Old city of Dubrovnik

The City Walls

The fact that old Dubrovnik has been preserved as a living and organic entity is largely thanks to the sturdiness of its city walls, a system of fortifications which is a direct expression of the city’s history. They were built as a necessary part of the medieval European way of organising political life, navy, trade and warfare. The Dubrovnik fortresses, towers and walls simulta- neously protect, and reveal the uniqueness of, the city. They are amongst the most solid and beautiful such constructions in Europe. In places they reach 25 m in height, are up to 6 m thick and 3 m on the seaward side. They include 3 round and 12 four-sided fortres- ses, 5 defensive towers, 2 corner towers and one great fortress. On the land side, along the main wall, runs another wall with one large and 9 smaller semicircular keeps, and one casemate fortress. To the east, the city is protected by the strong fortress, Revelin; to the west a similar strategic l point is defended by the magnificent Lovrijenac fortress. The Pile Gate (Vrata od Pila). This is the city’s western gate and traditionally one’s first sight of the city in the part called Pile. It was built on the site of the former Pile Fortress which existed as early as 972 but was demolished in 1818, its foundations still being visible between the outside and inside of the gate. The outer gate, in the form of a Renaissance arch was built in 1537 in the wall of the fortress of the same name. Above it, there is a statue of St. Blaise (Sveti Vlaho), the i patron saint and protector 1 of the city. The gate is 1 reached by a stone bridge g with three arches, and stone benches along the parapet. The bridge was built in 1471 by Paskoje Milicevic, a civil engineer whose name is linked with many buildings in Dubrovnik. The interior of Pile Gate was within the main city wall built in 1460 in the form of a Gothic arch, taking the place of an older gate about which some records exist from the 13th century. The statue of St. Blaise over the interior of the gate was made by one of the greatest Croatian sculptors of the 20th century, Ivan Mestrovic (1883-1963). Immediately on entering the city through the inner Pile Gate, on the left by St. Saviour Church (Sveti Spas), there is a way onto the city walls. To the north, the fortresses are in the following succession: St. Francis Fortress (Sveti Frane) and the Gornji ugao Fortress (“the upper corner), both dating from the 14th century. Then there is Minceta Fortress, the northernmost point of the fortifications, which has become a symbol of Dubrovnik. It was named after the noble Mencetic’ family. It is a large round tower, founded on broad and solid walls. It has protruding battlements supported by profiled stone consoles. The aesthetic and not defensive function of these battlements is obvious, which indicates that the tower itself was at the time an almost indestructible fortress. The tower was built in two phases. Originally it was rectangular, built in 1319 probably by Nicifor Ranjina. Following the fall of Constantinople (1453) it was decided to build a large round tower. This was in 1455, but the building work was delayed until 1461 due to an epidemic of the plague. The work then began in earnest according to plans by Michelozzo di Bartolomeo from Florence. When he left Dubrovnik the work was taken over by Juraj Dalmatinac, who transformed and raised the whole concept to a higher level, giving it a truly monumental form.