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UNTOLD STORIES - Sponza Palace

Unlike the hidden gems around the Old City, the great Sponza Palace, also known as Divona, will capture your attention at the very moment you lay your eyes on it. It is one of the most graceful palaces in the city, through history also known as the energetic commercial centre, and the meeting place of the prominent members of the Republic.

Located next to the grand Bell Tower, facing Orlando’s column and Saint Blaise Church, the palace was built between 1516 and 1521 by the Dubrovnik masters Paskoje Miličević and the Andrijić brothers, signifying the Gothic and Renaissance architecture. It was originally projected to be a Department of Customs, where the flow of goods brought by merchants from all over the world was controlled. The rich history of Gothic architecture is reflected in the facade of the palace containing divine Gothic windows, cloisters, and inner courtyards. French Renaissance sculptor Bertrandus Gallicus created a relief with Christ's initials, surrounded by laurels and angels - this relief is one of Dubrovnik's most beautiful Renaissance reliefs since it presents some of the French Renaissance sculpture features. Latin quote engraved in the atrium declares “Fallere nostra venant et falli pondera; meque pondero cum merces ponderat ipse deus.” (We are forbidden to cheat and measure wrong; even when I weigh goods; God himself weighs them with me).

However, during the Dubrovnik Republic, the Palace had various functions. Moreover, it was a state treasury, a bank, and a first school to name a few. The atrium of the palace embellished with stunning white arcades was the liveliest commercial centre and meeting place of businessmen of the Republic.

Department of the Treasury, founded in 1377, operated continuously until the fall of the Republic. At the end of the 16th century, when the first literary institution in Dubrovnik was founded, Divona also became the cultural center of the Republic, which brought together the most educated citizens who discussed literature, art, and scientific achievements of their time.

One of the palace's most interesting characteristics is that it is one of the very few buildings in the city that survived the devastating 1667 earthquake in Dubrovnik.

Today, the Dubrovnik State Archive, considered to be among the richest in Europe, is situated in the palace, which preserves the historical structure of the Dubrovnik Republic with materials from the most ancient history of the Dubrovnik Republic to the modern, contemporary times. Due to the fact that the Palace survived the earthquake, the palace itself has become one of the archive's most valuable treasures in its own way. The Dubrovnik Defenders Memorial, illustrating black and white photographs of Dubrovnik during the 1991 War, is located on the ground floor of the Sponza Palace.

Its cultural heritage function remains to this day. Every year, the Dubrovnik Summer Festival opening ceremony takes its place in front of the Palace. From the upper terrace, actors, replicating the Rector and the members of the Council Minor, remind us of the glorious time of the great Dubrovnik Republic and the freedom that it exemplifies. 

In the centre of it all, the Sponza palace stands proud to this day, showing its elegance and style, remaining the main scene of all spectacles of everyday life.

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