A to Z of Destinations
Australia, NZ and South Pacific
A to Z of Experiences
Walking and trekking
Diving and snorkelling
Wildlife and safaris
Meet the locals
Frontier and expedition
Cycling and Mountain Biking
Visiting the Poles
Career breaks and BIG trips
Body and soul
Volunteer and conservation
Australia, East Coast
Everest Base Camp
Trans-Siberian and Trans-Mongolian railway
Aurora Borealis/Northern Lights
Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail
Cruising the Nile, Egypt
22nd February 2012
On assignment in Croatia, Wanderlust reader Vicki Matthews uncovers a city of churches, monasteries and synagogues
There’s a little church by the sea, right by the sea – almost in it, in fact. Such was my impression of ‘Our Lady of Danče Church’ (also known as the ‘Church of St Mary’). I was almost envious of the nuns having a break from their toil in the carefully laid gardens of herbs, vines and fruit trees.
My eyes were absorbing the green of the trees surrounding me in Gradac Park, the rocks of the Pile coast, the peninsula of Lapad and of course the Fortress of Lovriljenac. The sea could be seen twinkling on Dubrovnik’s Old Port, beyond the eastern wall.
The sound of the waves hitting the rocks was a gentle rhythmic beat, mixed with the male voices of a conversation close by; otherwise there was just peace and quiet, solitude from the hordes in Dubrovnik’s Old Town and the October sun. What a place in which to meditate on life both now and that of eternity.
Religion and faith is a subtlety often missed by a quick visit; so much is overlooked and misunderstood with only a fly-through down Stradun (the main street).
But religion is ingrained in Dubrovnik’s history of diplomacy and peace: evident in the existence of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the heart of the city, in spite of the relatively recent War of Independence.
The Franciscan Monastery at the western Pile Gate, and the Dominican Monastery at the eastern Ploče Gate, set the scene for the tone of the city. Icons adorn each of the city’s old gates, where citizens both young and old cross themselves on entering; the flowers decorate the frames in contrast to the white limestone walls.
Inside the gates, shops and coffee bars are adorned with icons and pictures of saints, in subtle reverence of faith and trust. Similarly, there are pictures of Mary, saints and crosses hidden among the wares of jewellery and paintings for sale, as well as rosary beads adorning buses and cars.
Less subtle are the religious buildings dominating the eastern side of the Old Town: the cluster of the Church of St Blaise, the Cathedral and the Jesuit Church (and College). The former is the church dedicated to the patron saint of the city, martyred by the Romans, who is celebrated on the 6th February each year. Its understated baroque style comes alive during mass, when voices are raised to God and the coloured stained glass windows inside spread colour like faith onto Luza Square at night, reverberating the city’s faith onto the shining limestone pavement like glass.
A further reminder of the dominance of religion is the cross that adorns Mount Srd, declaring the majesty of Jesus high above the city. The cross was erected in 1935 to celebrate 2,000 years since Jesus’ birth and can be reached by cable car.
There’s a lot to discover off the beaten track, away from the crowds, that also shows the religious history and life of the city. See if you can spot the 30 churches originally from trade guilds that are spread around the streets - some where people still worship, some derelict and some which are used for exhibiting art or other crafts. Use the Isus insignia (IHS) and bell towers to discover them.
Also take time to visit Dubrovnik Synagogue, the second oldest in Europe, on Jew Street (Ulica Žudioska). As well as religious relics there are articles from a seemingly forgotten history of the city: notices from 1941 declare the restriction of the movement of Jews, and on display a yellow band worn during Nazi-occupied Europe. An understated humble frame contains the names of the city’s 27 Holocaust victims.
The question I find myself asking is, if Dubrovnik had still been a republic (Republic of Ragusa, 1358-1806) at the time of the Second World War, would things have been different for its ingrained faith, religion and diplomacy?
I am brought back to the present by the religious graffiti in Gradac Park proclaiming ‘Jesus Isus’. Ironically, this is no new phenomenon. On Ulica Zlatarićeva, graffiti remains from 1597 - written by a priest, who, frustrated with children playing ball up against the church walls, scrawled ‘peace be with you, remember you are going to die as are those who play ball’.
History and faith are living and alive in this city, and waiting to be discovered.
Vicki Matthews travelled to Dubrovnik with Wanderlust Journeys.
Want to take a trip with the Wanderlust team to improve your travel writing or photography skills? Find out about upcoming trips here, including assignments to Istanbul and Berlin.
Read the Wanderlust Journey group's 15 things to do in Dubrovnik | Blogs... More
Avoid the crowds in Dubrovnik with tips from Wanderlust reader Colin Baird | Blogs... More
Been inspired and want to improve your photography or writing? See the latest Wanderlust Journeys learning trips | Inspire... More
Dan Linstead reveals Dubrovnik through a local's eyes | Blogs... More
Dubrovnik: my fair city | Destinations... More
View all posts from
You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login or get more from Wanderlust - register today!
Good to see your piece on the website Vicki. I love the opening paragraph. I think the piece is a really unique angle on Dubrovnik.
Croatia travel guide, including map of Croatia, top Croatia travel experiences, tips for travel in Croatia
A flight to an unknown city, a loose plan and a small budget results in the discovery of wild Croatia – the Mediterranean as it used to be
Tumbling waterfalls, island hops, flaky pastries and moving museums – Clare Wilson packs a lot into her budget Adriatic adventure
Want to improve your travel photos - but have no idea where to start? You need this no-nonsense, jargon-free guide...
After joining a one-day Take Better Travel Photos workshop, Emily Edwards discovered it's super-easy to take better shots on her future trips
On assignment in Croatia, Wanderlust reader Colin Baird ponders how to escape the cruise ship day-trippers
Simply select the destination you’re interested in or the activities you’re looking
for and we’ll send your request to a select panel of tour operators.
Each operator will respond to your request individually. Your details remain private
and are not disclosed to any partners unless you decide to proceed with a booking.
Save £100 on all Nepal Autumn holidays with KE Adventure Travel
Journey to Niagara - Up to £200 off – with BA flights
10% OFF at Powertraveller
Wanderlust sends out regular email newsletters – be the first to know about web
exclusives, competitions, hot offers and travel jobs. Register today!
I have read and agree to the Terms &
Where in the world are you? Add
#wanderlustmag to your tweets and share your latest travel adventures with
fellow Wanderlusters on wanderlust.co.uk
Get to know Wanderlust on facebook and bring all your travel-minded friends, too