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Meet Dubrovnik’s Symbol of Freedom: 2019 the Year of Orlando

Meet Dubrovnik’s Symbol of Freedom: 2019 the Year of Orlando

Dubrovnik is famous for many things. Dubrovnik Republic was the first in the world to abolish slavery and to recognise the United States. It is home to the oldest working pharmacy in Europe, and the original James Bond character is based on a Dubrovnik resident, Dusko Popov. But did you that, in addition, Dubrovnik has its very own measurement – the Dubrovnik Elbow?

Measuring 51.2 cm from the hand to the elbow, the right arm of the statue of Orlando on the Luza Square was used a unit of measurement. It is just one use that Orlando’s Column – a symbol of freedom and state independence – has served Dubrovnik over the centuries.

2019 has been designated as the Year of Orlando, and the famous symbol of freedom will be celebrated through difference events throughout the year in Dubrovnik, bringing Orlando’s Column once more to the forefront of the city’s cultural life.

Orlando’s Column was made in 1418 by local sculptor Antun Dubrovcanin and master sculptor Bonino di Milano. Legend has it that Orlando saved Dubrovnik from a 15-month siege from the Saracens in the 9th century, after which grateful citizens erected the column in his honour, but the truth is that the real Orlando – better known as Roland – was French, and he became a symbol of a city under the protection of the Hungarian- Croatian king. This was about the same time as the Venetians were setting up their own symbols in the form of winged lions on the Adriatic. Orlando originally faced eastward, about 5 metres from his current location today.

Orlando’s Column played a huge role in daily life of the Dubrovnik Republic. Apart from being the symbol of freedom and independence, it was here that the proclamations of State were read, with the state flag blowing in the word from the flagpole.

It was also used as the city’s Pillar of Shame, a wonderful institution where wrongdoers would be publicly shamed, and guilty persons bound to the pillar, so that the public could see them exposed for the wrongdoings they had committed.
Orlando’s Column fell from grace with the collapse of the Republic in 1815, remaining a mere memory of the Republic’s previous independence. It was destroyed in 1825, only to be re-established in its current location (facing north this time) in 1878.

Apart from being a popular meeting point for tourists and locals alike, Orlando’s Column still plays a role in public life today. It takes centre stage, for example, during the Dubrovnik Summer Festival, where it plays host to the opening and closing festival.

2019 will be the latest important milestone in the timeless relationship between Orlando and the city whose freedom he symbolises – look out for a number of great events to celebrate Dubrovnik’s most famous column.