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The Rector's Palace - Dubrovnik

Rector's Palace porchBetween the Town Hall and the Church of St. Blaise on one side and the Cathedral on the other side the Rector's Palace, an outstanding monument of secular architecture, is found.

The Rector's palace is a harmonious Gothic and Renaissance palace with certain Baroque additions. The palace owes its present shape to many additions and reconstructions throughout its turbulent history. From time to time it happened that the palace was destroyed or heavily damaged by either fires, gunpowder explosions or earthquakes which required a total or partial reconstruction or repair of the building. Each architect had it's own view of how the building should look so nowadays we can enjoy the unique mixture of styles blended perfectly across this monumental structure.

Atrium of the Rector's Palace - DubrovnikA defence building stood at the site of the present palace in early middle ages and in the statutes of Dubrovnik from 1272 it was referred to as castrum. In 1296 the building is referred to as castellum. The term palatium - palace first occurs in the documents in 1349, and the later documents use the term palazzo maggiore - major palace.

Atrium of the Rector's palace - DubrovnikAs the document sometimes specify certain parts of the building, it could be deduced that it was a building with corner towers, two wings, and the high wall which enclosed the yard.

After the fire of 1435 which gutted the building and its towers the government decided to build the new and more beautiful palace.

The important job of rebuilding the palace was entrusted to Onofrio di Giordano della Cava of Naples, master builder that had been already contracted to build the water supply system. The water supply system was completed in 1436.

Staircase to the 2nd floor - Rector's PalaceAfter Onofrio della Cava had completed his project, the Rector's palace rose as a smart and harmonious two story gothic building with a pillar porch between two side towers which were slightly higher.

The column of the porch and the most beautiful capitals with figural representations, and sculpture ornaments of the palace were made by master Pietro di Martino of Milano.
Pietro di Martino - Asclepius semi capitelOnly a semi capital in the figure of Asclepius built into the southern angle of the porch and the capital with the scene of the judgment of the Solomon (now kept inside the Rector's Palace as an exhibit) and figural wall brackets on the front porch have survived to the present days.

Although the arrangement of the figures was gothic they could show evidence of the early Renaissance spirit.

In 1463 there was a gunpowder explosion of the palace armoury which heavily damaged the whole structure of the Rector's palace. The renewal was entrusted to the famous architect Michelozzo di Bartolomeo Michelozzi of Florence who was working on the fortification of the City walls. However, his plans, new and vibrant with Renaissance spirit, were not according to the taste of the notoriously conservative major council so the the plans were rejected on May 5 1464. Michelozzo left Dubrovnik soon after and the work was continued by other builders.

The arches in the porch were reshaped according to the principles of the Renaissance with completely new Renaissance capitals. The modernization of the sculptural decoration was probably the work of the Florentin master Salvi di Michele who directed the reconstruction from 1467 on.

The main changes of Onofrio's building were made on the western and southern fronts where the former simple windows were replaced by a large biforas, 8 on the western front and 3 on the southern front. The biforas were carved by local masters Radivoj Bogosalić and Nikola Marković while the relief ornaments and the portal were made by master Pavko Antoje Bogičević.

In 1520 there was a strong earthquake and the palace suffered yet another misfortune. One of the masters who has been working on the repairs was Petar Andrijić of Korčula.

The Great earthquake of 1667 was no exception and damaged the palace extensively. The earthquake broke down the southern front of the palace with biforas. The wing was rebuilt in Baroque style.

Rector's Palace 2nd floor - DubrovnikFurthermore, a new Baroque flight of stairs was built in the atrium of the palace in place of the old one which was damaged. About the same time a bell was set up on the first floor of the atrium. The bell stand is decorated with rich Rococo ornaments. The stand was connected to a clock mechanism below which struck the hours.

On the ground floor of the atrium between the two pillars in the eastern wing the senate had a monument erected in 1638 to Miho Pracat, the citizen of merit.

Pietro Giacometti of Recanti - Bust of Miho PracatMiho Pracat was a rich ship owner from Lopud who left his immense wealth to the Republic for the charitable cause. Because of this most generous gesture the Republic was indebted to honour him. The government conferred for thirty years before they thought up an adequate way to honour him. The tribute should have been evident, but not too public. Ingenious solution was to erect a bust in the atrium of the Rector's palace and this is how Miho Pracat became the only citizen of Dubrovnik republic with a monument in over a 1000 years of Dubrovnik's existence. The bust was made by Pietro Giacometti of Recanati. The monument was also damaged in the great earthquake of 1667 but was repaired and returned to the same place in 1731.

The eastern front looking forward towards the harbour underwent great changes after the earthquake. Originally representative in form, with the porch and the loggia, it was never restored to its previous shape.

Rector's Palace - Interior - DubrovnikToday the Rector's palace is the home to the history department to museum of Dubrovnik. The majority of the halls have styled furniture so as to recreate the original atmosphere of these rooms. In addition to style furniture numerous portraits and coats of arms of the noble families, paintings of old masters, coins minted by the Republic, the original keys of the city gates, and the number of important state documents are on permanent exhibit in the palace.

Rector's palace - exhibitRector's palace - exhibits

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Dubrovnik - Did you Know?

1. There is one window on the Rector's palace that is quite different than all the rest, it is the window on the northern facade. The only window completely done in the Renaissance style is said to be the work of Michele di Giovanni da Fiesole.

Renaissance window - Michele di Giovanni

2. In addition to the Rector's Office and his private chambers, the reception and audience halls, the Rector's palace was the seat of the minor council and of the state administration ( Secretary, the Notariate and the Cadastre), the armoury, the powder magazine, the watch-house and the prison.

3. The Rector had a term of office for one month only and was not allowed to leave the palace except on official business. This was one of the precautions that the Dubrovnik Republic had set up to prevent the usurpation of power by any person. Although the Republic presented the image of the Rector to the outside world with pompousness and importance his actual political power was limited. He was merely "Primus inter pares" - the first among equals.

4. A row of stone benches are arranged along the western front wall under the porch. The Rector and the members of the minor council sat their on cushions, either to receive flag salute of St. Blasius day, or to bid far well to the ambassador on their departure to distance countries. The Rector and his company used to watch carnival festivities from the same place too.

5. On the second floor of the Rector's palace above the doorway that used to connect the Rector's palace to the palace of the Major council (now the Town hall) there is an inscription: "Obliti privatorvm, publica cvrate" - Forget private, tend to public affairs. This inscription greeted the statesmen on a dialy basis reminding them to think in the interest of the public. The though itself is universal and could be traced as an excerpt to the works of Cicero and Plato.

Obliti privatorum | publica curate

6. One of the most important exhibits of the Rector's palace is a rare statue of St. Blaise in sitting position by the renowned master sculptor Ivan Duknović.

Ivan Duknovic - St. Blaise

External Links

1. Dubrovnik Guide - Rector's palace presented by the authentic guide to Dubrovnik.

2. Dubrovnik museums - Official information on the Rector's palace by Dubrovnik museums.

For a guided tour or additional information feel free to contact us !

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