The castle of Sokol was built on an inaccessible cliff more than 25 meters high. A natural fortress, its controls the main road leading from Konavle north into Herzegovina and the Balkan hinterland. This is the main reason why this town has been continuously inhabited since ancient times.
Although its present name was first mentioned in August 1373, archaeological finds date the town several thousand years earlier. Research has proven that there was a prehistoric structure, an ancient and a late-antiquity fortress, and a medieval town that came under the authority of the city of Dubrovnik in 1423.
Protecting the region for centuries
The role of the fortress changes over time. In addition to its religious function, the prehistoric fortress also protected the inhabitants of the village below it. Ancient Roman and late antiquity Byzantine fortresses had to defend the Konavle region from external enemies and barbarians. In the Middle Ages, Konavle was primarily under the authority of the neighbouring states, although it enjoyed a special political position. Fort Sokol no longer had to defend Konavle from neighbouring rulers because they were already in Konavle. These feudal lords now enforced payments from their lands in Konavle from Sokol. With the arrival of people from Dubrovnik this system changed radically. They oversaw Konavle and managed their revenues from the Rector’s Court in Saint Martin (Pridvorje) and Sokol took on a role similar to that of Justinian’s castrum from the 6th century: the defence of territory acquired from external enemies.
History explained in the museum
Back to its former glory
Throughout the 15th century, the Republic of Dubrovnik invested considerable financial resources to make Sokol a fortress powerful enough to defend Konavle and the south-eastern borders of the republic. The small trading republic had many enemies. In addition to rulers in the hinterland and the powerful Venetian Republic, which was always lying in wait to conquer the city, a major new power on the European mainland was unstoppably approaching the borders of Dubrovnik: the Ottomans. Sokol also played an important military role in the 16th and the 17th centuries. However, after the Candian war in 1669, the fortress lost its significance and the Dubrovnik army abandoned it in 1672. The Association of the Friend of Dubrovnik Antiquities acquired Sokol in 1966. The restoration, which has taken more than half a century, has enabled the fortress to open to the public. After 350 years, Sokol is again guarded by a permanent garrison the watches over it.
Truly a magical place