The original and precise name is ‘Orlando’s Column’ and it is a symbol of freedom and state independence which has served Dubrovnik over the centuries. It was made in 1418 by local sculptor Antun Dubrovčanin and master sculptor Bonino di Milano. According to legend, Orlando saved Dubrovnik from a 15-month siege from the Saracens in the 9th century, after which thankful citizens erected the column in his honour, but as truth would have it, the real Orlando – better known as Roland – was French, and he became a symbol of a city under the protection of the Hungarian- Croatian king.
Orlando’s Column has served many purposes over the years. It measures 51.2 cm from hand to elbow and was used as a unit of measurement. It was used as the city’s Pillar of Shame, a place where criminals or guilty wrongdoers were bound and publicly shamed. Proclamations of State were read here with the flying of the flag and it also reminded Ottoman suzerains that the locals would always identify with Christian Europe rather than Constantinople.
With the collapse of the Republic in 1815, Orlando’s Column was destroyed in 1825, only to be re-established in its current location (facing north this time) in 1878.This sword-brandishing knight has stood the test of time ever since and is a centre piece of the city. It still plays an essential role today where locals and tourists meet, photos are taken and serenades are sung - rain, hail or shine.
2019 was the Year of Orlando with eminent cultural and entertainment events held throughout the entire year. And even though generations have come and gone, Orlando has and always will remain at the heart of local folk, their sign of ‘Libertas.’