in our times. The reason is that during high season tourists often encounter traffic jams when passing through that small part of Bosnia on their way to Dubrovnik. To resolve this problem Croatia is building over two kilometers bridge that should be ready in 2021.
Sewage and aqueduct of Dubrovnik Republic
You can often judge the development of a certain civilization or historic site by its infrastructure and care for public health. The Dubrovnik Republic has built a sewage system in the old town at the end of the 13th century. That is more than 700 years ago, and it was built so well that it is still operational today. Many other famous European cities had to wait a few more centuries for its city sewage. For example, London builds it's in the late 19th century.
The other amazing thing built in 1440. is Dubrovnik aqueduct that is also still operational today. When you come to Stradun (main street of the old town) you can drink fresh water from the Big Onofrio's fountain at the one side of the Stradun and on a Small Onofrio's fountain at the other end. Water is brought to town from the spring almost 12 km away from the fountains. So when you visit old town refresh yourself with this water and tell this story to your fellow travelers.
Lokrum - The most beautiful haunted island
The Island of Lokrum is situated just 15 minutes of slow and pleasant boat ride from the old city harbor. It is one of the most desirable tourist locations of almost all Dubrovnik visitors, and not without a reason. This beautifully green nature and forest vegetation reserve is a perfect place to rest your soul while roaming around it in a search for a perfect hidden beach. Many small animals are also roaming around freely and posing for tourists to take a perfect photo for Instagram with them. It gained even additional popularity in recent years when some of the Game of Thrones scenes were filmed on the island. Today there is an original Iron Throne that you can sit in and take more Instagram pictures. The Throne is placed in the 1000-year-old Benedictine monastery that is the main reason for the much darker Lokrum story.
The Benedictine order has a long history in the Dubrovnik area starting at 11th. century Sant Benedict saved Dubrovnik from fire. To thank him for being such a great fireman they built his monastery on the Island of Lokrum. It all went well for hundreds of years until in the early 19th century when one of the Napoleon Bonaparte generals ordered that monastery must be closed and all monks must be banished from the island. The legend is telling us that monks performed some kind of black magic ritual and cursed the island and anyone who claims Lokrum for its personal pleasure. the legend would probably be forgotten if many of Dubrovnik aristocrats connected with closing the monastery did not die in the strange circumstances. Some of them killed themselves, while others got killed and one of them even drownd near Lokrum. The fact is that also all future owners of Lokrum ended up terribly just as curse predicted. So, we advise you do visit Lokrum and enjoy all of its beauty, but go from it before dark and please don't try to buy the island for your own safety.
The Europes wall of China - Walls of Ston
You are probably not aware that when you come at your holidays in Dubrovnik you also have an amazing opportunity to visit a second longest defensive walls in the world. They are located in the small town of Ston that is situated at the beginning of Peljesac peninsula and was a part of the Republic of Ragusa. Walls of Ston were originally over 7 kilometers long and used primarily to defend one of the most precious values of the Republic of Dubrovnik - Ston salt mines. In the times of the Dubrovnik Republic, salt was also called white gold and was extremely expensive. Mines of sea salt are operational even today so tourists can visit it and enjoy in the oldest European sea salt production factory.
Our recommendation is that after dealing with all that salt and climbing the Walls of Ston you go to some of the Ston's restaurants and order local oysters and Dingac vine. You can thanks us later for that unforgettable experience.
Amazing Ston walls guarding their salt mines
Dubrovnik pharmacy and orphanage
Once again we can start our sentence with "The oldest..." We are not sure what kind of medication they were using at the beginning of the 14th century, but we know that the ancient citizens of Dubrovnik were able to buy it in the old town Franciscan Monastery. Even today after 700 years pharmacy is still open and tourist can even visit a pharmacy museum containing many interesting historical medical artifacts.
Dubrovnik can also be proud of the first children's orphanage established in the center of the old town in 1432. This could be even ba the first institution of this type in the whole world. As we may read in the documents of that time Dubrovnik government was disgusted with a treatment of the small children as they were animals and decided to change this by opening the orphanage near Franciscan Monastery.
Dubrovnik as Game of Thrones Kings Landing
So, somehow my hometown became the most popular place in Westeros. And now when someone asks me: "from where you are?" I just stay cool and answer "From the Kings Landing". Then the smile spreads over my face and I feel a little bit stupid but happy. On the other hand, my psychiatrist told me that when that b**** of a queen destroyed half of the Dubrovnik's old town it is absolutely normal for me to feel a little bit of stress and anxiety.
As you are probably aware the legendary series Game of Thrones was filmed on several locations in the old town. Some of the scenes were also filmed at the island of Lokrum and Arboretum Trsteno near Dubrovnik. All tourists that are Game of Thrones fans can take guided tours and visit all filming locations. Some of them are really stunning and easily recognizable as Kings Landing. In my opinion, the coolest thing for all Game of Thrones fans is sitting on a throne itself. To do this they must take a short boat ride to the island of Lokrum. As you may guess my town is filled with all kind of souvenirs with Game of Thrones thematics. We advise you to search for official stores and products to be sure that you are getting original and quality items as a souvenir from Kings Landing.
As I am writing this text the final season of Game of Thrones is just being released. If George R. R. Martin doesn't make some of his famous surprises and creates more material is expected that we will soon find out who will sit on the iron throne and become the ultimate ruler. This will hopefully help my hometown to regain back his original name and become Dubrovnik again. Even I must admit that Kings Landing sounds cooler.