Dubrovnik Cathedral is officially known as the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, and dates back to the 12th century, although the remains of former cathedrals dating back to the 7th century have been found beneath the current one. Richard the Lionheart is said to have provided the money for its construction as a way of thanking God for his survival following his being shipwrecked off Dubrovnik in 1192 on his return from the Third Crusade. The current cathedral was built between 1673 and 1713, following the previous cathedral’s destruction in an earthquake in 1667.
The cathedral suffered slight damaged during the Siege of Dubrovnik (1 October 1991 – 31 May 1992) during the Croatian War of Independence: The damage has subsequently been repaired
The design of the cathedral consists of a domed three naves building. The main door of the front facade is flanked by four Corinthian columns. Situated over the door is a large Baroque window with a triangular gable and a balustrade with statues of saints. Either side are deep niches which contain a statue of Saint Blaise – the patron saint of Dubrovnik - and a statue of Joseph with Child. The sides of the cathedral are plain, but contain pillars and semi-circular windows.
Inside the building is a high nave, containing two aisles, with large columns. The cathedral has three apses and a Baroque dome at the intersection of the nave and the transepts. It also contains a number of altars
The main altar holds a polyptych (a painting, typically an altarpiece, consisting of more than three leaves or panels joined by hinges or folds.) by Titian, portraying a version of the Assumption of the Virgin. Dating from around 1552, it was moved to the cathedral from the church of St. Lazarus, which was also devastated in the earthquake, to its current place in the Cathedral.
The side altars hold paintings of Italian and Dalmatian masters of later centuries.
The altar of St. John is made from purple marble in Nordic-Baroque style. The votive altar of Our Lady of the Port was used by seamen and their families who commonly prayed at the altar and left jewellery as an offering to keep them safe whilst at sea. A collection of coral jewellery can still be seen, as coral jewellery was produced in the time of the Dubrovnik Republic.
The Altar of "Petilovrijenci" is dedicated to three Montenegro martyr saints whose bones were brought from Montenegro to Dubrovnik. Originally their remains have been kept in the Church of Petilovrijenci but the church had been badly damaged in the Great Earthquake of 1667. The relics were brought as an attraction to encourage pilgrims to come to Dubrovnik
The Treasury of Dubrovnik Cathedral was, prior to the Great earthquake of 1667, one of the richest on the Adriatic coast. Many items were saved, and these include sacral dishes from 13th to 18th century, a number of paintings of extraordinary value, from the Romanesque-Byzantine icon of the Virgin with Child from the 13th century to the paintings by Padovanini, Palma il Giovane, Savoldo, Parmigianino, P. Bordone and others, and the head, the arm and leg of St. Blaise.
Church of St. Francis
The Church of St Francis with its tall bell tower is part of a complex which also includes a monastery, library and a pharmacy. Located in the main street (Stradun) near the entrance gate, it dates back to the 14th century, although an earlier monastery existed just outside the gate in the 13th century. The church was destroyed in then rebuilt following the great earthquake of 1667.
On the façade running along the Stradun there are two doors. Above one of the doors there is a decorative portal which is the only external element from the pre 1667 church. This is in the Gothic style and dates from 1498. It contains a life sized Pieta (the Virgin Mary holding the body of Jesus on her knees) flanked by statues of St Jerome - who is holding a model of the original church - and St John the Baptist. On the top of the decorative gable is a statue of God the Father creator.
The interior of the church has a single nave and is in the Baroque style. It contains a marble pulpit which is from the original church. The main altar has a statue of the resurrected Christ between four twisted marble columns and dates from 1713. The church also contains five side altars which were sculpted between 1684 and 1696 by the Venetian Giuseppe Sardi. The altar of St. Francis with its decorations were painted in 1888 by the Croatian painter Celectin Medovic.
At the rear of the church is the cloister of the monastery. The monastery is in Romanesque style, and was built in 1360. It contains two cloisters with 120 columns, each with a different capital, and 12 pilasters, which surround a small garden containing a fountain. The library was added to the complex in the 17th century and contains over 20,000 books and 1200 valuable manuscripts. The library and the bell tower were damaged during the 1991 war and subsequently repaired. The pharmacy, which is the third oldest, and still functioning, pharmacy in the world, dates from 1317.