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Saint Orsula legend and history of the archaeological site

Old Ragusans have always constructed their churches and chapels at locations of specific importance and with a specific message. This chapel was constructed mid of 14th century in honor of St. Ursula, patron saint of virgins and virginal virtue. It was built in 1348 upon the last will of a local Dubrovnik lady, Tola Del Silvestro. The cult of St. Ursula is tied to a legend dating to the 4th century which tells about the death of an English royal daughter martyred by the recklessness of primitive male urges. The church is dedicated to this saint as a monument to all maltreated women, who decided to end their misery at this very spot by jumping into the abyss. She is the eponym of this entire uninhabited part of Dubrovnik called Orsula.

The church was constructed at a dangerous, slippery stony hillside, accessible only with difficulty but visible for anyone who was approaching the City from the seaside.

An old Dubrovnik caravan road, which had been the only continental access to the City throughout centuries, runs closely to the church. This old road was constructed at the very edges of the abyss, making it a challenging path to be crossed and thus protecting the City from raiders from the continent.

Ideally oriented in the direction east – west, facing a 200 m deep abyss, with a façade and doors precisely leveled with the spot that offers the first view of the City walls to any traveler, this church is actually topographically symbolizing the entrance to the City.

The church was set on fire and destroyed during the Russian-Serbian-Montenegrin siege of Dubrovnik in 1806, conducted in order to stop Napoleon’s troops from further approaching Boka Kotorska. During the bloody fights, looting, furious arson and destruction, literally everything located outside the City walls was leveled to the ground. French troops were outnumbered and reinforcements lead by General Marmont arrived too late. The church of St. Ursula spent 200 years buried in oblivion and abandonment.


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