Dubrovnik Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary

Photo of Dubrovnik Cathedral at summer afternoon with people walking nearby

Dubrovnik's Assumption Cathedral (Croatian: Katedrala Velike Gospe, Katedrala Marijina Uznesenja) is a Roman Catholic cathedral. This popular attraction is base of Dubrovnik's Diocese. 

The dome of the Dubrovnik Cathedral is the recognizable photogenic landmark you see in most panoramic photos of Dubrovnik Old Town.

The whole cathedral exterior is best viewed from the walls, where you can see it from every angle as the ramparts go around the town.

Its interior looks so austere compared to other majestic European cathedrals because of the circumstances under which it was rebuilt. After the earthquake in 1667, when the old cathedral was ruined, the Dubrovnik Republic was in economic decline. It didn't have the riches to adorn it the way it was before.

Which is a shame. How prettier would Dubrovnik look if the earthquake had never happened? All those ornamental Renaissance buildings like the cathedral would make today's Dubrovnik even more attractive.

The interior space feels immense and awe-inspiring. I managed to get a few moments of peace. On a quiet day, the cathedral makes a wonderful place for contemplation. But during our visit, the interior got quite busy very quickly.  

During my visit to the cathedral, I was enchanted by its Stations of the Cross, which were unique and simply beautiful.

When we went inside the treasury to see the relics, we were astonished at how many relics there were. There is a 3 euro charge per person for admission to the relics room, cash only.

A visit to the treasury is well worth your time and money if you are a Catholic or just interested in seeing items of religious significance from the past. You'll find the treasury in a side room to the left of the altar (as you face the altar).

It is a one-room treasury that houses 182 reliquaries holding relics from the 11th to 18th centuries. Most notable is its gold-plated arm, leg, and skull of Saint Blaise (patron saint of Dubrovnik). Additionally, the treasury contains a True Cross relic. No photography is allowed in the treasury room, but it is not an enforced rule.

History

Dubrovnik's first cathedral was built on the southernmost part of the Laus. The exact year is unknown, except it was sometime between the 7th and 8th centuries. Originally the cathedral was designed in the late antique and Byzantine style. The cathedral was named the Assumption Church after the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. 

Unfortunately, the cathedral was badly damaged in the disastrous earthquake of 1667. Only the foundations and parts of the walls 1 meter high remained. 

The present baroque church was built from 1673 - 1713 on the initia­tive of the respected citizen of Dubrovnik, Stjepan Gradić, the head of the Vatican Library in Rome and the Pope's counselor in his relationship with the Dubrovnik Republic.

Gradić raised funds and found architects in Italy (Andrea Buffallini and Paolo Andreotti), who, together with local masters, constructed a three-nave basilica with a huge dome on the naves' intersection. 

It took three decades for other Italian architects, including Francesco Cortese, Pier Antonio Bazzi of Genoa, and friar Tommaso Napoli of Palermo, to complete the cathedral. Local architect Ilija Katičić was the one who finished the construction of the cathedral.

Interior Design

The interior is plain with side chapels, on whose altars are paintings by local masters from the 17th - 19th century, such as Petar Matei-Matejevic, Benko Stay, and Carmelo Reggi, a naturalized citizen of Dubrovnik. There is also a famous renaissance painting of the miraculous Our Lady of Porat, once kept at the Od Sigurate Monastery on Prijeko. 

The most valuable work in this representative baroque building is Tit­ian's painting The Assumption of the Virgin Mary in the apse behind the main altar. The precious polyptych painting was commissioned for St. Lazarus Church at Ploce, outside the city walls. 

The church was the center of the Dubrovnik bourgeois brotherhood of rich merchants and seamen called Lazarina. After the big earthquake and upon the cathedral's restoration, the Dubrovnik Senate decided to ask this important brotherhood to give away the above-men­tioned polyptych to the newly built church, which they did.

The painting was believed to be so precious so it was placed in the cathedral, whereas a copy was made for St. Lazarus' Church. 

The apse's walls are adorned with four paintings on Bibli­cal themes from the 17th century made at the Padovanini workshop, and Brocardo's 16th-century painting of St. Matthew is to the right of the apse. 

Reliquary Treasury Unique Collection

However, the most important part of the treasure collection is the numerous liturgical gold and silver objects partially made in the Dubrovnik workshops. 

Although only a small part of the Cathedral treasure has been preserved, having survived earthquakes, fires, and plundering, these works of art conjure up the wealth and taste of this small community, which found its purpose in faith and simplicity. 

Relics of heads, legs, and hands of saints, including those of St. Blaise, the city's patron saint, as well as many of the finest liturgical utensils, are also exhibited in the sacristy. 

Having been brought from the Holy Land for centuries, the relics were placed in minutely detailed beds from the 14th - 18th centuries showing elements of all European art styles. 

Made in the style of similar models from all over Europe with floral, figural, or ornamental decoration, they show the artistry of both local and foreign masters. 

An international art cen­tre, Dubrovnik was connected with many other European art centers. Therefore the art objects kept in its cathedral belong to the same circuit. In addition, exceptionally rich vest­ments and many jewelry pieces, which the congregation donated to the cathedral, are also kept in the sacristy. 

The surviving art objects of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary Church and the Church's importance as a Catholic stronghold remind us of the important role that Dubrovnik once had in Dalmatia, Croatia, and the whole of Europe. 

Dubrovnik Cathedral Details

Dubrovnik Cathedral is a popular religious attraction, and many tour guides take their groups there. Avoid crowds by going at the opening hour or close to closing.

Looking at the feedback travelers leave online, the consensus is that the Dubrovnik cathedral is a worthwhile visit but not as outstanding as some other European Cathedrals. However, they do agree that paying the ticket to the treasury is worth it, as the collection of relics is impressive.

More Dubrovnik
Looking for more Dubrovnik articles? You will find plenty more under our Dubrovnik Travel Guide section where you will find suggested itineraries, things to do, and everything you need to plan your Dubrovnik trip.
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