When mentioning the Dubrovnik Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, or simply the Cathedral, as the people of Dubrovnik call it - two associations offer themselves to the connoisseurs. One is connected with the legend of the vow of the English king Richard the Lionheart, and the other with the richness of the Cathedral treasury testifying to the outstanding reputation of the Dubrovnik goldsmith trade from the 11th - 18th centuries. Aware of that, the businesslike, wise, suspicious and cautious people of Dubrovnik at the time secured the wealth stored at the Cathedral with three keys. One was kept by the rector, the second by the bishop and the third by the Republic secretary, and the treasury doors could be unlocked only when using the three keys simultaneously.
The former Romanesque cathedral located at the same site, built from the 12th - 14th centuries, largely owes its construction to the English king Richard the Lionheart. Having survived a shipwreck near the storm-stricken Island of Lokrum on his way back from the 3rd Crusade in 1192, he vowed to donate the money for the construction of a large church to the city in possession of the first land he set his feet on. This luxurious Romanesque basilica with a dome was completely destroyed in the great earthquake of 1667.
At that tragic time, the curator and later rector of the Vatican Library was, fortunately, Stjepan Gradić, the renowned historian, philosopher, poet and diplomat, who used his influence to help his native city. He managed to bring the most distinguished Italian architects to Dubrovnik, including Andrea Buffalini, who realised Gradićs wish to design a new cathedral in the Baroque style after the church architecture models at the time. On the basis of Buffalinis design Paolo Andreotti began the construction of the Cathedral in 1672. It lasted for many years and numerous masters had been engaged. The construction was eventually completed in 1713 by the local master Ilija Katičić. The interior of this three-nave church with a dome comprises several valuable altars in the Late Baroque style. Particularly fascinating are the works by the great Titian and his workshop (poliptych The Assumption of the Virgin Mary from the 16th century) above the main altar, Raphaels Madonna della Seggiola, The Flight into Egypt by the Italian painter Savoldo, etc. The Dubrovnik Cathedral is not only a fine example of Dubrovniks rich history and art, but also an intriguing archaeological site which opens numerous questions on the first millennium of Dubrovnik. During the restoration works on the Cathedral damaged by the earthquake of 1979, the archaeologists discovered the remains of yet another cathedral older than the one in the Romanesque style. They determined that this cathedral originated in the 7th century, which produced evidence in support of Dubrovnik being a developed urban community already at the time.