The 'Pearl of the Adriatic', on the Dalmatian coast, was an important Mediterranean sea power from the 13th century onwards. Although severely damaged by an earthquake in 1667, Dubrovnik managed to preserve its beautiful Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque churches, monasteries, palaces and fountains.
Dubrovnik was founded in the first half of the 7th century by a group of refugees from Epidaurum, who established their settlement and named it Laus. The Latin name Ragusa (Rausa), was in use until the 15th century. From the time of its establishment the town was under the protection of the Byzantine Empire; after the Fourth Crusade the city came under the sovereignty of Venice (1205-1358), and by the Treaty of Zadar in 1358 it became part of the Hungarian-Croatian Kingdom, when it was effectively a republican free state that reached its peak in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Dubrovnik is a remarkably well-preserved example of a late-medieval walled city, with a regular street layout. Among the outstanding medieval, Renaissance and Baroque monuments within the magnificent fortifications and the monumental gates to the city are the Town Hall (now the Rector's Palace), dating from the 11th century; the Franciscan Monastery (completed in the 14th century, but now largely Baroque in appearance) with its imposing church; the extensive Dominican Monastery; the cathedral (rebuilt after the 1667 earthquake); the customs house (Sponza), the eclectic appearance of which reveals the fact that it is the work of several hands over many years; and a number of other Baroque churches, such as that of St Blaise (patron saint of the city).