St. Dominic’s Monastery belongs to the Dominican Order or the Order of Preaching Friars (lat. Ordo Fratrum Praedicatorum). The Order was founded by St. Dominic in 1215 in order to spread the Gospel by the power of ‘the living and written word as well as through personal life”. To get to the monastery, walk down the main street called Placa or Stradun, go through the big gate below the town bell-tower and turn left into St. Dominic street. There you see a beautiful, rather steep set of steps with a banister made of small Gothic pillar. These steps take you to a small square with the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary on your left and the churches of St. Sebastian and St. Dominic on your right, all forming a harmonious architectural whole.
THE BEGINNINGS OF THE DOMINICANS IN DUBROVNIK
The Dominicans, or the ‘Black Friars’, came to Dubrovnik almost by accident, soon after the founding of the Order. Around 1225, a group of them was sent on a voyage from Italy to Palestine by the Master of the Order Jordan of Saxony, and they made a stop at Dubrovnik. Hearing their intellectual and inspired sermons, the state and church representatives asked them to settle in Dubrovnik. In accordance with the principle of the Order that a House of God should be built before thinking of one’s own accommodation, the Dominicans decided at the beginning of the 14th century to build a new church. The vision of the Order demanded a careful choice of site for the monasteries. In addition, they had to avoid all forms of luxury, to be simple, functional and dignified, for that is one of the ways to perfection. These were the criteria upon which the monastery in Dubrovnik was built.
THE OLDEST MONASTERY IN DUBROVNIK
The Dominican Monastery in Dubrovnik is a cultural and religious monument of the highest category in the Republic of Croatia because of its age and the specific mission of its members. It is a rich treasury of history and art, also the oldest monastery in Dubrovnik.
THE FIRST PUBLIC LIBRARY, THE FIRST PUBLIC GRAMMAR SCHOOL
In 1520, a public library, the first of its kind in the Balkans, was opened in the north wing of the monastery in an effort to make knowledge available to all. In 1626, the first public grammar school was opened on the ground floor of the monastery; it was open to all, regardless of their class or financial status. This school issued Croatia’s first Orthography and Grammar, which was published in 1639 by professor Rajmund Džamanjić. The Dominicans were also the pioneers of biography as a historical and scientific discipline. They were involved in it for two centuries before anyone else, laying the foundations for encyclopedic work in Croatia.
HEALTH FOR ALL THE CITIZENS
In the 17th century the Dominicans turned their grammar school into a public pharmacy. They produced medicines that were either sold or given for free to the poor and needy. DIPLOMACY Many prominent Dominicans contributed to the religious, cultural, scientific and diplomatic developments of Dubrovnik and Croatia. The freedom and independence of the Republic of Dubrovnik was often kept intact thanks to the diplomatic services of the Dominicans. Serafin M. Crijević (1680-1759), an eminent historian, wrote that the monastery had a ‘prophetic quality’ that attracted the inhabitants of Dubrovnik to go there and seek solutions to their disputes and dilemmas.
While domestic painting stagnated in the Dalmatian towns under Venice, it reached a high point in both quality and originality in the free city of Dubrovnik. This brought about ‘the Dubrovnik School of Painting’, which was very different from other schools of painting at that time. Aware of their significance, Dubrovnik’s painters founded a guild in the Dominican monastery in 1480. This was the oldest guild among the Slavs at that time.
IMPORTANCE FOR THE CITY
The significance of the monastery for Dubrovnik can be seen in Dubrovnik’s efforts to protect it in case of attack on the city. Initially, the church and the monastery complex were positioned in the north-east part of the city, beyond the city walls. In 1378, there was the danger that Dubrovnik would be drawn into the war between Venice and Genoa which was taking place on the Adriatic, so the existing walls were strengthened and new ones built, and the monastery was finally within the city walls.Back to top