Location: west entrance to Old City
Built: 14. century
- built on 37 meter high cliff
- 4 – 12 meters thich walls
- carved subscripion “Freedom should not be sold for any gold in the world”
Served as: protection fortress; prison
Currently serves: for theater performances and various events
The location of the fort Lovrjenac is as specific as the Fort itself. If you view it from above you will notice its position on the western side outside the long city walls that embrace the whole town. If you approach Dubrovnik from the sea, Fort Lovrjenac stands in front of you like a huge vessel, an imposing colossus sprawling on its rocky base above the sea, dominating the City of Dubrovnik and the whole area.
The Fortress is as simple in structure as its original function required. Nevertheless it bursts with character. The huge vaults surround the central open-air courtyard in the ground floor and give it special charm. The upper floors carry three large platform-terraces overlooking the ancient city within eyeshot, as well as the open sea.
The stronghold was erected on a steep 37 m high rock near to the western entrance to the city to guard and defend the small harbour below and the city itself. Today that lofty relic of the mighty city-state displays its interesting interior and large open-air terraces for various entertainments. So the past receives the face of the future in its best sense.
Some chroniclers mention the first fortress as early as in the 11thcentury. But certain documents provide information about its first construction at the beginning of the 14th century. Its position was very important for defence so the fortress was enlarged and strengthened ever since its foundation with many alterations and additions that made it strong and powerful. It gained its shape through several stone staircases, terraces, sentinels, battlements, loops, underpinnings, connecting passageways, an accessible draw bridge, water-wells, grain and oil storages, side rooms and a chapel. It was built through the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries in response to the frequent threats (mostly by Venetians and Turks) and the development of weapons.
As a defensive stronghold, positioned on a very important strategic spot during the times of Dubrovnik Republic, Lovrjenac was the home of the guard. It was a garrison of some 20 – 25 soldiers and a noble commander with a mandate of one month. Therefore among other modest facilities, a small chapel of St. Lovro (St. Laurence) was built inside those might thick walls. The Fort was named after it and the cosy intimate chapel is still preserved to this day. The turbulent times of Dubrovnik’s history required God’s blessing in prayers and the soldiers, being closed inside that mystical labyrinth with large vaults and the outside walls of 4 – 12 meters thickness on an isolated rock, had to have a place of tranquillity and silence. It was wise of the City government to keep its soldiers in good conditions while protecting its residents, as the Government was very concerned about the importance of freedom. The best proof of this is the Latin subscription placed above the entrance to the Fort which says: “NON BENE PRO TOTO LIBERTAS VENDITUR AURO” (Freedom should not be sold for any gold in the world). And the stone statue of St. Blasius above was also of a great importance, as the Patron Saint’s role was to protect and to bless.
When Napoleon’s army arrived in 1806, it was the end of 450 years of independence in the Dubrovnik Republic. The French flag was the first foreign flag to flutter on this Fort. Then the Austrian Monarchy came in 1815 and stayed for another hundred years. The city walls and fortifications lost their original guard and defence function. Lovrjenac was used as an army barrack and shortly afterwards as catering facilities, then in 1933 the PEN World Congress took place there. In 1942, during the Second World War, Dubrovnik was under Italian rule for a year and Lovrjenac was made into a prison. Nowadays, when Lovrjenac attracts numerous visitors who climb the steep steps to enjoy the city roofs drowning in the pinkish wash of a sunset or the sound of waves that brush against the rocks with the song of seagulls, we can say that the past does receive the admiration of the present.
Once echoing with the military spirit and severe discipline of the soldiers and watchmen, this fortress was conquered by the Danish Prince Hamlet in 1952, the only time in all its history. It became an exclusive actors’ residence, a Croatian Ellsinore where Hamlet succeeds in fascinating his viewers in the open air in a magical atmosphere, permeated with history, drama and destiny. A performance in the fort Lovrjenac is a real celebration. The stage, illuminated by stars, is a dream which became reality and the audience sits in a huge stone cube, high above the sea. The resulting emotion is indescribable. The Fort hides so many surprises, so many secrets, it does not need a theatre curtain or reflectors. The centuries have created a unique setting and harmony among the stone patina, the sea murmurs and the sky leaves its scent. The Summer Festival of Dubrovnik has hosted many domestic and foreign actors over the last 53 years since it began (some Hamlets have been English actors) in the magnificent authentic setting of the ancient Fortress, awarding it with the best role in its entire history as the cultural and artistic residence for the art lovers from all over the world.
The luxurious open stage of high potential has welcomed other famous Shakespearean plays, too, like the Macbeth, Richard II, Richard III, King Lear, Julius Caesar, but also works of Euripides, Pirandello, Moliere, Brecht, to mention a few, as well as many Croatian playwrights, offering unforgettable cultural enjoyments to its spectators over the years.
Recently the fort Lovrjenac offers its hospitality to the other important events like Medieval Gala Dinners in original costumes and ceremonial luxurious weddings of the world’s celebrities (actors, singers, sportsman etc. ). But this lonely isolated masterpiece of the Dubrovnik fortresses shows real dignity, never losing its high valued status and pride of a top ranked historical monument among Croatian and world treasonable cultural heritage.
Author: Kate Bagoje