My favorite meeting place in Dubrovnik- for me it symbolizes everything about this town- romance, courage, legend, history, reslience, and liberty. The Libertas flag hoisted atop Orlando's Column, in the Luza Square, just between the Chruch of St.Blaise (Patron saint of Dubrovnik), and the Sponza Palace, or old Customs House.
Orlando's Column (15th century) is the most significant symbol of Dubrovnik's independence and freedom. The hoisting of the red and white flag bearing the insignia of St. Blasius on the column in 1419 marked the beginning of the golden period of Ragusan history. Its lowering in 1808, when Napoleon's army marched into the city, was the end of an entire era. Since 1990 Orlando's Column has been flying a red and white flag which bears one word known and understood by everyone, 'Libertas'!
For centuries, the city of Dubrovnik has cherished one thing above all others – freedom. It was an independent state for much of its existence, and the defeat of the Venetians in 972 was a defining moment for the city. Orlando’s Column was erected to celebrate the city’s freedom. It is placed in the main square, for everyone to see. In 1419, the column was adorned with the flag of Saint Blasius, which symbolized the city’s liberty. It flew until the city was overrun by the Napoleonic forces of the French in 1808. After the French, it was the Hungarians, and the Austrians, and others. In 1990, a white flag bearing the word “Libertas” was hoisted over the column to celebrate the city’s independent spirit. Orlando’s Column is the psychological center of the city. It is here that public notices were posted, pubic rallies held, and public punishments meted out. The punishment part is, perhaps, particularly appropriate, considering the figure carved into the column is that of a knight dressed for battle. It is a depiction of the knight Roland (“Orlando” is the Italian form of the French name “Roland”), whose battles and deeds have been enshrined in the fables of history, poetry, and song. Roland is frequently described as the greatest knight of the Middle Ages, and was reputed to be the nephew of Charlemagne; though that royal lineage didn’t spare him from his fate. Through literature, his death became as well known as his life, and standard reading for schoolchildren in parts of Europe. Roland never visited Dubrovnik, in real life, or fantasy. It is believed that the column was brought to Dubrovnik by one of the foreign rulers of the city. But the people of the city were so taken with his tale that they saw parallels between his struggles and their own. To them, he became an adopted son, and a symbol of their own strength and endurance.
The standard unit of measure, the “ell,” is derived from the distance between the fingertips and elbow of the knight’s right arm.