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 took much longer, hence the building of the monastery and St. Dominics church was only 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.
Architect Checo of Monopoli started building the bell-towers in the 16th century. However they were only finished in the 18th century.
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. Let us only mention the works by Nikola Božidarević (“Annunciation” from 1513), Mihajlo Hamzić (Triptych of St. Nicholas 1512) and Lovro Dobričević.
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.