Orlando’s Column

At the eastern end of Placa (Stradun) street, under the City Bell Tower, on Luza square, stands a stone column with the figure of a medieval warrior in arms bearing a sword and shield, carved into the column. Atop of the column is a small platform suited for public proclamations, while the column also supports a flag-pole that hoists the flag. The knight carved in the column is Orlando. According to the legend, in the 9th century, Orlando and his fleet saved Dubrovnik from a 15-month long Saracen siege. To express their gratitude, the citizens erected this beautiful column in Orlando’s honor.

The truth is that Orlando, or Roland as he was called throughout Europe, was used as a symbol of a city under protection of the Hungarian-Croatian King. At the time it was common for the distant cities of the Hanseatic League to erect similar stone statues symbolizing the alliance and protection with the Hungarian-Croatian kingdom.

Orlando’s column is the work of the local sculptor Antun Dubrovčanin and master sculptor Bonino di Milano in 1418.

The column has served different purposes. The knight’s right hand is prescribed as a measure of length, and is called “lakat”, or elbow in English (51.2 cm). Public proclamations were usually made from atop of this column and the public punishments were performed at the sight of the column. Today, a ceremony before Orlando and the raising of the “Libertas” flag on the column marks the opening of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival every year.

The original City Bell Tower was built in 1444, aligned to the centre of the Placa street. It was a work of local masters Grubačević, Utišenović and Radončić. At first, the two figures hitting the bell were wooden. Later, the wooden figures were replaced by bronze statues, the famous “Zelenci” (“Green men”). In 1509, the renowned founder Ivan Rabljanin made a new bell that is in use even today, as Dubrovnik community did not like the sound of the previous bell. After the earthquake in 1667, the Bell Tower started leaning to one side, and in 1929 it was deemed to be unsafe and was demolished only to be replaced by the new Bell Tower built with the original design in mind.

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