During our warm summer days, I often make my way down to the Peskaria (old port) to wait for the local fishing boats to return with the early morning catch. I sit on the ancient stone bench, a perfect place to watch the sun emerge brightly above the mountain. It shines down on the historical Lazareti building, which begins to glow golden on its perch on the rocky coastline a few meters from the azure blue of the Adriatic Sea.
During the 14th and 15th centuries,Dubrovnik was a maritime hub between the Ottoman Empire and the West. Concerned about contagion from the plague, the Lazareti quarantine center built in 1627 just outside of the Ploce gate to isolate visitors arriving from infected areas. Prior to the center, all maritime visitors spent 40 days on the islands of Mrkan, Bobara and Supetar just off the coast in Cavtat.
The Lazareti comprised of five buildings and was self-contained with a water cistern. Physicians, a barber and priest assisted by attendants to help maintain the very strict regulations. It continued as a quarantine center until the early 19th Century. After the Lazareti closed, it began to fall into disrepair from earthquakes, salt air, fire and lack of maintenance.
The World Monument Fund, a New York based non-profit organization dedicated to preserving endangered ancient historic sites, included the Lazareti on their Watch Help list. With support from American Express, they began restoration and protected the interior rooms from further destruction. Dubrovnik Lazareti is one of Europe’s remaining examples of a maritime quarantine center. The other European structures destroyed after the threat of the plague has passed.
With local support, the historical Lazareti has becomeDubrovnik’s vibrant cultural center. The Lazareti is now home to Desa, a non-government group established in 1993 assisting women and their families cope with the tragedies of the 1991 Homeland War. In addition, our Lindo Dance Troup performs on Tuesday and Friday evenings at 9:30pm in one of the open air corridors under the stars. If you are fortunate to be in town during this time, do not miss this magical traditional dancing, it is spectacular.