From the barcusium to the galleon: a few sketches on the role of seafaring in the rise of Dubrovnik’s citizenry in the Late Middle Ages Cover Image

Od barkuzija do galijuna: Nekoliko crtica o ulozi pomorstva u usponu dubrovačkoga građanstva u kasnome srednjem i ranome novom vijeku
From the barcusium to the galleon: a few sketches on the role of seafaring in the rise of Dubrovnik’s citizenry in the Late Middle Ages

Author(s): Zrinka Pešorda Vardić
Subject(s): History
Published by: Hrvatski institut za povijest
Keywords: Dubrovnik; seafaring; Antunini; citizenry; „bourgeoisie“; Benedikt Kotrulj; Vice Stjepović Skočibuha; 14th-16th centuries

Summary/Abstract: The history of seafaring is certainly among the better researched themes in Dubrovnik historiography, which comes as no surprise given how deeply navigation and shipping were interwoven into the everyday fabric of life in Dubrovnik over the centuries. This article, however, presents the role played by seafaring in the formation and social ascent of the late medieval bourgeoisie in Dubrovnik. Starting in thefourteenth century, and throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the social stratification of Dubrovnik’s population ultimately resulted in a tripartite division of society. All power in the city was wielded by the political elite that consisted exclusively of the city’s aristocracy – the ruling urban elite of Dubrovnik. At the same time, a new class of Dubrovnik citizens was formed from the broadest layer of those who were not nobles but rather commoners, gathered predominantly in the Fraternity of St. Anthony the Abbot – which is why they were often call Antunini. It largely encompassed the wealthy merchant families of Dubrovnik, and in the sources it was sometimes referred to as the fraternity of merchants (scuola dei mercadanti). The article, following Dubrovnik’s maritime development and the growth of Dubrovnik’s fleet and the relationship of the authorities to this activity, depicts the rise of the bourgeois citizenry through several key examples. From the end of the fourteenth century, several Antunini citizens were chosen as illustrative examples, such as Tadija from Florence, Vlaho de Radovano and certain others; the fifteenth century is superbly illustrated by the well-known Benedikt Kotrulj, also an Antunin, who was all the more important because he was the author of two treatises which in fact ideally depict the symbiosis between trade and seafaring (Libro de l’Arte de la Mercatura and De navigatione), while the sixteenth century is represented by a brief outline of the Stijepović/Sagrojević family (with the nickname Skočibuha), which probably best illustrates the ascent achieved by the bourgeoisie primarily through navigation and trade. This symbiosis also manifested itself wonderfully at the visual level through the formation of a sort of familial “coat of arms” of the Stjepović/Skočibuha family bearing motifs of the sea and the goddess Fortuna. The melding of navigation and mercantile good fortune, so vividly intertwined in Kotrulj’s works in the fifteenth century and “heraldically” engraved into the stone of the Skočibuha homes in the sixteenth century, crucially defined the business, familial but also class trajectories of the new citizens. On their barque-like vessels known as barkuzije and then on their famed galleons, Dubrovnik’s citizens sailed the seas to their own great benefit, building their personal, familial and class status, but by the same token, they did so to the honour and benefit of their city, Dubrovnik, over the centuries of its existence.

  • Issue Year: 2014
  • Issue No: 47
  • Page Range: 143-183
  • Page Count: 41
  • Language: Croatian