The Rector’s Palace was the center of political power in the Republic of Dubrovnik (today, the politicians gather in the building to the left of the Palace). At the entrance to the Rector’s Palace, there is a Latin inscription: ”Obliti privatorvm pvblica cvrate ” – ”Forget the private and take care of the public.“ which stands to remind the Rectors of their purpose.
The elected leader a.k.a. the rector was elected on a monthly basis and needed to be a man of a noble family who is at least 50 years old. The short rule of the rector prevented corruption and the rector’s minimal age of 50 years ensured that the man had sufficient knowledge and life experience to lead. During 450 years of Dubrovnik Republic, 5,366 rectors were elected.
The Rector’s Palace is a two-level building with an open atrium in the middle (because of the atrium’s outstanding acoustics it is often used for musical performances). In addition to the administrative quarters, the first level of the Palace has the dungeons of Dubrovnik, which helt the prison cells for traitors – the most known one was the ”Dragon cell” because of the engraved dragon figure on the side of the prison door. According to written records, many prisoners did not see daylight for more than 25 years. The most notorious cells were the so-called ”secret prisons” where conspirators, the leaders of rebellions and other enemies of the state were incarcerated. Not only were the cells cramped and damp, but the prisoners were chained as well. Facing the sea, the Palace had the so-called ”sea prisons” where the prisoners were chained and left to be drowned by the incoming tide. Today, these sea prisons do not exist as the great earthquake destroyed them in 1667. (the earthquake destroyed half of the city and forever changed its layout).
With the introduction of gunpowder (15th century) and its high value, gunpowder was stored in the Rector’s Palace. This led to an explosion caused by human error, which blew up the original Palace in 1435. The Palace was restored 10 years later, but parts of it were used again for storing gunpowder. This resulted in the second gunpowder explosion, which blew up the Palace in 1463.
The second level of the Palace holds the rector’s living quarters. In order to prevent intentional or unintentional sharing of important information, the elected rector was not allowed to leave the Palace during his one-month rule. This led many to argue that the rector’s job is the worst in the Republic, as upon election he himself became a prisoner of the Palace where he could not escape the cries of tortured traitors. The worst months to rule were July and August (temperatures up to 35 C or more) while the best month was February. February is the shortest month and features the procession of St. Blaise (3rd of Feb.) which had the rector as one of the participants – allowing the rector to exit his chambers and partake in the procession.
Today the Palace is home to the Cultural Historical Museum, filled with thousands of objects from the 16th to the 19th centuries, which give us a closer look into the lives of the city inhabitants.
Rector’s Palace (Spice King’s Palace) in Game of Thrones
SO2E6: Rector’s Palace hosts as a background for the Spice King’s palace in Qarth. The Spice King and his entourage stand on the staircase as Daenerys asks him about acquiring ships to cross the Narrow Sea.