SIGHTS

IVAN VIGJEN

May they defend the shore
May the Adriatic’s tremendous power not show
Such walls thus granted to the double-sea Ston
From Dubrovnik and grace from St. Blasius.

Ilija Crijević

Ston’s monuments mirror its long and complex history. The most distinguished monument are definitely Ston’s Great Walls: built in the 14th and regularly restored up until the 19th century, the Walls represent the most charismatic feature of the entire area. Starting at the Big Castle, which is located in the very town of Ston, the Walls surround the town with their triangular shape and eventually meet at the Minčeta Fortress. Then, two parallel walls lead up the hill where the Bartolomija Fortress and Church are located and cross over Podzvizd Hill into Mali Ston, ending at the monumental Korun Fort. Along the entire Wall, there are over 30 small and big fortresses. The Walls were built by the most famous domestic and foreign masters, who also worked on the construction of Dubrovnik’s City Walls. Unfortunately, during the 19th century and the reign of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, not much care was devoted to the Walls and they had to wait until the second half of the 20th century to regain their former glory. The renovation reached its peak in 2009, when the majority of Ston’s Great Walls were opened for visitors. Ston’s Walls are considered especially valuable because of their length (many say they’re the longest medieval walls in Europe), degree of preservation and simple but impressive beauty.

Today’s Great or Poljska City Gates, whose arch bears the statue of St. Blasius, contain the Latin inscription (composed by the famous poet Ilija Crijević) which can be translated into: “/1506/ May they defend the shore/ May the Adriatic’s tremendous power not show/ Such walls thus granted to the double-sea Ston/ From Dubrovnik and grace from St. Blasius/.” The inscription serves as a certain “identity statement” about the town. In the very heart of the town (“at the Placa”) we find – much like in Dubrovnik – the Rector’s Palace, the Church of St. Blasius (where the cathedral used to be), the Town Sentry Building, the Dubrovnik Republic State Palace and the stone flag pillar (standarac). Surrounding the town’s main square, these buildings are a testimony to their own historical importance and proof of the esteem in which the Dubrovnik Republic and Ston Duchy regarded itself.

The today’s appearance of both the Rector’s Palace and the Town Sentry Building is the result of numerous adaptations and renovations, while the Church of St. Blasius traces its origin to 19th-century historicism, due to an earthquake that caused the collapse of the single nave Ston Cathedral which stood in the church’s place. Currently, this parochial church with a cruciform floor plan is in ruins due to the 1996 earthquake and stands as a witness to nature’s wrath, to which the Dubrovnik area has so often been exposed. The Dubrovnik Republic State Palace was built in the Gothic style and, through its slenderness and exquisite style, it seems to suggest the basic traits of Ston’s former rulers – simplicity, moderation and harmony. Its ground floor was fully renovated after WWII, while its openings were defined by old Dubrovnik measuring units: span (pedalj), elbow (lakat) and fathom (hvat).

Today, the ground floor of the Rector’s Place is home to a public hall intended for various cultural manifestations, as well as to a temporary exhibition on the archaeological findings from the prehistoric Gudnja Cave.

Near the Rector’s Palace, in the direction of the Town Gates, stands the standarac (a stone flag pillar), which dates back to 1514. Its design may well be simple, but it was an extremely vital part of the town’s everyday life: apart from once flying the state flag which bore the figure of St. Blasius, the pillar used to serve as the venue for announcing all important decisions, proclamations and orders.

West from the Ston “Placa” and the Rector’s Palace lays another town square, surrounded by the Ston Municipality Building. This building was built in the Historicist style and it covers a portion of the Great Walls. Opposite from it stands the Renaissance-style Bishop’s Palace, built in the 1570s, after the Ston Diocese regained its former strength. Its ground floor currently holds a lapidarium. The square also contains a public fountain, which was built in 1581. The fountain was once used to channel water from a natural source to the people of the town. The simple renaissance ornamentation and the three heads out of which water flows, as well as the inscription dedicated to the introduction of water to the town, testify to the significance this fountain once had.

Somewhat separated from the housing blocks, at the widening near the western defense wall stands the Franciscan Monastery of St. Nicholas, whose construction began in the second part of the 14th century. It was built in the Romantic-Gothic styles and the bell tower of this single nave church simply dominates the Ston panorama. The main altar holds a masterpiece of Croatian Gothic art: the painted wooden crucifix by Blaž Jurjev Trogiranin, which dates back to the 1420s.

Near the historical center of Ston there are two buildings of immense historical and artistic value. At the very edge of the famous Ston salt pans we find the Church of Our Lady of Lužine: the precise age of this Romanesque single nave church, whose bell tower is hard not to notice, has not yet been determined. In any case, its layering and unique appearance, without any closer analogies, make the salt pans (according to one theory, the church used to be located on a small island which later became attached to the mainland) even more special.

Outside Ston, we find a hill on the top of which stands the medieval Church of St. Michael – apart from Ston’s Great Walls - the most famous Ston landmark. This small single nave church used to be (when it had a bell tower and a dome) the court church of Zahumlje rulers, who once reigned over the area from this very hill. The Church contains well-preserved frescos (one of which portrays a Zahumlje duke) and it was here that a great number of quality stone plastic pieces and stone church furniture was discovered. Its dominating position in the landscape, historical importance, architectural features and frescos, as well as the view over the Ston area make this church a true gem among Ston’s cultural monuments.

 

PROGRAM 2017