CULTURE SCIENCE AND ART OF THE REPUBLIC OF DUBROVNIK
The total phenomenon of Dubrovnik cannot
be encompassed without a more complete insight into its past which is not,
of course, exhausted by the political and economic facts on which the traditional
picture of the city's history is based. It is therefore necessary to touch,
albeit briefly, on the many levels of its past life, e.g. its architecture,
artistic and scientific achievements, everyday life, connections within the
Euro-Mediterranean cultural circle. All these segments of life interpenetrate
one another, depend on each other and stimulate each other, so that is would
be difficult to tell which is of greater value in our understanding of that
which we briefly term DUBROVNIK.
However, it may be determined that the city developed from two nuclei, one on the former islet of Lava, and one facing it on the location of the present Prijeko street, which was a Slavic settlement. During the period from the 10th to the 12th century the two settlements gradually merged by filling in the shallow channel between them, above which the city's main axis, the future main street - Placa - was to be built. There are too few remains from the early Middle Ages to enable us to form a reliable idea about the city, as it then was, its size and economic strength or its cultural level. The finds of the pre-Romanesque Early Croatian church of StStephen (Sveti Stjepan), probably dating from the 7th/8th century, and mentioned by the Byzantine Emperor-writer Constantine Porphyrogenitus, is of special interest. In the northern part of the city there were three small churches (St. Luke, St. Nicholas, Sigurata) built in the style of Early Croatian architecture from the period between the 9th and 12th centuries.
Early medieval Dubrovnik must have had its cultural and scholarly ties and needs. It is known that Dubrovnik had contacts with centers on the opposite shore of the Adriatic very early on. It doubtlessly also maintained active ties with the other cities of Byzantine Dalmatia, as well as with those in the center of the Emipre. A representative of Imperial power and a high-ranking church dignitary dwelt in the city. The temporal and ecclesiastical authorities had needs which could not be met in the city. For example, most of the objects used in liturgy could not have been made by local craftsmen, e.g. parts of the reliquary of St. Blaise, still kept in the Cathedral treasury.
Apart from the clergy, the city's development required an increasing number of educated men able to channel the community's desires towards the constitution of a free municipality. Such a task required men skilled in government, lawmaking, diplomacy, teaching, etc. Throughout its history Dubrovnik fulfilled a part of these needs through the lively movement of men in the Mediterranean, but the greatest part, through the exigencies of development, had to be undertaken by local people.
On the ethnic and cultural level, very early on there was an active intermingling of the city's Roman and Slavic components. True, the Slavic component was eventually to prevail, but unique new values were to arise from the union of the two. It should not be forgotten that all this took place in the context of strong and unavoidable Mediterranean interconnections and in the shadow of the Greek and Roman heritage which Croatian Dubrovnik indubitably carried on from the 14th century down to the dawn of the modern age.
In 1272 the National Assembly confirmed the eight books of Dubrovnik's statute. The city thus gained its fundamental law, which codified legal norms for the most varied fields of activity: the development of the city, government, the administration of justice, trades, commerce, seafaring, domestic and foreign policy, etc. The customs statute was adopted five years later. By these legal acts, the Dubrovnik municipality fulfilled one of the basic prerequisites of its development.
The oldest notaries books, which have been preserved in the archives of Dubrovnic, date from 1278. The archival material carefully collected and preserved through the centuries is not only invaluable for research into the history of Dubrovnik, but also indispensable for writing the history of the countries in its Slavic hinterland. This exceptional cultural and scholarly institution, situated in the Sponza palace, still attracts leading world historians. It is no accident that F. Braudel, the greatest historian of this century, wrote that it was only when he worked in the Historical Archives in Dubrovnik that he came to realize the mutual interconnectedness of the Mediterranean.
The frequent destruction to which Dubrovnik was subjected due to its geographical location in an area often hit by earthquakes, as well as the great damage caused by frequent fires, which were common in medieval cities, have made it impossible to gain a complete insight into entire periods of material and spiritual culture. For example, there are no considerable remains of Romanesque buildings, of which there are known to have been many.
The documents which have been preserved mention not only foreign architects but also, with increasing frequency, the names of local people who started to play an equal part in building and decorating the city, even in the case of the most prestigious buildings, such as the church of St. Blaise (Sv. Vlaho). The best-preserved ensemble built in the 14th/15th centuries is the Franciscan monastery of the Friars Minor. The Gothic church was lost completely in the reconstruction after the earthquake, but the beautiful cloister in the Romanesque-gothic style, with ornaments carved on the hex styles by Mihoje Brajkov of Bar, have been preserved. The late gothic portal with a Pieta, the work of the brothers L. and p- Petrovic, is especially noteworthy. The Friars Minor had a pharmacy and a library. The Franciscan pharmacy was started in 1317 and is considered to be the oldest pharmacy in Europe which has been open continuously. The library holds, among other valuable objects, an incomparable collection of manuscripts, without which research on early Croatian literature cannot be imagined, and to which we are indebted for our knowledge of numerous works of art. The Dominican monastery, first mentioned in the early 13th century, acquired its final form mainly in the 14th/16th centuries. The church, built in the transitional Romanesque-gothic style, underwent extensive reconstruction during the rebuilding after the earthquake. At the same time the originally gothic bell tower, built by local architects, acquired some baroque elements. Local stone-masons also made the beautiful late gothic tripartite windows dating from the 14th/15tn century.
The general cultural progress founded on the increasingly prosperous economy of the Republic is also evident in the development of education. Along with the private tutors and monastery schools which had existed previously, and of which there must have been many, from 1333 we find the first mention of a public city school. The curriculum and method of education were like those found in the contemporary institutions of other European cities. Its activity, in which an important role was played by foreign teachers such as Phillip de Diversis (1434-1441) contributed significantly to the introduction of humanist ideas into this mercantile Republic on the eastern Adriatic.
Onofrio della Cava built the Rector's Palace (Knezev dvor) in the gothic style in the 15th century. As early as 1463 an explosion of gunpowder in a ground-floor storeroom opened up the question of the restoration of this prestigious public building. Thus the Rector's Palace acquired a Renaissance layer and a unique fusion of the two styles was achieved. The palace thus created became the basic architectural model for all the buildings erected in Dubrovnik's golden age (15th and 16th centuries). In accordance with the most advanced sanitary standards of the time, the city was provided with spring water in the 15th century. The above-mentioned Onofrio, who completed it successfully with two city fountains, carried out this great undertaking. The sculptures on the smaller of these are by Pietro da Milano.
In the same century, Anthony of Dubrovnik (Antun Dubrovcanin) and Bonino da Milano erected Orlando's pillar - the symbol of the judicial independence of Dubrovnik. Beside the famous statue of St. Blaise, made by Juraj Dalmatinac for the Senate of the Republic, two significant works of sculpture dating from the 16th century have been preserved. These are St. Blaise and St. Jerome by Nicholas(Nikola) Lazanic from Brac, today kept in the church of Dubrovnik's patron saint.
At this time the city walls acquired, on the whole, their final form. Due to great military technological innovations and increase singly effective artillery weapons, extensive construction and reconstruction were required. The Republic commissioned the highly reputable architects M. Michelozzi and J. Dalmatinac to carry out this task.
The pride and glory of local architecture - the Sponza Palace - was built in the early 16th century. Paskoje Milicevic designed it in a style, which was still transitional gothic-Renaissance, but with marked Renaissance characteristics.
Of special interest and cultural-historical value are the town palaces dating from the 15th and 16th century, as well as the numerous villas of the Dubrovnik aristocracy scattered about the state's territory on the mainland and the islands. These summer residences are especially admirable for the layout of their gardens and the sophisticated attitude of their architects and users to the natural environment. The palaces and villas provided space for almost any kind of cultural activity - the isolation needed for composing works of literature, space for theatre performances and concerts, literary salons for philosophical and scholarly conversation, places for painters to work in.
The 15th and 16th centuries saw a blossoming of local painting. A school of painting developed based on Italian gothic painting and the Byzantine tradition, but a unique quality characteristic of the Dubrovnic school was achieved. Few works have been preserved, but several strong artistic personalities can be singled out - Lovro Dobricevic, Blaz Jurjev, Nikola Bozidarevic, Mihajlo Hamzic. With the decline of the local school the import of paintings intensified, primarily from Italy. Numerous works of art arrived in Dubrovnik, the remains of which testify to the taste of its inhabitants and the extent of their wealth. Two works from Tizian's workshop have been preserved.
In the mid-15th century Benko Kotruljevic completed his well-known treatise "On Trade and the Perfect Merchant", the earliest known scholarly treatise written in Dubrovnik. This is one of the earliest microeconomic scientific dissertations presenting an innovation by the author, which is still in use today - double entry bookkeeping. If one remembers the prosperous economy of Dubrovnik it is hardly surprising that the first scholarly treatise should be concerned with economic science. The scientific interests of Nikola Sagroevic were also connected to practical goals. His posthumously published work "High and Low Tides in the Ocean Sea" (1574) contains an attempt to explain the causes of natural phenomena and the port timetables of French and English ocean ports.
The humanist spirit provided an impulse to men of letters to write not only Latin poetry, but also works in the Croatian language. The late 15th century saw the rise of the first known men of letters, the poets Dj. Drzic and 3. Mencetic. The following century brought with it a blossoming of literature - the literary language was perfected, the number of literary forms and authors multiplied, the literary value of the works increased. The magnificent figure of the comedy playwright and poet Marin Drzic eclipses such significant personalities as the poet M. Vetranovic and the comedy playwright N. Naljeskovic. The high literary value of his opus sets him apart from the corpus of Croatian literature and ranks him among the foremost European writers. The comedy "Dundo Maroje", which was first performed in the Dubrovnik Town Hall in 1551, was rediscovered as a work to be included in the theatre repertoire in 1938, thereafter gaining acceptance in theatres throughout Europe and the world. Towards the end of his life the great writer became politically active, attempting to change the social and political system of the Dubrovnik Republic with the help of a foreign power. Regardless of the various, frequently ideologically colored, interpretations of this act, we can say that M. Drzic proved to be as inept a politician as he was great a writer.
In the following literary epoch, the outstanding figures were one of the greatest Croatian lyric poets, Dj. Bunic Vucic, the melodramatist Dj. Palmotic, and Ivan Gundulic (1589-1638). This distinguished aristocrat left us three great works, the epic poem Osman, the pastoral play "Dubravka" and the religious epic poem "The Tears of the Prodigal Son". Acclaimed during his lifetime, he again became popular during the 19th-century Romantic-nationalist movements.
The literature of Dubrovnik developed and matured within the typical horizons of a communal society. Connected by multiple ties to the literature written in other Dalmatian cities, it was part of the entire corpus of early Croatian literature. However, the political and economic, and consequently the cultural downfall of the east-Adriatic municipalities, brought about the literary isolation of Dubrovnic. Even so, the consciousness of the unity of the cultural environment survived, and the literature of Dubrovnik, achieving, at its best, a literary merit of European significance, preserved a continuity of literary expression in the Croatian language.
Another famous citizen of Dubrovnik is Marin Getaldic (Getaldus), the physicist and mathematician. His business led him to travel through Europe, where he formed numerous acquaintances among scientists and joined in the scientific life of Antwerp, London, Paris, and Rome. The Republic commissioned him to work on the fortifications, but also employed him as a diplomat. While staying in Constantinople as an envoy bringing tribute to the Porte, he calculated the city's geographical latitude and evinced an interest in Greek translations of the works of Arab mathematicians. His famous parabolic mirror is today kept in the Maritime Museum in Greenwich.
The great earthquake of 1667 made a sharp break in the entire history of the Dubrovnik Republic. Much of the architectural heritage was destroyed, and entire libraries of manuscripts, numerous paintings and objects of art were lost in the fires accompanying the cataclysm.. The state also lost between 1/3 and 2/3 of its inhabitants, which inevitably had a grievous effect in all fields of activity. The flourishing economy, which had, in Dubrovnik's golden age, provided the material basis of cultural and scientific efforts, already seriously weakened by the recession of the Mediterranean, now suffered a heavy and almost irreparable blow. In these terrifying conditions, in which proposals were even put forward to abandon the city, the ancient Republic displayed an enviable vitality. The Senate undertook an energetic reconstruction of the city. A new cathedral had to be built, the Rector's Palace had to be rebuilt, whole residential blocks had to be erected...
The human losses suffered in the earthquake meant that this work had to be entrusted mostly to foreigners, and the then prevailing style in architecture - baroque - was dictated by the epoch. The cathedral was built in the Roman baroque style according to the designs of A. Buffalini. It was consecrated in 1713. The Jesuit church was built in the same style according to the design of A. Pozza (1725). The frescoes in its interior were painted by the Spaniard G. Garcia and represent scenes in the life of St. Ignatius. The lovely steps leading from today's Gunduliceva poljana to Boskoviceva poljana, the site of the Jesuit church and the famous Dubrovnik college, were built according to the design of the Roman architect P. Passalaque. The church of St. Blaise (Sv. Vlaho) was destroyed by a great fire in the early 18th century, and the present church was built by M. Gropelli (1707-1715) in the Venetian baroque manner.
In the mid-17th century education in Dubrovnik, as in other European countries, was taken over by the Jesuits. The famous Italian historian and man of letters L. Beccadelli, who was made Archbishop of Dubrovnik as a result of political intrigues on the Appenine peninsula, had attempted to introduce this order into the Republic for this purpose in the previous century. The Archbishop was immortalized in a portrait by Tizian which is now the pride and glory of the Ufizzi Gallery in Florence. One of the students of the Jesuit College in Dubrovnik attained world fame. This was the mathematician, geodesist and philosopher Rudjer Boskovic (1711 - 1787). His scientific interest led him to leave his hometown early on, but he kept close ties with his family and his homeland throughout his life. The Republic often made use of his reputation as a scientist and his diplomatic services. He traveled from London, where he became a member of the prestigious Royal Society, to Constantinople, Poland, France, Vienna, Italian cities. His masterpiece is the work "Philosopfiae naturalis Theoria", printed in Vienna in 1759.
Although he won acclaim for his work during his lifetime, it is only in this century that his opus has found its most enthusiastic advocates. There is a prevailing opinion that his philosophic ideas belong to the epoch ahead of us. The growing European interest in science manifested itself in Dubrovnik also. At the close of the age of science, Francophile intellectuals gathered in learned societies in sympathy with European spiritual movements, the ideas of the Enlightenment, but also the ideas of the French Revolution. The most prominent member of the Academy was the landowner T. Basiljevic who dreamed of a gradual reform of the social and political system of the Republic in accordance with the ideas of the new age. In the 18th century Dubrovnik finally, after a series of much -valued analysts, gained its first critical historian, who made use of the abundant material in the state archives. The authorities, just like the authorities of today, sometimes limited the availability of certain documents and censored his work. His chief work is "Sacra Metropolis Ragusina".
The cultural life of Dubrovnik in its last century of freedom seems to have been of intensity comparable to that of its illustrious past. Not long after the earthquake, the Senate finally established the first permanent theatre in Orsan. The most frequently performed plays were translations and adaptations of Moliere's works. Professional Italian traveling theatre companies soon replaced them. In the last years of independence, a truly marvelous comedy entitled "Kate Kapuralica" was written by Vlaho Stulli. This work, imbued with the sensibility of the new age, contains no premonition of the almost violent end of the Republic's theatrical life. The greatest 18th century lyric poet was I. Dordic, followed by Marko Bruerovic. He was the son of the French Consul in Dubrovnic, brought up in Dubrovnik's cultural environment and, in spite of his father's disapproval, he became an author within the Croatian literary tradition and, moreover, an advocate of the purity of the Croatian literary language. The vitality of Dubrovnik's literary milieu thus clearly manifested itself yet again.
Dubrovnik was also a musical city. Well-known 18th-century composers are Luka and Antun Sorkocevic and there was also a Rector's State Orchestra. Systematic research on this least preserved and least written about segment of Dubrovnik's heritage is only just beginning.
The political downfall of the Republic meant the disappearance of its own culture, which became but a precious heritage of the city and of Croatian culture. By the themes he dealt with this heritage also includes the great Croatian dramatist from Dubrovnik, Ivo Vojnovic (1857-1929). It was only in the 20th century, when the Dubrovnik Summer Festival was established, that the ample heritage of the city was revived, set and performed against the unique backdrop of the city, thus again becoming a living influence in culture and art.
This text is from the book "This is Dubrovnik" (copyright(c) ITVM LTD. Dubrovnik. Author of the text is Ivica Prlender)