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UNTOLD STORIES – Franciscan Monastery

The Franciscan order in Dubrovnik has a long tradition and embodies the Dubrovnik Republic's cultural legacy. The first known document which mentions this order, established by St. Francis of Assisi, dates from 1235.

Back then, St. Thomas's monastery was located in the Pile area outside the City Walls. The order moved under the protection of the undefeated City Walls and Minčeta Fort in the 14th century, as a result of the intimidation of war. The work on a convent continued for centuries to come.

Franciscan Monastery got its name Mala braća (Friars Minor) after the quadruplet sons of a maritime captain. According to the legend, after giving birth to four sons, the captain’s wife chose to keep only one of them. Captain rescued the other children in the last moment and gave them to the nuns to raise them. After couple of years he then brought all three sons to his wife and confronted her with what she has done. Years passed by, children grew up and wanted to create a magnificent church within the city walls as a sign of gratitude to the nuns who raised them.

The Franciscan Church, lined with gold and treasurable paintings by Titian, Rafael, Caravaggio, Dobričević and other renowned painters of the Dubrovnik Painting School, was first built in the Romanesque-Renaissance style. Unfortunately, most of these valuables were ruined by the earthquake and a great fire in 1667. The only remnant of the church is the tremendously revered Pieta, installed in 1498 on the south wall of the church, which was the work of Leonard and Petar Petrović. The church was later renovated in the Renaissance-Baroque style, decorated with elegant altars, crosses, chalices and other valuables.

The mid-14th-century cloister guards a museum with a collection of artefacts and liturgical items (such as paintings and gold jewellery), the library built in the 17th century and a momentous pharmacy founded in 1317.

The Old Pharmacy is the world's third oldest pharmacy, and likely to be the oldest operating pharmacy today – to be more exact it has been successively active since 1317! Items made exclusively from natural ingredients are one of natural beauty’s best-kept secrets. At the Franciscan pharmacy in the Old City, you can find items extracted from the essential oils of a variety of Mediterranean plants. The lush garden behind the monastery contains an abundance of herbs such as sage, mint, roses and orange trees that are used to create these soothing potions.

About 20,000 books and old manuscripts, 137 incunables, seven books with church corals and the portfolio of the old Friars Minor Pharmacy from 1317 are treasured at the Library. Fascinating treasury also contains silver-gilt cross from the 15th century, Jerusalem's crucifix from the 18th century and several paintings such as Francesco Raibolini's "Ecce Homo" from the 15th century.

Dubrovnik’s Friars Minor have a rich past that dwells in the identity of the Old City, its streets and local residents. Relive the golden moments, learn more about their captivating history, and explore the coexistence of the past, present and future.

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