Across the square from the palace is Dubrovnik's Cathedral (Katedrala), a plain but stately Baroque structure designed by Andrea Bufalini of Urbino in 1672, and built under the supervision of a succession of architects imported from Italy (the first three of whom gave up due either to illness or non-payment) before it was finally completed by local Ilija Kačić in 1731. According to leg­end, the original church - destroyed in the 1667 earthquake - was funded by a votive gift from Richard the Lionheart, who may well have been ship­wrecked (and saved) off Ragusa on his way back from the Third Crusade, though traces of the original church's foundations have revealed that it actual­ly predated Richard's visit by a couple of decades.

Inside the cathedral are a couple of Italian paintings, including Titian's polyptych The Assumption behind the main altar, a work originally purchased by the Brotherhood of the Lazarini - a sign of how rich some of Dubrovnik's commoners' associations really were. The west side of the nave holds the icon of Our Lady of the Port, a Veneto-Byzantine Madonna once carried through the streets in time of drought on account of its rain-making powers.To the left of the altar, the treasury (riznica)occupies a specially built room hidden behind heavy wooden doors with three locks - the three keys were held separately by the rector, the bishop and a nobleman. Now packed with gilded shelves and small paintings, the treasury originally grew from two collections, one of which was attached to the now destroyed St Stephen's Church, while the other belonged to the old pre-earthquake cathedral. Stored in the Revelin Fortress after the earthquake, both were brought to their current home in a grandiose procession in 1721. One of the prime exhibits is a twelfth-century skull reliquary of St Blaine, fashioned in the shape of a Byzantine crown, studded with portraits ofsaints and frosted with delicate gold and enamel filigree work. Nearby are both hands and one of the legs of the same saint, the left hand having been brought here from Constantinople by merchant Tomo Vicijan. Even more eyecatching is a bizarre fifteenth-century Allegory of the Flora and Fauna of Dubrovnik, a jug and basin fes­tooned with snakes, fish and lizards clambering over thick clumps of seaweed.

From the cathedral, it's a short walk east along Kneza Damjana Jude towards the monolithic hulk of St John's Fortress, now refurbished to house a gloomy aquarium (akvarium) full of Mediterranean marine life, including a pair of sad-looking sea turtles occupying pools into which visitors throw coins for good luck. Upstairs, the Maritime Museum (Pomorski muzej) traces the history of Ragusan sea power through a display of marine artefacts, ranging from the well-stocked medicine chests of nineteenth-century ships' doctors to an excellent collection of models of Dubrovnik boats throughout the ages.

 


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