Renaissance football in Dubrovnik

Football in renaissance times


Hard to believe, but the world's most popular game could have been played on the streets of the 16th century Dubrovnik. In fact, there is very solid evidence to back this theory up – as solid as a rock!

Hidden amongst the narrow alleyways of Dubrovnik's old town lies the small church of St. Roch. Built in 1544, the church and the fraternity of St. Roch played a very important role in the 16th century as the caretakers for the people infected with the plague and those sentenced to death.

The church is not distinct for any great artwork within, but for a rather curious and intriguing inscription on one stone on its eastern wall. It reads, in Latin: „PAX VOBIS. MEMENTO MORI QUI LUDETIS PILLA. 1597“. It means: „Peace be with you. Remember that you will die, who are now playing ball“.

This ominous message was a warning to the children who were apparently playing Renaissance football, a game introduced by the Dubrovnik merchants arriving from Florence, where it originated. The dimensions of the steet in front of the church were almost exactly the same as the dimensions of the Florentine football pitch. Narrow and prolonged, but still a proper football ground! Furthermore, there was an orphanage down the street, only a block away, and we may assume that the kids wanted to have some fun in the afternoon hours.

Perhaps the cranky old priest living in the nearby house got fed up with the kids constantly kicking the ball off the walls? The message remains to this day, reminding us of the eternal carefree spirit of the youth but also showing that traces of football existed even hundreds of years ago.