Across the square, the Baroque St Blaise's Church (Crkva svetog Vlaha), com­pleted in 1714, is in graceful counterpoint to the palace, boasting a fine facade topped by saintly statuettes which seem poised to topple down onto the square below. Twentieth-century stained glass bathes the interior with dappled light, although it's hard to make out the statuette of St Blaise on the high altar, sur­rounded by a supporting cast of swooning Baroque statuary. Originally an Armenian martyr, Blaise is said to have appeared in a vision to a local priest to warn of impending Venetian attack in 791.Although the whole story is a piece of anti-Venetian propaganda cooked up in around 1000 AD, it was enough to ensure the Saint's adoption as patron of the city.

Outside the church, plumb in the middle of the square, stands the carved fig­ure of an armoured knight on top of a small column, usually referred to as Orlando's Column. Surprisingly for such an insignificant-looking object, erected in 1418 as a morale-boosting monument to freedom, this was the focal point of the city-state: it was here that government ordinances were promulgat­ed and punishments carried out. Nowadays, a flag bearing the libertas motto flies from atop the column, and the start of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival is formally proclaimed here every July. Orlando's right arm was also the Republic's standard measurement of length (the Ragusan cubit or Dubrovački lakat, equiv­alent to 51.2cm); at the base of the column you can still see a line of the same length cut in the stone. The medieval cult of Orlando (or Roland) was born in the twelfth century thanks to the popularity of the epic poem, the Song ofRoland, which told of the knight's heroic defence of a Pyrenean pass during the Arab invasion of Europe in the eighth century. The cult was a predominantly north European affair, brought to Dubrovnik at the time the city was under the pro­tection of the Hungarian king, Sigismund of Luxemburg, who passed through the city after his defeat by the Turks at Nicopolis in 1396.


The legend of Orlando was subsequently adapted to Ragusan requirements by making him the saviour of Dubrovnik in battles against the Saracens, during which he fought a duel with a pirate called Spuzente ("Smelly breath") - nobody seemed to mind that the real Saracen siege of Dubrovnik took place almost a century after Orlando's time. The eastern side of Luia is flanked by a loggia, to the right of which is Onofrio's Little Fountain, an altogether more dainty affair than the same sculptor's fountain at the other end of Stradun, decorated with frivolous cherub reliefs courtesy of Onoftio's contemporary, Pietro di Martina of Milan. Along from the fountain, facing the bare southern flank of St Blaise's church, the ter­race of the Gradska kavana (literally "town cafe") is where Dubrovnik's more stolid burghers traditionally sit to exchange gossip and observe the ebb and flow of tourists below. The rear of the cafe, where another terrace looks onto the port on the other side of the walls, was once the city arsenal, into which galleys were hauled for repairs. -Specializing in Cheap Flights F

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