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Fortifications of Dubrovnik in Croatia

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General presentationGeneral information
Sights of plane. Click to enlarge the image.The very whole town of Dubrovnik east, including its old port, surrounded by walls and fortifications. The walls were preserved until today, not only thanks to knowledge of the skilful blue-collar workers of the building and the constant care put by the townsmen who maintained and rebuilt the structures when it was necessary, but also thanks to the famous diplomacy of Raguse, which succeeded on many occasions to avoid dangerous measures taken by its enemies against the Republic.

This complex formation constitutes one of the most important strengthened enclosures of all Mediterranean, composed of a series of fortified towns, bastions, casemates, turns and isolated fortresses.

The provision of the public highways and widenings was with the service of a fast and effective communication with the fortified towns.


Ramparts of Dubrovnik (Dubrovačke gradske zidine)
The characteristic most outstanding, which determines the aspect of the historical city of Dubrovnik and confers to him its specificity and its recognizable image in the whole world, it is its intact wall enclosure, 1960 m length, which encircles the city. Built between 8th and the 16th centuries, the enclosing walls protected the city during hundreds from years, even if this one always privileged the diplomatic solution with the armed conflict with its rivals.

The shape present of the walls was defined in the 14th century after the city gained its complete independence of Venetian suzerainty, but the apogee of its construction lasted since the beginning of the 15th century until second half of the 16th century.

The walls of the city are composed of an interior part and an external part. The interior part is appeared as a smaller enclosure and ten semicircular bastions; the terrestrial ramparts stretch strong Bokar in the west until Ravelin isolated in the east. The external part, has as for it five circular bastions, three towers and twelve square or rectangular towers, as well as an enormous fortress, the Saint John fortress on the port. The city moreover is defended by two large external fortresses, one, Ravelin, on the east coast, the other the fortress Lawrence on the south-western side. The city has four doors: two which opens on the port and two (with footbridges) which opens on the continent. For the period when the Austrian Empire controlled the city, two other doors were open in the wall.

The thickness of the principal wall is from 4 to 6 m towards the terrestrial access and from 1.5 to 3 m towards the maritime access of the city. Its maximum height is of 25 Mr. the terrestrial access is protected by an additional before-wall, as defense against the shootings of guns required it at the time.

The irregular parallelogram which form the town of Dubrovnik encircled of its walls, is protected on four strategic points by its extremely solid fortresses. In north, it is the round fortress Minčeta; in the east, the fortress isolated from Ravelin is, which defends the door of Ploče; in south-east, the vast one and complex Saint John fortress which defends the port of the city; in the west, the door of Pile is defended by the powerful one and conceived strong Bokar well.

The western part of the city is protected from the terrestrial and maritime threats by the powerful fortress Lawrence. Except for these most solid fortifications and most projecting, the walls are also protected by two round towers, twelve quadrangular turns, five angular bastions and two turns, while the before-wall of reinforcement is flanked of a large bastion and nine smaller semicircular bastions.

Along the part of the fortifications defending the terrestrial access of the city, a deep ditch is dug like additional protection measure. The system was provided with many guns. These guns were, for the majority, manufactured in the workshops of the city, most famous of the area. Ivan Rabljanin was the manufacturer and the most known founder of guns of the 16th century. At the time where the enclosure of Dubrovnik was best equipped, 120 guns defended its accesses.

The communication with the external world was ensured by two well strengthened doors, located in the west-east direction. In the west, one reached the city by the door of Pile, provided with complex and multiple fortifications, in the east, by the door of Ploče, protected by the separate fortress Ravelin. The two entries of the city were made up so that the communication with the city with the city cannot be carried out directly, but that which wanted to penetrate there crossed multiple doors and sinuous passages, which testifies to extreme measures of precaution vis-a-vis the possibility of a surprised intrusion or the entry of undesirable visitors.

Ramparts north. Click to enlarge the image.The sight since the ramparts is splendid, in particular on the fortresses Minčeta and Ravelin, the fortresses Saint John and especially Lawrence, located on a rocky outcrop of 40 meters which overhangs the Adriatic Sea. In addition to these unforgettable sights, the visit of the ramparts offers a splendid sight on the open sea and the surroundings of the city. They are especially its streets and its places located on the heights which reveal us a whole series of picturesque details, the provision of the unit, the extent of the city, and which the walk in center of the city does not make it possible to seize.

The main entrance of the visit of the ramparts is close to the door of Pile. The visit of the ramparts is easier while starting with the maritime frontage; for that, by the left, at the top of steps.

Roofs seen of the ramparts. Click to enlarge the image.One will admire initially the prospect on Placed, the harmonious row of the frontages and the incomparable round tiled roofs which made the reputation of Dubrovnik. Locate the bell-towers of the Franciscan monastery to the foreground, and those of the Dominican monastery, at the bottom, on the left of the tower of the Clock, as well as the domes of the cathedral and the church Saint-Ignace.

The first square tower that one meets is part of a set of twelve turns of the same type added to the defensive system at the time of an improvement campaign of safety at the 14th century. This tower offers a beautiful sight since its top where one reaches by a narrow staircase.

While continuing towards the interior of the port, one notes the vulnerability of the wall at this place, with the two doors which gave access to the city.

History and traditionsHistory, literature, arts, traditions, legends, religions, myths, symbols…

The fortifications of Dubrovnik were built in a systematic way, at the difficult moments when the safety of the City and the Republic were threatened, and remained in good state thanks to the know-how of its skilful manufacturers, the attention paid by the inhabitants of Dubrovnik to his maintenance and its rebuilding, and especially with the knowledge to make diplomacy ragusaine of international reputation which knew on innumerable occasions to prevent and move away the possible threats from the enemies and competitors of the Republic of Dubrovnik.

The old chronicles say that a kind of castle existed certainly on the peninsula of Lava; it is certain that the first city in the Island of Laus was surrounded by walls of defense, probably of the palisades out of wooden.

Buckwheats besieging dubrovnik. Click to enlarge the image.The construction of the strong stone first cut around the city started at the beginning of the Middle Ages, towards the end of the 8th century. The fact that Dubrovnik succeeded in resisting a fifteen month old seat by Buckwheats at the 9th century proves that the city was well strengthened.

The city extended initially towards the uninhabited oriental party of the small island, which explains why the current name of the part of the south-east of the city, close to the Saint John fortress, is Pustijerna. The name “Pustijerna” comes from the Latin expression “post terram”, which means “outside the city”.

The defense system with 9th and Xe centuries include this part is city. After the embankment at the 11th century of the narrow channel (on the site of Placa today) which separated the small island from the city located opposite on the continent, the two cities were welded and soon, a single wall was built around the sector of the current heart of the city.

At the 12th century, Dubrovnik and its surroundings were described like being part of the Croatian entity (كرواتيا), in one of works of the famous Arab geographer Muhammad Al-Idrisi. In its book Nuzhat fi Al-Mushataq ikhtiraq Al-afaq (in French: the Joy for those which want to surf on the world) of 1154, it mentioned Dubrovnik like the southern city “of the country of Croatia and Dalmatia”.

Extension of the fortifications. Click to enlarge the image.The basic plan of the city goes back to 1292, when the port was rebuilt after a fire. At the 13th century, all the city is included in the walls, except the monastery of the Dominicans, which will be integrated there into the 14th century. These walls were an average thickness of 1.5 m, built out of stone and lime. Fifteen quadrangular forts were built at the 14th century, to reinforce the walls and the defense system. More important consolidation work was undertaken towards the end of the 14th century, at the time of the final release of the Venetian domination.

The unit is reinforced once again at the 15th century: the greatest impulse with consolidation work of the fortifications of Dubrovnik was given by the imminent danger of an attack of the Turkish army after the catch of Constantinople in 1453 and a latent threat coming at the same time from the Venetian ones. The fall of Constantinople was a clear signal for the careful citizens of Dubrovnik to quickly take sufficient measures of defense, the first and one of most important being the reinforcement of its defensive structures. The fall of Bosnia, which followed soon in 1463, did nothing but accelerate work. Consequently, the Republic invited an architect Florentin, Michelozzo Di Bartolomeo, to direct the improvement of the potential of defense of the city. Its work in Dubrovnik led to construction and the extension many constructions of major importance for the defense of Dubrovnik.

The walls were reinforced by three circular towers, five angular bastions, two fortifications and the large Saint John fortress. The terrestrial ramparts moreover were reinforced by a higher wall, nine smaller semicircular bastions and the fort in casemate of Bokar, the preserved fort of this oldest type of Europe. The ditches, which skirt the wall external of the walls armed by more than 120 guns, constituted a remarkable defense for the city.

Thanks to the enormous efforts of the middle-class men and aristocrats of Dubrovnik, and with the knowledge to make many manufacturers of fortifications tested, that one made come in urgency, most of consolidation work and of widening of the walls, especially towards the terrestrial accesses of the city, and the building work of the fortresses and the semicircular bastions of the before-wall, were completed in less than three years. The system will be widened, reinforced and modernized during the 16th century, and later.

The enclosure reached its current perimeter at the 14th century and takes its final form at the time, which we can qualify, not without reason, of the golden age of Dubrovnik, between the fall of Constantinople in 1453 and the catastrophic earthquake and the destruction of Dubrovnik in 1667. Being built very firmly, the fortifications were as a whole insensitive to this powerful earthquake.

InformationPractical information

General information
Visiting timesVisiting times
Staircases make it possible in several points of the old city to reach the ramparts; there exist three accesses to the ramparts: since the door of Pile on the left of the church of the Saint Saviour; since strong Saint John; and since the door of the Market.

Opened the every day of 8:00 to 19:30. It is necessary to count between 2 and 3 hours to make the full rotation of the city, preferably the morning or in the end of the afternoon to avoid the hot summer dayss.

Paying entry: 70 kunas.

Access to the ramparts close to the door of the Market. Click to enlarge the image in Adobe Stock (new tab).

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Fortifications of Dubrovnik in Croatia - maritime Fortifications
Fortifications of Dubrovnik in Croatia - the port
Fortifications of Dubrovnik in Croatia - Fortifications of the west
Fortifications of Dubrovnik in Croatia - Fortifications of north
Fortifications of Dubrovnik in Croatia - Fortifications of the east
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