walls of dubrovnik architecture


How Were The City Walls Built

Dubrovnik, originally called Ragusa, was founded in the 7th century by the refugees from Epidaurum, Roman city 15km south of Dubrovnik (nowdays known as Cavtat).

The city is protected by the defensive walls, the majority of the walls was built in the 15th and 16th century.

The walls are long 1940m and they completely surround the city, along with its forts.

Most of the buildings and public spaces that can be found inside the city walls are built in Baroque style, the reason is the catastrophic earthquake that occurred in 1667. It destroyed a lot of Gothic and Renaissance artwork and architecture. The Sponza, Rector’s palace, and Revelin fortress were the only buildings that endured and survived this disaster. The city was rebuilt in the Baroque style that has remained intact until today.

saint blaise

When you walk through this romantic city you feel as if you walked into a movie set.

Dubrovnik is well known as the filming location of the series Game of Thrones ˝portraying˝ it’s capital city Kings Landing, as well as ˝Nottingham˝ in the recent Robin Hood movie.

There are several city entrances, one of them is the Pile gate, which is the main entrance. It consists of two doors outside and inside the walls, as well as two bridges, stone bridge with arches and a drawbridge. When you enter through this city gate you will find yourself on the 300m long main street called Stradun or Placa.

On your right side, you will see big Onofrio’s fountain, made by Italian builder Onofrio della Cava in the 15th century. On the far left there is Franciscan monastery from the 14th century with one of the oldest pharmacies in the world. As you continue your walk over Stradun street you can see a lot of souvenir shops, galleries, coffee bars, and restaurants. On the other end of the Stradun is Luza square, that has always been the heart of the city. Some of most the important historic buildings surround this square; St Blaise church, Sponza Palace or Divona, Rector’s palace. In the middle of the square is Orlando’s column, a statue dedicated to the knight Roland, who according to the legend helped the people of Dubrovnik defeat invaders in the middle ages.

If you decide to do the tour along the city walls there are three entrances, the first one is on the western part of the city, right next to the church of the Holy Savior, the second one is at the eastern part of the city close to the inner Ploce gate and the third one is located at the back side of St John Fortress.

The tour along the whole city walls usually takes around one hour and it is really worth the while. Once you are finished with your tour, you can lose yourself in the maze of narrow streets and feel the energy of the city and its locals and continue to explore sights on your own.

As we mentioned before, Walls of Dubrovnik are the most magnificent fortification monument with significant fortresses (on the north side of City Walls is the strong circular Minceta Tower, on the southeast side, is located the complex St. John Fortress, to the east side of the city port is the Revelin Fortress, and the western city entrance is protected by the strong Fort Bokar. 

The western side of the city protects freestanding St. Lawrence Fortress from possible land and sea assaults (also known as Lovrijenac).

st john fort

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As stated, walls of Dubrovnik are one of the most famous fortification monument with significant fortresses.

city walls bokar

Bokar Fortress

The fortress Bokar, also called Zvjezdan, is located on the South-western part of Dubrovnik City walls. This fort together with Minčeta tower was the key point in the defense of the ditch and Pile Gate, which is the western entrance of the old city. The fort is an example of the most beautiful instances of harmonious and functional fortification architecture. The building of the fort started in 1461, according to the designs of Michelozzo di Bartolomeo of Florence. It was built as a two-story casemate fortress projected in front of the medieval walls. There was a debate about the necessity of finalizing the project in 1470. In 1555 the fort had been roofed and it had upgraded to its present state in 1570. The Game of Thrones used the fort as their filming location.

Minceta Fortress

Tower Minceta is located on the north part of the walls, facing toward the land. Minceta is a large round fort with a massive base in the form of a big covered outer wall. The Gothic crown is on the top of the fort.

Minčeta is the highest point in the Dubrovnik defense system. The name Minčeta derives from the name of the Mencetic family, who were the owners of the ground where the tower was built. The building of the fortress started in 1319, according to the design of architect Ranjina.

Michelozzo built a new round tower around the earlier quadrilateral fort and joined it to the new system of low – scrap walls. The walls of the new tower were 6 meters thick. The building started in 1461. In 1464 Michelozzo left Dubrovnik offended because the plans he had about the reconstruction of Rector’s palace were not approved. After him, Juraj of Dalmatia continued the reconstruction. He was born in Zadar. He also constructed the Cathedral in Sibenik. While he was in Dubrovnik, he mostly worked on fortresses. He built the bottom of the fortress Minceta and gave it the crown. He run away from Dubrovnik in front of the plague. After him, Ivan Rabljanin made mighty bronze cannon. He also made the Bell for the City Bell Tower.

Minceta is a symbol of the unconquerable City Dubrovnik. It provides a magnificent view of Dubrovnik and stands high above rest of Dubrovnik. It is rightfully said that you have not been in Dubrovnik unless you witnessed the magnificent view from the top of Minceta fortress. The fortress Minčeta has also been used as a filming location for the Game of Thrones.

st john fortress

Fortress of St. John

Fortress of St. John, also called Mulo tower, is a monumental defence fortress located on the south-eastern side of the old city port. It was one of the most important forts in the Dubrovnik City Walls defense. The fort was built for the port protection. The side toward the sea is round and lower part of the wall is inclined. The part facing the port has flat vertical walls.

The building of the Dock Fort started in 1346 and lasted for several years. The outline is visible on the western wall of St. John fortress. The city was connected with the fort with a defensive wall and the gates passing through the walls – Dock Gates ( Vrata mula ). Near the defensive wall, there was a fort called Fort Gundulic on the very corner of the City. In 15th century a low semi-circular bastion was built forward of the Dock Port and it integrated as the outer wall of the Dock Fort. In 1552 all bastions were merged in the same fortification complex, according to the designs of Paskoje Milicevic. Gundulic fort and Dock fort with their bastions were united in a single building called The fortress of St John at the Dock. The process was completed in 1557.

The Maritime Museum and Aquarium are the part of the St. John fortress today.

Fort Revelin

Fortress of Revelin is located on the eastern part of the City. The initial fort was built in 1463. It was built as a detached fortress providing protection to the eastern City Gate. The name derives from rivelino ( ravelin ) which is a term in architecture that refers to forts built opposite to the weakest points in the defense system or opposite to the particular city gates with the purpose of reinforcing the defensive position. During the time of First Holy League, it was necessary to strengthen this point in the fortification complex because of the danger of Venetian attack. In 1538 the Senate approved Antonio Ferramolino’s drawings for stronger Revelin fortress. All other constructions work were stopped until the Revelin is finished. It took 11 years to build it. Revelin was finally completed in 1549. It became the strongest fortress of Dubrovnik.

Revelin has an irregular quadrilateral form. The fort was not harmed by the earthquake of 1667 because of its perfect and strong construction. After an earthquake, Revelin became the administrative center of the Republic. There are three large valuated rooms in its interior. The sessions of the Council were organized there and all the treasures of the Dubrovnik cathedral and Republic were transferred there.

In the inside of the Revelin fort, there is a night club where rock concerts, techno parties, night club evenings and exclusive entry parties are regularly taking place throughout the year.

FUN FACT: There is a large stone – paved terrace on the top of Revelin which is sometimes used as a stage for many events of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival in a period from July 10th to August 25th.

lovrijenac fortress walls of dubrovnik old town

Fortress Lovrijenac

Fortress of St Lawrence is also known as ˝Gibraltar of Dubrovnik˝ and is one of the most impressive locations in Dubrovnik.

The story goes that the Venetians intended to build their fortress on that same spot at the beginning of 11th century, in order to control Dubrovnik. The people of Dubrovnik heard of this intention and immediately decided to build the fortress on 37 m high cliff in order to protect Dubrovnik from Venetians. They allegedly built it in only three months and when the Venetians came with ships full of building material they had to return home with an unfinished task.

It was built on the 37m high cliff outside the western part of the city walls. The fortress has a triangular shape with three terraces, the sea side of the fortress has walls that are thick 12 m (40 feet) and the ones facing the land are thick 60 cm (2 feet). The main reason for this was not only in the case of the attack of a foreign enemy but also the possible rebellion of the Commander in charge of the fortress. The thinner part of the wall could never hold against the firepower from fort Bokar. St Lawrence fortress along with fort Bokar also protect the oldest port of the City- Kolorina.

Throughout the centuries the fortress was adapted numerous times, the majority of the alterations were done in the 15th and 16th century. Since it was damaged in the catastrophic earthquake in 1667 the restoration began instantly and it lasted until the end of the 17th century. Inside of the fortress, there are three terraces, the widest one is looking south towards the sea. St Lawrence was defended with 10 cannons, the largest one was named ˝the Lizard˝(in Croatian ˝Gušter˝) made by Croatian cannon maker Ivan Rabljanin.

The Lizard was lost at the bottom of the sea below St Lawrence. During the Austrian occupation the Austrians wanted to take this marvellous cannon to Vienna, and, as they were trying to transport it, it fell into the sea and it has never been found since. For centuries, this fortress was the greatest defender of the City’s freedom, therefore, above its entrance there is a message engraved: NON BENE PRO TOTO LIBERTAS VENDITUR AURO, meaning; Freedom is not sold for all the gold in the world. Today the fortress is known as one of the most beautiful stages for the plays such as ˝Hamlet˝ during the Dubrovnik Summer festival.

Did you know that Lovrijenac was one of the main Game of Thrones filming locations?

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pile gates

City Gates

Walls of Dubrovnik were built in the 13th century. During the 15th century were built 15 towers as a part of the city walls, some of them are preserved until today. There used to be four gates leading into The City of Dubrovnik: the Pile Gate, The Ploce Gate, the Peskarija Gate, and the Ponta Gate. Buza Gate was opened in the northern part of the Walls in 1908 during the Austrian rule.

Pile Gate was built in the 14th century by Ivan of Siena. Today that is the main entrance into the Old Town and main street Stradun. There are Outer City Gates and the Inner City Gates.

Ploce Gate is the main entrance to the Old Town from the eastern side which also has a bridge like Pile Gate. This gate (also known as Vrata od Ploca) was built in the 14th century. The bridge was built according to the prototype of Pile Gate’s bridge by Ivan of Siena, but later it was demolished and after reparation, the wooden drawbridge had been inserted.

Crossing this bridge you can come to the Revelin fortress and in the continuation, there is the main street of Dubrovnik City- Stradun. Ploče Gates has also Inner and Outer Gates. The Inner Ploče Gate was built in Romanesque style and are really small. Above the gate stands a stone statue of the patron of Dubrovnik, St. Blaise, also in a Romanesque style. During the period of Austrian occupation at the end of the 19th century, the new, larger gates were opened next to these. The Outer Ploce gate was built in 1450 by Simeone Della Cava. In the 19th century, the gate was widened.

Ponta Gate (means “pier” in Croatian ) was designed by Juraj Dalmatinac and built by Paskoje Miličević during the 15th century. This Gates leads to the Old Port of Dubrovnik Old Town. When you exit the Old Town by this gate, you will see the circular St. John Fort on the right side.

If you go from Prijeko to Ruđer Bošković Street, you will come to Buža Gate. This street was named after the native house of Ruđer Bošković (Croatian astronomer, poet, and scientist from the 18th century). Buža Gate was opened in the city walls in 1908.


Land Walls

The land part of the city walls stretches all the way from fort Bokar in the West to the Revelin fortress in the East. The walls on this side are 4m to 6m thick, and they reach up to 25m in height.

Fort Minčeta is located in the North part of the walls, facing towards the land. lt protected landward part of the City and it was the highest point in Dubrovnik defense system.

The walls are additionally protected with slanted protecting walls as a defense against artillery fire and possible Ottoman attacks.

There are four city gates that lead into the City: two that lead to the harbor and two to the mainland. Buža Gate was opened in the northern wall during the Austrian rule in 1908.

From this side, you will get an incredible view over the City’s red roofs, and the Adriatic sea in the back.

old town city walls

Gate of Pile

Pile Gate was built in the 14th century by Ivan of Siena. Today that is the main entrance into the Old Town and main street Stradun. There are Outer City Gate and the Inner City Gate. Outer City Gate was built in the 16th century (1537.) with a Renaissance arch.

 There is a wooden drawbridge that you have to cross so you can enter the Outer Gates. Inner Ploce Gate was built in the 15th century in Gothic style according to the prototype of Peskarija Gate in 1460. Above the gate, there is a Statue of St Blaise made by Croatian sculptor Ivan Meštorović.

The drawbridge was closed each night during the Dubrovnik Republic and nowadays the gates of Dubrovnik are always open to countless visitors.


Sea Walls

The walls on the seaside stretch from Fort Bokar in the West to the Fortress of St John in the South and all the way to the detached Revelin Fortress.

The sea facing walls are thick from 1,5 up to 5 m and their purpose was to defend the City from the possible attacks that were coming from the sea, especially from the Republic of Venice as the Venetians were often considered a threat to Dubrovnik’s safety.

City Harbour

The City harbor is located in the eastern part of the City and it is one of the oldest parts of Dubrovnik. It was built around Late Antique castle as well as Pre-Romanesque cathedral and Rector’s palace.

The harbour was designed and constructed by local engineer Paskoje Miličević in the late 15th century. It kept its looks until today – the same one can be seen on the palm of St Blaise in the triptych painted by artist Nikola Božidarević in the early 16th century.

The most prominent part of the harbour are three arches of the great arsenal that was built in the late 12th century. Today this arsenal houses City cafe and theatre.

As a part of the harbor, there is also Kaše jetty (or Kaše breakwater) that was also built by the design of Paskoje Miličević in the 15th century. Its purpose was to defend the harbor and protect it from the wind and waves. This jetty was constructed of huge blocks that were laid over wooden foundations without binder.

A bit further, next to the St John Fortress (initially called tower of Muo) is Porporela pier and a breakwater that was built in the 19th century. Porporela, along with the rest of the harbour, has become popular place that serves nowadays as the promenade and a tourist attraction.

There are two entrances to the city port area: the fish market gate, built in the 14th century, situated on the east side from the Great Arsenal and the other gate is Gate of Ponte, built in the 15th century, on the west side from the Great Arsenal.

city harbour