Because of its geopolitical and strategic position, Ston has had a rich history since the antiquity. Located at the gates of the peninsula, surrounded by three seas, protected by four hills, rich in fresh water and saltwater, fertile plains, it has been an important political, cultural and ecclesiastical centre. Ston had the first bishopric in the Croatian ethnic region. It is possible that there was a bishop in Ston as early as at the end of the 7th century or the beginning of the 8th century.
Initially it was an Illyrian settlement until the Romans established their own colony there, in 167 BC. Croats appeared there in the early 7th century, and converted to Christianity.
In 533, at Saloon, a diocese was established in Sarsenterum for the Zahumlje or Hum area, which belonged to the church in Ston (Pardui). Later Sarsenterum was destroyed (most likely at the time of Avara's destruction). Since Ston was not included on Avara's ruinous visit, it was spared, and became the seat of the principals. As the secular and ecclesial powers grew together, it is assumed that after the disappearance of Sarsenterum, Ston became the ecclesiastical center. We see the diocese first mentioned in 877 as a diocese of the old age, and the bishop is listed as a suffragan of the Split metropolis. By setting up a metropolis in Dubrovnik, Ston became a suffragan of Dubrovnik.
Upon the arrival of the Croats, the area of the Neretva (from the northern Herzegovina mountains to Rijeka Dubrovačka) was established by the prince of Zahumlje - same as Neretva, Primorje and Herzegovina, which also belonged to Ston with Rat (Peljesac) and Mljet. Local rulers acknowledged the supremacy of Byzantium. After Mihajlo Višević, who acknowledged the authority of Bulgarian Simeon, Zahumlje was ruled over by different dynasties. Around 950, it was briefly ruled by Duke Časlav. At the end of the 10th century, Samuilo was the Lord of Zahumlje, and the dukedom belonged to king Ivan Vladimir. In 1168, the Dukedom and Zahumlje were conquered by Raški major prefect Stevan Nemanja. Thirty years later, Zahumlje was invaded by Andrija, the Duke of Croatia and Dalmatia. In 1254, Béla IV of Hungary conquered Bosnia and Zahumlje. From 1304, Zahumlje was ruled by Mladen Šubić, then again for a short period by Serb parishioners, and from 1325 by Stjepan Kotromanić, and finally by Dubrovnik.
The old Ston was located on the slopes of the hills of Gorica and St. Michael, south of the Ston field. There were several early Christian churches there, the largest of which was St. Stephen's Church. The bishopric church of Mary Magdalene stood until it was bombed by the Allies in 1944. The only church that still remains is the church of St. Michael, built in the middle of the late antique castrum.
The original old town was demolished in the earthquake of 1252. With the arrival of the Republic, a new city was built on today's location. When renovations were made at the church of St. Michael at the top of the hill, fragments of Roman decorative plaster, Roman tombstones and antique ceramics were found, confirming this assumption. According to some sources, Ston experienced a destructive civil war in 1250, and in these conflicts the city suffered a great deal of destruction.
The turbulent times at the beginning of the 14th century spread across the entire country of Zahumlje. The usurpation by the Branivojević brothers, forced the people of Dubrovnik to fight them in 1326 with the help of Stjepan Kotromanović (Stephen II, Ban of Bosnia). That year, Dubrovnik occupied Ston. The Dubrovnik people immediately began to build and establish a new Ston, to defend the Pelješac and protect the slaves from which they had earned big revenue. Since the conflict between the Ban in Bosnia and Serbian king, the Dubrovniks purchased Pelješac with Ston from both rulers in 1333.
The first cathedral church was that of St. Mary Magdalene on Gorica. The Church of Our Lady of Lužina was built in the 10th century. The Cathedral Church of St. Blaise was built in 1342 upon the decision of the Senate after the adherence of Ston to the Dubrovnik Republic at the site of today's damaged parish church. From then on until the fall of the Dubrovnik Republic, Ston was an integral part of the Republic, and its second city of importance.
In 1333, Dubrovnik started with the planned construction of the fortresses of Ston (Veliki Ston) and Little Ston (Mali Ston) at the present site. The cladding between the two towns along their entire length were made of large walls that were supposed to defend the Dubrovnik estate - Pelješac. This entire fortification complex, which is unique to Europe was built over a short period of time.
The downfall of the Republic of Dubrovnik took place due to the sudden and often incomprehensible operations in the 19th century. The city walls of Little Ston were demolished to suppress malaria. The monumental stone fortification complex of Ston suddenly collapsed in preparation for the official visit by Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph - the stones became a quarry for nearby new outcrops and foundations. The restoration of the stone monuments and the reconstruction of the fortifications and the tower resumed only after 1945, however they were again damaged in the Homeland War (1991-1992), followed by the devastating earthquake of 1996. Recently, thanks to the Society of Friends of the Dubrovnik Walls, the stone forts and towers are being reconstructed, so that the monumental stonewall complex now begins to live again in its old dignity.
After the Republic of Dubrovnik acquired the Pelješac in 1334, it required the protection of Ston. First, in thirty years, one of the longest defense walls in Europe was erected on one side of the peninsula, and according to a unique project, two new towns were planned: southern Ston and northern Little Ston with the aim of encompassing people to preserve the boundaries and work in solanas the state had acquired. Between 1461 and 1464, the Florentine architect Michelozzo commissioned the building of the wall by the order of the Dubrovnik Republic. The Great Wall is 1200 m long, and was built to ensure protection from neighbours. The chronicles state that the construction of the wall lasted for 18 months and cost 12,000 ducats.
The fortress of Ston was one of the largest construction projects of the time, with an original length of 7000 m, consisting of the walls of Ston and Little Ston. The Great Wall consists of three fortresses, and the walls and fortresses are flanked by 10 rounds of 31 squares and 6 semi-circular bastions. The complex defense corps has been shaped over the course of four centuries, due to the development of weapons.
The walls were of great importance because they were defending the saltworks that gave 15,900 ducats every year to the Dubrovnik Republic, the shellfish farm and the city itself.
In 1667, about 0.5 km of walls were destroyed in a catastrophic earthquake, and the walls were significantly damaged in the earthquakes in 1979 and 1996.
In 2004, work on the restoration of obsolete walls was started, with the aim of facilitating visits to the area between Ston and Little Ston. It was assumed that the works would be completed by May 2008, but only the original part of the Ston Bridge was rebuilt. The reconstruction of the Great Wall in Ston, worth about five million kuna (€673,000), was completed, and it was announced that the stone walls with public entrance fee will be opened in May 2009. Part of the wall is open to the public since October 2009 for a fee. Until 2013, the original part of the city, the road have been restored. It takes 15 minutes to get to the first part, and 30 minutes to get from the Great to the Small Wall. Today the greater part of the walls have been restored.
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