Old Town Dubrovnik, Part 3: The Old Harbor

Today, the medieval walled city of Old Town Dubrovnik is probably best known for being the setting of “King’s Landing” from the Game of Thrones television series. However, in addition to its famed city walls and main pedestrian street (The Stradun), another of the town’s most iconic settings is surely its Old Harbor, built in the late 15th century by Paskoje Miličević. Historically, being a major rival to the Venetian Republic, as both trade and diplomacy flourished within the city, the old harbor welcomed ships from both near and far, with Latin, Italian, and Croatian being commonly spoken.

The Old Harbor is also noticeably featured in a triptych created by the Gothic painter Nicholas of Ragusa around 1500 AD. This painted model of the harbor, currently located in the Dominican Church of Ragusa, is shown being held up by St. Blaise, the city’s patron saint.

Today, the Harbor, the oldest shipyard within Dubrovnik, continues to prominently feature numerous medieval sites which are popular with tourists:

  • A large Arsenal, with its three enormous arches, was originally built in the late 12th century, although today it hosts the City Café and a movie theatre (above, middle);
  • The Kaše Breakwater was built in 1485 to protect the harbor from south-easterly winds and waves;
  • The Porporela Pier, dating from 1873, is located next to the St. John Fortress (above, left); and,
  • A large Lazaretto, begun in 1590, was created to hold quarantined persons in the immediate vicinity of the city walls (above, bottom right). Like other lazaretti, it was fully equipped with its own designated staff of guards, gravediggers, cleaners, priests, and barbers. Being located next to the city’s main harbor and inland road connecting Dubrovnik to eastern cities, merchants, sailors, and travelers could therefore be sent directly into quarantine, without time-consuming transportation further inland or to one of the nearby islands.

As a side note, the word “quarantine” takes its name from the old isolation length of 40 days. Also, the city’s quarantine system, dating back to 1377, was the first of its kind in the world, since just a few decades before, in 1348, the Black Death is believed to have killed up to two-thirds of the Ragusa’s citizens!

  • Visited: Nov 2018
  • UNESCO: 1979


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