Michelozzo, the feisty architect

The Italian Michelozzo di Bartolomeo Michelozzi (or Mick for friends) was born in Florence in 1396. He was considered one of the pioneers of renaissance and was favored by Cosimo de' Medici himself. His most fruitful years as a sculptor and architect were indeed those spent in the service of the rulers of Florence. In 1461, aged 65, Michelozzo was invited by the government of the Republic of Ragusa to work primarily on the city walls of Dubrovnik and Ston.

When it comes to military architecture, the man was a genius. He improved the scarp walls of the northern stretch, inclining them because of the new aspects of warfare, introduction of cannons and other deadly weaponry. He did a great job with fort Minčeta as well, adding a circular protective wall around the main quadrilateral tower. His reputation as a skilled architect and engineer was once again proven in practice.

The masterpiece of his brief stay in Dubrovnik surely has to be fort Bokar. Fort Bokar is one of Europe's earliest casemate fortifications. The term casemate means a fortified gun emplacement and Bokar was a prime example of that. A two-story fortress that stood strong in front of the main medieval walls of Dubrovnik. It was conceived as the key point in the defense of the western gate to the city.


Michelozzo di Bartolomeo Michelozzi - photo by Wikimedia Commons under Public domain

A funny thing happened while Michelozzo was busy with strengthening the city walls. A gunpowder explosion badly damaged the Rector's palace, the seat of the Republic's government. The old gothic palace needed to be partially rebuilt and Michelozzo was chosen to design the new features. It appears that his designs were too modern for the strict and conservative senators, so they refused them. Michelozzo was furious with that decision and hastily decided to leave Dubrovnik with the works on fort Minčeta and some parts of the city walls still in progress!

A proud and stubborn man, well in his sixties, he obviously wanted nothing to do with Dubrovnik and its government anymore. The work on Minčeta was finished by the Croatian master Juraj Dalmatinac and the Rector's palace eventually adopted the renaissance outlines later with the interventions of local architect Paskoje Miličević, at the time aged 25.

Michelozzo had previously worked on the Palazzo Medici in Florence as well as several other landmarks across Tuscany before coming to Dubrovnik. The Florentine ruling family was clearly satisfied with the outcome of the works, but once again the old conservative senators in Dubrovnik showed they were not interested in any new and „outrageous“ styles. A clash of pride and honor, perhaps? Such was the short stint of the feisty and proud Michelozzo in Dubrovnik!

If you want to truly experience Michelozzo's legacy in Dubrovnik, then join our Minčeta tower secret tunnels tour! We'll show you the 15th century casemates that good ol' Mick constructed some twenty years before Baccio Pontelli in Ostia and we'll also take you on a walk along the magnificent western bulwark of Dubrovnik's city walls - a great way to appreciate Michelozzo's military genius!