From Luža you can head either northeast via the Dominican monastery and Ploče Gate to the Revelin Fortress, or south to the Rector's Palace (Knežev dvor), the seat of the Ragusan government. The building was effectively a prison: the rector, elected for just one month, had no real power and could only leave on state occasions with the say-so of the nobles who elected him; after the end of his period of duty, he was ineligible for re-election  for the next two years. The palace housed all major offices of state, plus a dungeon and a powder store (which caused the palace to blow up twice in the fifteenth century).

Begun in the 1460s after the second of the powder explo­sions, the current palace, put together by a loose partnership of architects (including Dalmatinac and Michelozzi), is a masterpiece of serene proportion, fringed by an ornate arcaded loggia held up by columns with delicately carved capitals. Furthest to the right as you face them is the so-called Asclepius Column, bearing a relief of a bearded figure - presumably the Greco-Roman god of medicine, Asclepius - sitting in a pharmacist's laboratory. Asclepius was thought to be the patron of the ancient city of Epidaurus (modern-day Cavtat, 20km south of Dubrovnik), from which the original population of Dubrovnik came, making him something of a distant guardian of the Ragusan state.

The palace's Renaissance atrium is a popular venue for summer recitals. At its centre is a bust of Miho Pracat (1522-1607), a rich shipowner and merchant from the island of Lopud who left most of his wealth to the city-state on his death - and was consequently the only citizen the republic ever honoured with a statue. An imposing staircase leads from the atrium to the balcony and, off here, the former state rooms, including the rooms of the city council, the Rector's study and the quarters of the palace guard. Today these are given over to the City Museum (Gradski muzej) a badly labelled three-floor collection of furniture and paintings which manifestly fails to tell the story of the republic in any well meaningful or accessible way. It works quite as a picture gallery though, with a respectable hoard of (mostly anonymous) Baroque works amassed by the city's aristocracy, and several imposing portraits of eminent Ragusans to whom moderately interesting stories are attatched. On the ground floor, look out for pictures of Nikola Bunić (1635-78), the statesman who died as a hostage in Silistra jail while trying to renegotiate the tribute paid by Dubrovnik to the Turks.Also here is an image of a kaftan-clad Marojica Kaboga (1630-92), who murdered his father-in-law in front of the Rector's Palace but escaped from prison in the chaos following the 1667 earthquake and, finding that there were few other capable nobles left, took charge of the defence and reconstruction of the city. Hidden away on the middle floor is an idealized pic­ture of Cvijeta Zuzorić (1552-1648), a poetess and legendary beauty who held contemporary men of letters in thrall - notably philosopher Nikola Gucetić, who immortalized Zuzorić in his Dialogues. -Specializing in Cheap Flights F

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