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Today’s size of the Dubrovnik walls was shaped in the 13th century. The walls were systematically updated and built up to 1660 when the last Bastion of St Stephan was finished in the southern segment of the walls. The 1940m long walls consist of the main city wall, sixteen towers, three fortresses, six bastions, two corner fortifications (’kantonate’), three bulwarks with rows of turrets, three moats, two flank fortresses, one breakwater, and two drawbridges. At some points up to 25 m high, the main wall is 4 – 6 m thick on the land side and 1,5 to 3 m on the seaside.

Today’s size of the Dubrovnik walls was shaped in the 13th century. The walls were systematically updated and built up to 1660 when the last Bastion of St Stephan was finished in the southern segment of the walls. The 1940m long walls consist of the main city wall, sixteen towers, three fortresses, six bastions, two corner fortifications (’kantonate’), three bulwarks with rows of turrets, three moats, two flank fortresses, one breakwater, and two drawbridges. At some points up to 25 m high, the main wall is 4 – 6 m thick on the land side and 1,5 to 3 m on the seaside.

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Numerous known and unknown domestic and foreign builders and excellent and famous masters contributed to its constructions, yet most of them will remain unknown forever. Among those we know are Paskoje Miličević, Nicifor Ranjina, Marin Držić, Župan Bunić, Miho Hranjac, Juraj Dalmatinac, Michelozzo di Bartolomeo Michelozzi of Florence, Onofrio, and Simeone della Cava, Antonio Ferramolino of Bergamo, Giovanni da Siena, Bernardino di Parma, Marcantonio Bettaci of Florence, Seporoso Mateucci of Fermo and Giovanni Baptista Zanchi of Pesaro.

In the mid-thirteenth century, when the Walls had reached their present scope, the defence rested on cold steel, defenders were located at the top of the walls, while crenels were opened only at strategic points, at the level of a raised ground floor. The City Walls ran almost in a straight line, they were vertical, high, and mighty for that period, and they ended with crenelated battlements. From the battlements ran a corridor supported by a system of consoles and small arches. Curtain walls were flanked by towers significantly higher than the walls. Towers were open towards the City, with no divisions in their interior, and with crenels at the level of a raised ground floor. They were accessed by ladders or a wooden platform.

At the time they achieved their present length the construction of those walls coincided with the late Romanesque period. Development of the war machines which greatly extended the reach of powerful arrows and stones demanded continual upgrading and height increases of the City Walls. The towers were closed, vaulted over, and their interior divided, and necessarily their height was considerably increased. The system of defence, however, had remained the same as in the preceding period. This phase in the development of the Walls corresponds with the Gothic period.

Firearms, which Dubrovnik was among the first to acquire, changed the ways of warfare and initiated a general reconstruction of the City’s fortification complex. The fortifications which up to that time were relatively high and not all that sturdy presented ideal targets for artillery, they were easily hit and brought down. Consequently, the walls were strengthened, doubled, and towers were partially filled with soil. The height of both the walls and the towers was significantly reduced. To accommodate heavy cannons wider platforms were formed, the fortresses were strengthened with casemates (vaulted niches), cannon embrasures were opened in towers, the battlements were formed of thick parapets, and in strategic places, their strength was boosted by strong raised walls cavaliers. Below the main City Wall strong outer walls with a string of torretas – low, semi-circular towers – were built. The outer walls are linked to the main Wall to facilitate defence and access. This phase in the development of the City Walls takes place in the Renaissance period.

In the seventeenth century the ongoing development of artillery, with the ever-increasing ranges and destructive power, resulted in some of the towers being filled with soil. Bastions, powerful pentagonal forts, level with the height of the curtain wall, were built on the main City Wall. Certain elements of a bastion are added to individual fortresses, such as orillon (an ear-shaped projection of masonry providing defence for guns) or a “beak”. But the method of defence had remained the same as in the preceding period. This final phase of development of the City Walls coincides with the transitional the period from the Renaissance into Baroque. All the cities and other major settlements in Europe, from the Iberian peninsula to the Nordic countries and the Balkans, and even further on to the Far East, have through their history been protected by walls, to preserve their safety. Their configuration developed depending on the building materials available and architectural designs produced.

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In that sense, the walls of Dubrovnik did not stand apart from other European towns, but the compactness and monumentality of its stone walls undoubtedly had a strong impact. Due to the high quality of stone used to build them, the walls have survived to this day in an almost original form, achieving a harmonious blend, indeed becoming one with the urban tissue of the City. So much so, that the folk of Dubrovnik did not allow a certain section of the Walls to be pulled down to ensure further unhindered development of the historic nucleus of the City.

The organization of defence of the City and its military structure was carefully thought out. Each fortress had its commander selected from the ranks of the aristocracy for one month. In the times of a threat of war, defence came under the command of the Governor of Arms, an experienced professional from the ranks of citizens or a foreigner, and two army generals selected among the elder members of the aristocracy. The walls were permanently guarded and supervised, and if there was a threat of war the army was initially formed from the local population, and then mercenaries, known as barabanti, were engaged, most of them strangers from the northern Croatia and Hungary.

All the efforts and centuries-long endeavors to keep the City Walls in step with the times and the warfare of the day were determined by the desire to preserve the freedom, celebrated in verses and songs, the most famous among them being the verses by Ivan Gundulić: “Oh beautiful, oh precious, oh sweet freedom, Thou art the gift of all the treasures Lord gave us…, And the City had successfully preserved its freedom until 1806 when Napoleon’s army occupied the City, abolished the Republic and in1814 handed Dubrovnik to the Austrian Empire. The Republic formally ceased to exist in 1815 following the Congress of Vienna and its territory became a part of the Habsburg Monarchy. From then on the towers and walls of Dubrovnik play a different role, they are being partitioned, a variety of objects are being interpolated into them, there were even attempts to have them pulled down. Protests and public discontent of the citizens of Dubrovnik managed to prevent that, but they were unable to stop the devastation and inappropriate construction on and within the walls.

The formation of the Society of Friends of Dubrovnik Antiquities in 1952 marked the beginning of systematic work on the renovation and restoration of the Walls of Dubrovnik to their original condition.

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Heritage

Society of Friends of Dubrovnik Antiquities

Gundulićeva poljana 2, 20000 Dubrovnik, Croatia

OIB: 68697988356 MB: 03305031

+385 (0)20 638 800

+385 (0)20 638 801

+385 (0)20 638 802

Fax: +385 (0)20 638 805

gradske.zidine@gmail.com

info@citywallsdubrovnik.hr

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Society of Friends of Dubrovnik Antiquities

Gundulićeva poljana 2, 20000 Dubrovnik, Croatia

OIB: 68697988356 MB: 03305031

+385 (0)20 638 800

+385 (0)20 638 801

+385 (0)20 638 802

Fax: +385 (0)20 638 805

gradske.zidine@gmail.com

info@citywallsdubrovnik.hr

Follow us:

InstagramYouTube