Amazing History: Legendary Citizens

Mar 1, 2021 | 0 comments

Dubrovnik has become a must-see city for tourists all over the world.  Steeped in centuries of history, visitors can experience medieval Dubrovnik for themselves as the buildings and streets are the same as those used by people since the 12th century.


The city has also been the home and birthplace of some of history’s most fascinating and important people.


Perhaps the most important of all is Ruder Boskovic, a world-renowned mathematician, astronomer, philosopher and physicist.  Boskovic was a Jesuit Priest and lived in the Jesuit complex that still dominates Ruder Boskovic Square in the city.


Boskovic is famous for discovering a way to measure the equators of plants, learning that there is no atmosphere on the moon and also a way to determine the orbit of a planet.


And he did all that whilst working as a civil servant for the republic’s government.


Onofrio De La Cava was an Italian master builder but his work in Dubrovnik can still be seen today. Whilst the Onofrio fountain is a selfie-hotspot these days, the man himself performed an incredible feat of engineering for the times he lived in.


In the 15th century, Dubrovnik was a bustling commerce city, filled with citizens and visiting merchants which was starting to put too much demand on available water, especially in the long, dry summer months.


Onofrio was contracted to build an aqueduct to bring in water from a village called Sumet 12 kilometres away.  The problem he faced was the difference in height between the source of the water and Dubrovnik which was around 20 metres.


Onofrio succeeded and brought water to the city using only gravity and natural drop instead of a cistern that other cities still used to catch rainwater.  Not much good in hot, dry climates.


The aqueduct was so important to the city that guards were assigned along the whole 12km and a city official would walk the length every week to look for problems. 


Citizens were encouraged to report farmers stealing water along the aqueduct with a financial reward.


As well as notable scientists and engineers, Dubrovnik hosted many important writers and poets. 


Marin Držić is considered to be one of the finest Renaissance playwright and prose writers of Croatian literature. Although a prolific writer and a master of many styles, his comedies are among the best in European renaissance literature.


Of course, like many artists, Marin was a complex character.  Although born to a noble family, he was somewhat of a rebel, with the gift of charm.  He had connections to Dubrovnik outlaws and once was determined to overthrow the government because he didn’t like the tyrannical aristocracy.  He wrote 5 times to the powerful Medici family in Florence for help but they didn’t reply.  This was fortunate for Marin because conspiracy against the government meant the death penalty.


Our next legendary artist was the beautiful Cvijeta Zuzorić, a lyric poet who wrote in Italian, Latin and Croatian.


As a well-educated woman, her home was a widely known literary academy and many authors and artists were invited there.  Although her work has not survived, she has been mentioned in countless poems by her contemporaries and in the sonnets of the Italian poet Torquato Tasso who had never even met her.


Next is Ivan Gundulić whose statue can be seen in Gundulić  Square in the city.  This 18th-century poet was born to a nobleman but lived like a monk.  His musical composition Hymn of Freedom has become a Dubrovnik anthem and is sung on special occasions after the Croatian national anthem.


Ivan held many official positions in the city including senator and judge and had he lived longer, would have been elected Rector at least once due to his position in the society.


Wherever you go in Dubrovnik today, you’ll find statues and busts that celebrate the incredible people that influenced the world with their art. 


You can experience the world they lived in as their homes and places of work still stand proudly in the 21st century.