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Histroy of Župa during the long centuries

Ulomak stećka na groblju u Platu

Every region speaks for itself. Some came into existence a long time before Župa, some of the younger ones will last longer, and there are older ones that have been in existence for longer. People first came to Župa in the ancient Neolithic times, between 6000 and 4000 years BC. In the village of Dubac, a stone tongue-shaped pin was found that is now kept in a museum in Dubrovnik.

The oldest known inhabitants of Župa were the Ardiaei, an Illyrian warrior tribe who lived here in the 4th century BC, and left traces of their presence. Fortresses in strategic places remain from this period, as well as Illyrian tumuli. These are in fact pre-historic graves, which are made up of one or more tombs that have still managed to keep their original shape despite the number of centuries that have passed. Pre-historic traces have been found on the uninhabited islands of Mrkan and Bobara, and although these most ancient findings are very scarce, they are very valuable because they demonstrate that the presence of life was already here during this period.

By being a part of ancient Astareje, in ancient times Župa Dubrovačka was called Žrnovnica, and has been referred to as Brenum in written documents.

In the valley of Župa, peoples and nations changed, and different cultures and traditions infiltrated.

The Ardiaei were warriors, who were pirates on the south Adriatic coast, particularly during the time of King Agron in 3 BC. They continued being pirates after his death, and during the rule of Teuta, where they attacked Roman ships. They were in constant conflict with the Romans, who beat them quite a few times until they were finally completely defeated in 135 BC.

As well as the Ardiaei, the Plearaei also lived here, who were a peaceful Illyrian nation and it is because of them that Župa got the name of Brenum, which was its name up until the 20th century. The Plearaei also gave the name Subbrenum to today’s Srebreno.

The traces of the Illyrians are particularly visible in the names of the individual hills and other localities, some of which still have the same names today. For example, the hill of Malaštica, which offers a view of the whole of Župa, had the ancient name of “Mons Vardia”, and the name of the hill of Mosor has Illyrian roots, and means that there was a spring there.

The Greeks passed through Župa, and were excellent merchants and sailors. Contact with the civilised antique world further developed after the arrival of the Romans in the second century BC when, in order to avoid the Illyrians and their pirate ways, they took over the east coast of the Adriatic.

The Dubrovnik region, as well as Župa, became controlled by the Romans who had their first stronghold on the site of today’s Donji Obod. Their headquarters Epidaurum grew into a city-colony. The mighty Roman Empire and its conquering legions changed the course of the stormy history of this region. During the process of Romanisation they built roads towards the hinterland that passed through the agricultural and livestock areas of the people of Župa, developed trade, and deepened the relations between people. The region of Župa became an important transport and commercial centre. Evidence of Roman presence can be found in the stone memorials, remains of amphora, fragments of cups, saucers and pots, remains of the walls, marble tiles and money.

Stećak na groblju u Platu

During the period of the Roman Empire, Christianity developed in Župa, particularly after the Edict of Milan in 313 when Christianity could be freely practiced and was given an equal position in relation to the other religions.

Nevertheless, the Roman government was unable to last forever. At the point when the Empire was at the peak of its political and trading power, a crisis started in the slave owner social system. Its borders were no longer secure, and were more and more frequently invaded by German tribes, who created wastelands and destroyed unfortified and unprotected towns.

After the fall of the Roman Empire in 476, Župa experienced a change of rulers. It was firstly ruled by the eastern Goths, and then the Byzantines who ruled from 537 to 1205 with only small breaks in their rule.

After a violent invasion in the 7th century, the Slav-Avar tribes occupied what remain today these regions and stayed here forever. They wiped out the indigenous people who had challenged them head-on and destroyed their buildings. As a result, the antique town of Epidaurum disappeared forever, and its surviving inhabitants first took shelter in Župa and then later moved to Ragusium, which is today Dubrovnik. The historical period changed from the Antique to the Middle Ages, which resulted in a change of course from the old pagan world to the development of the newly formed Slavic world. Today it is difficult to be able to state when precisely Župa fell under the rule of Dubrovnik in the 7th century, or when the government of this mighty city-state later extended into this part of Astareja.

According to the writings of the Byzantine Emperor Konstantin Ponfirogenet, the Croats inhabited the south coast of the eastern Adriatic and thus Župa.

The historical development of Župa from the 7th century is a part of the history of Dubrovnik, and was a part of its important border towards the hinterland. There have always been battles in border regions because of borders, and this has also been the case with Župa, where neighbouring rulers destroyed and robbed Župa in their attempt to reach Dubrovnik. However, ever since the 14th century, all of Župa’s historical borders have stayed the same. Illyrian, Roman, and most of all, Croatian ethnic layers have remained in Župa, where people came into contact, lived, mixed and governed.

Under the Dubrovnik rulers, and as a constituent part of the new city, Župa changed social and commercial circumstances. It became an important land based transit route between Dubrovnik and the interior. The mighty Republic of Dubrovnik set up commercial connections with the hinterland where they sold salt, fish, spices, jewellery, textiles, weapons and purchased minerals, wax and wood. The old Roman roads fell into disrepair, and instead of carriages they used horses and donkeys for the transport of goods. The convoys, made up of between 15 to 300 horses all carrying different goods, took a new cargo route the “Dubrovnik road” from Dubrovnik towards Dubac, Brgat and Ivanica and further into the hinterland. This “Dubrovnik road” was very important for Dubrovnik because the progress of the city depended on it directly since it was how wealth was transported to the city. Nevertheless, this road also put the freedom of Dubrovnik at risk, since enemies were very easily able to reach the town walls on it, and therefore it was carefully guarded. The government of Dubrovnik built the fortress of Tomba on the site of what is today Brgat Gornji, and built houses for the peasant-border guards who carefully ensured that no unwanted people travelled on this road.

Ophodni (kapljičasti) križ iz Zakule

During this period, the people of Župa mainly engaged in agriculture, but they were not cultivating their own land but that of the nobility. They primarily grew vines. The grape harvest was a special event, in fact it was so important that the Great Council and Senate did not hold meetings, or introduce any new laws during this period. The government controlled the harvest very carefully, because they levied a large amount of tax for the state from the wine. The nobility of Dubrovnik had the most amount of cultivated land in Župa, their own agricultural buildings and summer residences.

Much attention was paid to Župa, which was very important to Dubrovnik both commercially and strategically. In the 13th century, Župa had its own ruling representatives, a county Count who was chosen by the Great Council for a year. The Statute defined his rights and duties and he had to be a member of the nobility. It was through him that the Dubrovnik government ruled in this region. Asides from the Count of Župa, there was also the vice-Count who held the administrative office of the government and carried out its laws and decisions.

The people of Dubrovnik introduced a feudal economy to Župa, where the indigenous people were not the landowners and the chief administrative and commercial positions were held by the Dubrovnik patriarchate. The strict regime of the independent Republic of Dubrovnik governed Župa, and everything that was not cast off in 1806 has remained. The local people didn’t have any rights, except that to work on the land, look after the livestock, trade, sail, guard the border, repay their masters damage and in turbulent times be soldiers. The people of Župa had huge obligations towards the state, the government, the church and especially the Count. But even though they were serfs, and their activities were supervised and limited by the laws of the Republic, they still managed to show their uniqueness by living in harmony with nature and wanting to improve their surroundings.

Through their constant contact with the city, they accepted the city’s cultural achievements, but they also created their own world of work, tradition, religion, song, and other things. In the 14th century, the people of Župa had their own brotherhood, a religious association that was connected to the church. They also had tidy fields, and their own seminary, which was a simple stone building – built in a particularly Mediterranean style with regional architecture, as well as valuable cultural-historical buildings, such as: the Church St. Hilarion (sv. Ilar) in Mlini built in 1272, St. Stephen (sv. Stjepan) in Kupari built in 1279, St. Mary Magdalena (sv. Marija Mandaljena) in Mandaljena built in 1285, St. Matthew (sv. Matej) in Čibača built 1313, and the Dominican monastery in Čelopec built in 1621.

Asides from the cultivation of grapes in this part of ancient Asterije, they also grew other fruit and vegetables since these karst fields, these out stretched palms of the land, were fertile and never thirsty. In addition to agriculture and animal husbandry, and most probably already from 1200, in Kupari they produced tiles (kupe) and bricks, which they dried in 12 ovens.

Lavamini - umivaonik, Gorica - Čibača

They were also famous bricklayers and tilers, and special care was given to the baking of bread, the first and sweetest food in the life of a person. This was of enormous interest for the Republic of Dubrovnik, where the Statute defined the precise amount of corn that the people of Župa had to mill. Mlini was famous for its mills, which is how it got its name. Bee production was also very well-developed, as was the production of honey.

Župa suffered greatly in the Montenegro-Russian plunder of 1806. Many local houses were destroyed and robbed, buildings, country villas and churches, where registry books and other church valuables were relegated to the ashes forever. The French troops broke the siege of Dubrovnik and its surroundings and forced the Russians and the Montenegrins to retreat from the Dubrovnik region.

In 1808, Marshal Marmont made the decision to end the Republic of Dubrovnik, and the French governed the city and its surroundings. An attempt to rekindle the Republic in 1814 was in vain, and the powerful and mighty Republic of Dubrovnik was snuffed out forever, and with it the landowners. In 1848, serfdom was abolished in Župa, and the people of Župa, who up until then had been working for their masters, became the owners of the land.

After the Vienna congress in 1815, the Austrians took over from the French and later the Austro-Hungarians in whose government Župa remained until the end of the First World War in 1918. The Second World War brought about new causalities and victims.

When in the 1950’s Župa turned to face the challenges of tourism it changed its way of life. In 1991, Župa was greeted by the free and independent Croatian State. In it’s thousands of years of existence, it constantly moved between the rhythms of good and evil, war and renovation, total destruction as well as political, economic and architectural advance.

In the Homeland War of 1991 evil once again passed over Župa – death, destruction, the explosion of mortars, raids, burnt down houses, churches and businesses, and inhabitants who were forced to flee.

Although it was difficult to accept such a way of life, they did not give up, but lived honestly and proudly. Today, after years of renovation Župa does not forget, but experiences a new boom since all its inhabitants share the hope that this will have been the last wave of evil to ever pass over this gentle region.

Tourist board of Župa dubrovačka is available to guests as well as private owners and other interested throughout the year.

During the summer season office is open all day. The guests can use the info desk in the office, miscellaneous materials, brochures and maps.

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Contact Info

Šetalište dr. Franja Tuđmana 7, 20207 Mlini
+385 (0)20 486 254
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