If you visit Dubrovnik today you will see the city’s history still living and breathing in every street, church and building, as it looks the same today as it did centuries ago.
But much of Dubrovnik’s history are tales of survival against all the odds.
Most of the buildings in Dubrovnik have their own stories to tell and a lot of them are about earthquakes!
Earthquakes are not uncommon in Croatia because of its position on the boundary of a tectonic microplate and the Eurasian Plate. But there were three particularly bad earthquakes in its 2,400-year history and the worst was in 1667.
Almost all the buildings in the city were destroyed and nearly half of the whole population were killed. Interestingly, the Church of St, Saviour which had been built as a symbol of thanks for protecting the people in the 1520 earthquake, survived intact and is still there today.
Terrible anarchy followed the earthquake with fire and robbery taking over the orderly city because the government had largely been wiped out.
Later a powerful tsunami devastated the poor and everything nearby was flooded. Adding to the chaos, fires from houses and bakeries were fueled by strong wind and it took 20 days to put the fires out.
The baroque style architecture you see today is what was built from the rubble of that fateful day on April 6.
In May 1806, Napoleon’s forces tricked the city by requesting to be allowed to rest and given refreshments before continuing in their mission. In fact, as soon as they entered the city they occupied it in the name of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Soon after Russian and Montenegrin armies followed and proceeded to battle the French, raiding and pillaging along the way. Dubrovnik ended up in a siege with 3000 cannonballs landing on the city.
In 1808 the republic was abolished and Dubrovnik became part of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy.
After seven years of occupation, all the social classes of the Republic had had enough. Many of the French soldiers had deserted the republic and so the people rose up against Napoleon’s invaders, led by the ruling class once again.
On 18 June 1813, they joined with British forces and forced the surrender of the French garrison on the islands of Šipan, Lopud and the town Ston. Next, they laid siege to the occupied city and soon everyone inside the city walls joined the fight.
Although the insurrection was a success, victory was short-lived. Austrian forces tricked the temporary governor by getting him to keep the gate to the east closed when the French garrison troops surrendered.
Their real intention was to replace the French occupation.
Despite never signing away sovereignty, the republic was never restored and Dubrovnik became part of the Austrian Empire for most of the 19th and 20th century.
Today, Dubrovnik is a thriving city but everywhere you go there are clues to a rich past, both good and bad. Explore Dubrovnik in the present and learn about why this incredible city has an important place in the history of civilisation.