About Dubrovnik Orphanage
Now marked by a bricked-up wall and window, Dubrovnik Orphanage was the first of its kind in the Ragusan Republic. Opened at the decree of the council in 1432, it ingeniously allowed mothers to leave their children in secret.
Dubrovnik Orphanage history
Opened in the early 15th century, the Dubrovnik Orphanage was one of the first institutions of its kind, the City Council progressively decreeing that an orphanage be opened so that children were not abandoned in the city like animals. Built in the heart of the Old Town opposite a Franciscan monastery in Dominik Zaltaric street. South of the Pile Gates, next to the Great Onofrio Fountain, is a small square housing the Convent of St. Claire, which was constructed at the end of the 13th and beginning of the 14th century.
The orphanage was built as part of the St. Clare Monastery in 1432. To avoid the shame of handing over their children, the orphanage was built with a small entrance space in front of the building within which parents could leave the child. By turning a wheel, the plate would turn and swing the baby inside, ringing a bell to alert the nuns.
During the Republic, children would stay in the orphanage until the age of six when they were offered for adoption, or occasionally their children would take them back, their parents having left them out of extreme poverty or women such as maids who were prohibited from having children. The parent would wear a dark-coloured hood, with no questions asked.
Dubrovnik’s Orphanage was closed during the occupation of Napoleon in 1808, becoming an ammunition storehouse and later a stable.
Dubrovnik Orphanage today
Today, the convent used for a variety of purposes, all that remains of the orphanage is a brick-filled doorway with a small window besides it, easily missed on Zlatariceva Street. For those who can, pause to read the Latin inscription above the doorway, translated to read, “My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned”.
Getting to Dubrovnik Orphanage
Located in Dubrovnik’s pedestrianised Old Town, you can easily find the orphanage on foot, a 350m walk from the Vrata od Buze gate. If driving, there is nearby parking at Ploce gate in Petra Kresimira street. If using public transport, bus lines 1A, 1B and 3 will get you to the Old Town entrance.