Dubrovnik Croatia Medieval Fortresses

Fortress of St. John – Dubrovnik Guide

Dubrovnik’s Medieval City has endless treasures, and yesterday I enjoyed a guided tour of the five major fortresses built around its walls. I’ve been waiting for the right time to take the two-hour “wall walk” and wanted to learn more about the Old City first.

Dubrovnik’s forts are known as the greatest fortification systems of the Middle Ages. The Old City became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

Gradska Kavana Arsenal Restaurant Near St. John Fortress – Nautika Restaurants


“Dubrovnik’s spectacular fortresses were never breached by a hostile army.”


There are four defensive stone fortresses around the wall – north tower, east side harbor, southeast side, and the western entrance. The fifth fort – Lovrijenac – is outside the wall:

  • Minčeta North Wall
  • Revelin East Harbor Wall
  • St. John Southeast Wall
  • Bokar Southwest Wall
  • Lovrijenac Outside the Wall
Minčeta Fortress – Dubrovnik Jetliner Games
Minčeta Fortress

Minčeta was built in 1319 along the north wall facing land. It’s the highest point in the city wall and a large round tower with a Gothic crown. Croatia’s Menčetić family owned the land where the tower was built. Croatian architect Ničifor Ranjina designed and built Minčeta.

In 1461, Michelozzo di Bartolomeo Michelozzi, an Italian architect, enhanced the round tower making it “adapt to new techniques of warfare”. The walls of the new tower were 6 meters (20 feet) thick with a series of protected gun ports.

Minčeta Fortress – The Dubrovnik Times

Croatian sculptor and builder Juraj Dalmatinic designed the bottom portion of the fortress and created the recognizable Gothic crown. Minčeta had nine guns, including a cannon designed by renowned bell caster Ivan Rabljanin, Croatian Renaissance master of bronze bells and cannons. Rabljanin also designed the bell in Dubrovnik’s Bell Tower.


“Minčeta Fortress stands high above the rest of Dubrovnik as a symbol of the unconquerable City. It tells the story of Dubrovnik’s love for its precious, sweet liberty.”


Revelin Fortress – dubrovnikdigest.com
Revelin Fortress

Revelin is a massive irregular-shaped quadrilateral fortress outside Pile Gate in the eastern part of the City. It was built for protection in 1463, after the Ottomans conquered Constantinople and began occupying nearby Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Revelin was built as a “detached fortress to provide more protection for the eastern land approach to the City Gate”. The name comes from the word ravelin, a “term in fortification architecture referring to forts built opposite the weakest points in a city’s defense system to reinforce a defensive position”.

Revelin Fortress – dubrovnik-travel.net

Revelin protected Dubrovnik from Venetian attackers. The city hired Antonio Ferramolino, an expert Spanish fortress builder, to strengthen this eastern point in the city’s fortification complex. In 1549, after 11 years of construction, an enhanced Revelin became Dubrovnik’s strongest fortress for safeguarding the eastern land approach. “Perfectly constructed,” Revelin suffered no damage during the 1667 earthquake.

Culture Club Revelin – dubroivniktoday.net

The top of Revelin features a huge stone-paved terrace which is used during Dubrovnik’s Summer Festivals. The inside of the fortress has a popular nightclub – Culture Club Revelin. Different night life “happenings” take place there, including rock concerts and techno displays.

Fortress of St. John – ExPoAus Planner
St. John Fortress

St. John Fortress was a key defense complex on the south-eastern side of the old city. It was built to protect the port entrance.

Aquarium and Maritime Museum Fortress of St. John – Go Dubrovnik

Initial construction began in 1346, when Dubrovnik connected an existing defense wall and its gates – Dock Gates – with an old quadrilateral fort called Fort Gundulić, named for Croatian poet Ivan Gundulić. In 1500, the city upgraded the old fort and built one with a semicircular form and a pentagonal bastion in front.

Statue of Croatian Poet Ivan Gundulić at Green Market – tzdubrovnik.hr

Master Croatian builder and architect Paskoje Miličević designed the improved fortress merging existing forts into one single building named The Fortress of St John at the Dock. Construction completed in 1557. Today, Dubrovnik’s Maritime Museum and Aquarium are housed inside the interior of St. John Fortress.

Bokar Fortress – MyTravelAffairs
Bokar Fortress

Bokar Fortress is on a steep cliff at the south-western corner of Dubrovnik’s city walls. Bokar and Minčeta were the key points in the defense of the city’s western land approach.

Bokar Fortress – theimmagine.eu

Built in the 1500s as a “two-story casemate fortress”, Bokar’s purpose was defending the town’s main western entrance – Pile Gate and its bridge and moat. One part of the fort is on a detached rock. Arched supports were built to bridge the gap. The sea passes beneath the fort.

Florentine architect Michelozzo di Bartolomeo designed Bokar. Construction began in 1461, and upgrades occurred in 1555 and 1570. Bokar was a popular Game of Thrones filming location.

Lovrijenac Fortress – Flickr
Lovrijenac Fortress

Lovrijenac is built on a 37-meter (121 ft.) high sheer rock overlooking the Adriatic! As one of Dubrovnik’s most dramatic fortress, Lovrijenac defended attacks from both land and sea. The fortress has a triangular plan that follows the contour of the rock where it was built. Facing the western suburbs, it protects Kolorina Bay and opens toward Bokar Tower and the west wall. Today, Kolorina Bay is a calm location for launching kayaks. It was the location for filming the “bloody Battle of Blackwater in season two of Game of Thrones.

Kolorina Port


During its service Lovrijenac Fortress was a 25-man garrison with 10 cannons and a fort Commander appointed by the government.


Bell Tower Old Town Dubrovnik – Wikimedia Commons

Chronologists date the fort to 1018 or 1038, but first records are from 1301, when the city council voted on Commander of the Fort. According to legend, in the 11th century Venice planned to conquer Dubrovnik by building a fortress on the rock. When Dubrovnik learned of the plan, its citizens rushed to build their own fortress. They thwarted the Venetians before they arrived in ships carrying troops and supplies.

The fortress received upgrades during the 15th and 16th centuries and after the 1667 earthquake, when builder I. K. Zanchi repaired parapets and buildings throughout the city. The fortress has a quadrilateral court with mighty arches and three terraces looking south towards the Adriatic Sea.

Lovrijenac Fortress – Flickr

Lovrijenac had ten large cannons designed and cast in 1537 by Renaissance bronze master Ivan Rabljanin. Rabljanin also designed the cannons at Minčeta Fortress. One cannon, known as “Lizard” (Gušter in Croatian) was “marvelously carved and decorated”. Lizard never fired a single shot and is now sadly lost below Lovrijenac at the bottom of the Adriatic Sea.

Ivan Gundulić Croatian Poet

Austrian troops disarmed Lovrijenac in the 19th century. While hoisting and transporting the cannon, a rope broke and it fell into the Adriatic Sea and was never recovered.

Michelozzo di Bartolomeo Florentine Architect and Sculptor – intranet.pogmacva.com

Lovrijenac was a “dominant fortress'”. Its capture would threaten Dubrovnik’s defensive position, so a “fail-safe mechanism was designed into the fortress”. The walls exposed to the sea and possible enemy fire are almost 12 meters thick (40 feet). The large wall facing the City doesn’t exceed 60 centimeters (2 feet).

This was because the Republic was not only cautious about attacks from foreign enemies, but also needed protection from a potential rebellion of the Commander in charge of the fort. Each month, nobility replaced the Commander. In case of trouble within the fortress, the thin wall facing the city could never hold against the firepower of mighty Bokar Fortress facing Lovrijenac.

Cannon Lovrijenac Fortress


An ancient inscription at the entrance to Lovrijenac Fortress reads – NON BENE PRO TOTO LIBERTAS VENDITUR AURO – Freedom is Not Sold for All the Gold in the World.


View Lovrijenac – godubrovnik.com

Lovrijenac, another popular Game of Thrones filming location, was also used to stage productions of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. I explored this fortress during a Game of Thrones Walking Tour. It’s a magnificent structure!

Bathed in light at night, the massive fortress is visible for miles. My apartment looks down on Old City, and Lovrijenac is the most prominent building from that vantage point. It’s known as the “Gibraltar of Dubrovnik“.

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