Lovrijenac – How Much Do You Know About ”Dubrovnik’s Gibraltar”?

Lauren Simmonds

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All images: Copyright Romulic and Stojcic

You’ve probably climbed it, but did you really know what you were climbing?

I’ll start by saying that there are stairs involved if you want to climb up Lovrijenac, and when I say stairs, I don’t mean just any old stairs, I mean Dubrovnik style stairs. Anyone who has spent even the minimum amount of time in the Pearl of the Adriatic will know what I mean by that statement!

At 37 metres above sea level and made from impressive limestone, Lovrijenac is an attraction to all and sundry, set just slightly outside of the walled city itself, it stands out on the peak of rugged rocks, sheltering the tiny Šulić bay and towering over Pile (western entrance to the Old City). This imposing, old architectural wonder is the inspiration for many a photo, and for GoT fans, many a selfie. Attracting countless tourists throughout the year, every year, Lovrijenac provides some incredible views over the sea and the Old City, and is heavily armed with defensive canons, the originals of which were once used to defend Dubrovnik from potential attacks, usually attempted by the Venetians.

The arch enemies of the Republic of Ragusa (Dubrovnik Republic) once attempted to construct a fortress where Lovrijenac now stands

The history of the relationship between the Venetians and Ragusa, Dubrovnik’s name when the city existed as an autonomous, self-governing republic, is a tumultous one. As their arch Adriatic trade rival, the Venetians were known for their jealousy and their frequent plotting of attacks on the republic. Even though Ragusa eventually ”signed a deal” with the Ottoman Empire, ensuring its protection, the Venetians were relentless in acting out in their envy, they were even the reason for Saint Blaise’s (Sveti Vlaho) huge fame in the city, after he arrived to warn Ragusan citizens that the Venetians were planning a surprise attack. Anyway, the Venetians attempted to build another fortress on the rocks on which Lovrijenac proudly stands today, all the way back in the 11th century. Had they succeeded, the republic would have remained entirely governed by them. When the Venetians arrived with their construction materials, ready to build, they were simply told to turn around and go back home as the Ragusans had, of course, already begun.

Lovrijenac was strategically important for overall defence

While this probably won’t come as much of a surprise, Lovrijenac was of enormous importance to the Dubrovnik Republic, donned with powerful canons, lethal weapons and man power more than willing to spill boiling hot oil down Lovrijenac’s mighty walls onto would-be indavers, this gigantic fortress was enough to put off anyone in their right mind who might have been thinking of launching an attack. Lovrijenac’s huge outside walls are 12 metres thick, and with two massive drawbridges keeping it safe, it’s no wonder that success was not a likely outcome for anyone crazy enough to think they could take the city.

From a defensive symbol designed to invoke terror in the enemy, to a beautiful symbol of the Arts

Lovrijenac isn’t just a pretty face, or, rather, a giant, warsome looking fortress designed to induce fear. As Lovrijenac ”retired from the military”, it took on a rather different purpose. Famed for the incredible Shakespeare performances during the Dubrovnik Summer Festival, Lovrijenac provides the most perfect stage imaginable for the English playwright’s gems of literature. Even on a hot, humid summer night, Lovrijenac’s thick limestone is quick to cool during the dark hours, its height provides for a breath of fresh air after a boiling hot day, and the stone walls act as the most perfect speakers. Shakepeare and Lovrijenac share a bit of history, and although it doesn’t go that far back, the fortress has made its mark in the world of Arts just as much as it has in defence. 

Now hardly separable from the image of Shakepeare’s Hamlet, Lovrijenac is able to showcase its less ominous side, and with A Midsummer Nights Dream (San Ivanjske Noći) making its mark during more recent Summer Festivals, Lovrijenac can add winning over the creative world of theatre to its belt with confidence.

From Lovrijenac to Saint Lawrence’s Fort, to Dubrovnik’s Gibraltar, to one of the most recognisable icons of Kings Landing

While the correct name in Croatian for this architectural, defensive masterpiece is of course Lovrijenac, and the correct English translation is Saint Lawrence’s, it has taken on a variety of nicknames with the rather intense introduction of TV, film and commercial production in Dubrovnik. Instantly recognised by diehard GoT fans as one of the structures on Kings Landing, Lovrijenac is often frequented by fans wanting a selfie or two.

Lovrijenac is the host to the Croatian portion of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series

Yes, from formidable defence fortress to Shakespeare’s most ideal theatrical stage to a star role in Game of Thrones, Lovrijenac also doubles up as part of the world famous Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series.

Despite its more recent, much less frightening roles in history, the intricate inscription above Lovrijenac’s gate reminds us all just what this beautiful fortress stands for…

Non Bene Pro Toto Libertas Venditur Auro (Freedom is not to be sold for all the treasures in the world).

Located slightly but comfortably outside of the walled old city, Lovrijenac is not a physical part of the city’s famous walls. Standing alone and towering over the sea and the city, this incredible fortress is a must see, must visit location when in Dubrovnik.


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