St. John’s Fortress
The fortress of St John (Croatian name: Utvrda Svetog Ivana), often called Mulo tower, is a structure on the south-eastern side of the old city harbor. This fortification protects the very entrance to the harbor and is one of the key points forming Dubrovnik defense complex. The fort was built as a consequence of many rearrangement and upgrades of the port defense system. In today’s form, the side toward the sea is round and lower part of the wall is inclined, while the part facing port has flat vertical walls.
Defending Dubrovnik’s Main Harbour
In the first part of 14th century, Dubrovnik government concluded it is necessary to build a fort on the outer dock of the port. The building started in year 1346. and lasted for several years. The remains of that first fortress are still visible today and make an integral part of St. John fortress – with the help of a skilled guide you will recognize it’s outline on the western wall of St. John fortress as it stands today.
On the very corner of the City, near the defensive wall (connecting that 14th century fort and City walls) stood the old quadrilateral fort that everyone called “Fort Gundulić”. Approximately 80 years later, precisely in year 1522. and during the new cycle of City walls strengthening, both fortresses finally merged and today constitute a unique and monumental St. John Fortress.
Originally, there was a large gunpowder magazine in the interior of the fort. And not that guardians of Dubrovnik missed the space – when you see the sheer size of huge fortress, it will become clear to you that they also could keep here… I don’t know, maybe largest gun in the world, or a whole ship, or even elephants if needed.
As for the importance of the new defensive stronghold, for Dubrovnik its boats were always of vital importance. Therefore even this new and monumental fortress was not enough, so the city port was defended by not one but two fortresses: St. John facing the sea and smaller St. Luke fortress protecting toward north. For a long time between these two fortresses was stretching a long chain, preventing unwanted ships from entering the harbor. That chain was so strong that could break the keel to any ship trying to enter into harbor without proper authorization. The chain was there until an artificial islet, the breakwater Kashe had been built, which closed the gateway even more firmly.
Today the large interior of the St. John Fortress houses much of the cultural treasure from the time of Dubrovnik Republic. There are also collections of the Maritime Museum and Aquarium and the Institute for the Sea and the Coast. Art lovers will be thrilled to attend performances during the Dubrovnik Summer Festival on the fortress terrace.
During your visit to Dubrovnik, be sure to visit St. John Fortress and take few photos next to the medieval cannons. With a background compounding of beautiful fortress, impressive City architecture and of course crystal blue sea in the background it is really a simple task to take a few unforgettable photos!