Orlando is easy to miss in the hustle and bustle of Stradun – be sure to have a look!
At the eastern end of the magnificent Stradun, the main thoroughfare of Dubrovnik’s Old Town, stands a dramatic statue of a knight carved in deep relief from a solid stone block. Proudly poised on his pedestal, the fresh-faced Orlando holds a sword aloft in his right hand with a lowered shield in his left, and stares impassively towards the city’s belltower.
The Stone Saviour
According to legend, Orlando saved Dubrovnik in its hour of greatest need. After 15 months under siege by a Saracen army in the 9th century, the city was low on supplies and morale, and facing capture for the first time in its history. When all seemed lost, Orlando and his army suddenly arrived and were able to drive back the invaders, saving the city, after which the statue was erected in gratitude. The reality is rather less dramatic. Dubrovnik was part of the Hanseatic League, a confederation of trading city-states under the protection of the Hungarian-Croatian king. As a symbol of unity and a reminder of allegiance, the king erected a statue of Orlando, or Roland as he was more commonly known, in the city centre of every league member.
The Long Arm of the Law
After it was erected in 1418, the statue became a focal point in the Old Town. Public punishments were often held here, as were important announcements and declarations. Orlando’s forearm was even used as the official standard for the Ragusan cubit, the basic unit of measurement used in the city. The statue is still an important point of civic pride today, and Orlando forms the centrepiece of the opening and closing ceremonies of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival.
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