Franciscan Church: Behind A Plain Wall in Dubrovnik

Franciscan Church, Franjevačka crkva, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Near the beginning of the Stradun by the Pile Gate, there is a large, plain stretch of building, punctuated by two doors: one has a fairly standard and classical portal – but the other is somewhat more special.

This unprepossessing building is actually the church of the Franciscans, whose monastery is just behind.  The original church was destroyed by the earthquake of 1667 – but there was one survivor: the portal showing the Pieta, flanked by St Jerome and St John the Baptist.  And God standing on top.  This was the work of the brothers Leonard and Petar Petroviċ, dating from 1498, and it is just lovely – if you look at Mary’s face, you can see that it is distorted by pain.

The Franciscan Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

The Franciscan Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Portal by Leonard and Petar Petroviċ, 1498, Franciscan Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Portal by Leonard and Petar Petroviċ, 1498, Franciscan Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

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Scene of the Pieta and St John the Baptist to the right, Leonard and Petar Petroviċ, 1498, Franciscan Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

St Jerome holding a model of the original church, Leonard and Petar Petroviċ, 1498, Franciscan Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

St Jerome holding a model of the original church, Leonard and Petar Petroviċ, 1498, Franciscan Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

The interior of the church is not what you’d expect from the outside.  It’s a baroque work, and the main altar, with its twisting marble columns, look very Italianate – but sort of toned down.

View along the nave of the Franciscan Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

View along the nave of the Franciscan Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

The inside of the Franciscan Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

The inside of the Franciscan Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

The altar of the Franciscan Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

The altar of the Franciscan Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Now, I loved this Monty Pythonesque image of a dismembered arm holding out a cross from the pulpit.  Then I also saw one in Cavtat’s Our Lady of the Snow, which I then discovered was attached to a Franciscan monastery too.  So.  I got to thinking this must be a Franciscan tradition, and according to these guys – www.newliturgicalmovement.org – it is indeed often found in Franciscan churches, where the preaching often focussed on the devotion to the Cross and the Passion.

So now we know.

Arm stretched out from a pulpit, Franciscan Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia.  After you get over the humour of the arm, the figure of Jesus is actually tenderly done - I was particularly struck by the blood on the knees.

Arm stretched out from a pulpit, Franciscan Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia.  After you get over the humour of the arm, the figure of Jesus is actually tenderly done – I was particularly struck by the blood on the knees.

Angel by a window, Franciscan Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Angel by a window, Franciscan Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Now, I have no idea who this is by, but I really, really liked this amazing Crucifixion in an altar towards the back of the church.  There is something about Jesus’ face which is very striking – he looks tired, and very peaceful.  One purpose of such an image is to encourage meditation and devotion, and the subtlety of this sculpture encourages the onlooker to think deeply about what it represents.  This work alone made the visit worthwhile.

Crucifixion, Franciscan Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Crucifixion, Franciscan Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Detail of the Crucifixion, Franciscan Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Detail of the Crucifixion, Franciscan Church, Dubrovnik, Croatia

So In Summary

This being the first church in Dubrovnik I visited, I am quite attached to it.  It’s quite different from the others in the city that I saw, but it shared the same characteristics of relative simplicity, highlighted by flashes of fanciness – and genuine beauty.

Further Information

Unlike many churches, the Franciscan church seems to be open most of the time.

How To Get There

This map is quite helpful to help navigate yourself there, it’s no. 6: www.godubrovnik.com

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