Dominican monastery is located at the eastern part of The City, close to the inner Ploce gate where it merges with the City walls. Dominican monastery is one of the most important architectural parts of Dubrovnik and major treasury of cultural and art heritage in Dubrovnik as the museum of the monastery exhibits many paintings, artifacts, jewellery and other items from the rich history of Dubrovnik.
The Dominicans established their monastery in Dubrovnik as early as 1225, however the building of the current church and the monastery were completed in the 14th century. The sight chosen for the monastery was strategically one of the most sensitive points in the defence of Dubrovnik, hence as early as the 14th century the whole complex was encompassed by the City walls thus becoming an integral part of Dubrovnik.
The St. Dominic church is is of simple Gothic architectural design: hall-like with a pentagonal Gothic apse which is separated from the central area by three high, Gothic arched, openings. The high rising outer walls of the church are bare, without any ornaments. The portal on the southern side contains certain Romanesque characteristics as the case is that only in 1419 Bonino of Milan added to the existing Romanesque frame a pointed Gothic arched ending.
The interior of the church is richly decorated. However the most notable piece is the large golden Crucifix in the central arch above the main altar, a work of Paolo Veneziano, from the 14th century. Besides Christ the crucifix symbolically depicts the four Evangelists in the corners of the crucifix. Below the crucifix are mourning characters of Mary and St Joseph depicted in the recognizable Byzantine-gothic style.
The monastery complex acquired its final shape in the 15th century, when the vestry, the capital hall and the cloister were added.
The beautiful porches of the cloister were built between 1456 and 1483. The porches were built by local builders: Utišenović, Grubačević, Radmanović, and others from the designs of the Florentine architect Massa di Bartolomeo. The arches of the cloister are closed with beautiful, Gothic and Renaissance styled, triforiums. In the middle of the courtyard is a richly decorated stone well crown. The courtyard of the monastery is a like a green oasis under the summer sun as the green vegetation is breathing freshness hence giving out a soothing and refreshing feel almost like the mid-summer breeze.
In the east part of monastery complex the Capital hall is located. Monastery community used to hold their meetings in this hall. The hall was built by reputed Dubrovnik architect Božitko Bogdanović.To enter the hall from the cloister one has to pass through the Gothic stylised doors. On the sides are two bifurcated arches with removed pointy ends while the pavement contains around 30 gravestones from the 15th and 16th century. The back room contains the Renaissance sarcophagus of the bishop of Ston while in the front are the graves of noble Dubrovnik families, the most notable being the grave of poets Dinko Ranjina, and Junije Palmotić.
Moving from the Capital hall to the south one reaches a spacious gothic-roofed chapel and the vestry. The inscription on the wall tells the story that the vestry was built in 1485 by the famous Dubrovnik architect Paskoje Miličević who also arranged the port in the same year. The final resting place of this great Dubrovnik architect is located in this vestry he had built. The vestry with founding columns which hold up the belfry were built by order of the Gundulić family. Beside the vestry by the order of Syracuse merchant Giovanni Sparterius, builder Bartul Garcianus made a chapel with circular window, decorated with gothic-renaissance elements. The chapel, vestry, and the Capital Hall are all covered under a flat roof which gave the south-eastern part of the monastery a spacious terrace.
Although the complex of the Dominican Monastery has in some of its elements different style characteristics, from the Romanesque to the Baroque, it is a harmonious and logical architectural unit, but nevertheless predominantly Gothic and somewhat early Renaissance. A special treasure of this monastery is its library with over 220 incunabulas, numerous illuminated manuscripts, and rich archive with precious manuscripts and documents. The art and artifacts collection in the museum is very rich, and the best paintings of Dubrovnik art school of the 15th-16th centuries have found their proper place here.
A large collection of ex voto jewellery is something that will tingle the imagination and interest of any woman whether they like gold, silver, or coral jewellery as the museum collection is quite impressive.References:
From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.
The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.
At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.
The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.
The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.
Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).
The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.
At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».
The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.