The Miracle of Water: Prolegomena to the Early Renaissance Aqueduct of Dubrovnik

The Miracle of Water: Prolegomena to the Early Renaissance Aqueduct of Dubrovnik

By Relja Seferović and Mara Stojan

Dubrovnik Annals, No.11 (2007)

Abstract: Inadequate water supply prompted the Ragusan authorities in the first half of the fifteenth century to consider the construction of an aqueduct. The latter owes its design to Italian master Onofrio della Cava, bearing witness to his engineering skill but also to the far-sighted politics of the Ragusan commune. Based on archival material and field research, the authors trace the construction of the aqueduct from the spring in Sumet to the City fountains and industrial facilities.

Introduction: Archeological research in the wake of the 1979 earthquake cast a new light on the origins and development of Dubrovnik. Traditional historiography was inclined to Constantine Porphyrogenitus’ account of the destruction of Epidaurum and foundation of Dubrovnik, by which, seeking refuge, the inhabitants of Epidaurum settled on the site of today’s Dubrovnik. Historians Jorjo Tadic, Risto Jeremic, Vinko Foretic and others persisted on the interpre – tation that Dubrovnik was founded on barren land, deficient in fresh water resources. Supposing this assumption were true, it does strike as curious that a rugged cliff and not a safe haven offering food and water was chosen for settlement.

The probing results of a multidisciplinary research undertaken in the inner City area after the 1979 earthquake provided a completely different picture. It showed that a settlement had existed on the site at a very early date, during the Greek migrations to the east coast of the Adriatic Sea, and later during Roman colonisation. In addition, discoveries made during archeological excavations on the site of the Cathedral and BuniÊeva poljana between 1981 and 1988 confirmed the existence of fresh water springs which are still active.

Tackling the origin of Dubrovnik and its port, Antun Nicetic proved that the west part of the shore was sandy and had fresh water springs, and that the area of today’s Placa may have been arrable land at the time. This, along with a number of other studies, has clearly shown that the story of the settlement on a rocky and hostile cliff has fairly little historical ground.

Click here to read/download this article (PDF file)

Sign up to get a Weekly Email from

* indicates required

medievalverse magazine