Yet another monumental and impressive fortress, the Fort of St. Lawrence, lies outside the city walls at the western entrance to the city. It proudly sits on its steep cliffs, 37 metres in height, and seeped in legends on how it came to be as well as the heroic acts of its guards and defenders. It dominates both the sea and land entrances to the city on the western side, and together with Bokar Fort, closes in and protects Dubrovnik's oldest harbour, Kalarinja. The Fort of St. Lawrence caused many problems for those who attempted to jeopardize the freedom of the Republic, primarily the Venetians.
Dubrovnik historians have written an interesting tale about how it came to be built. At the beginning of the 11th century, the Venetians allegedly intended to build their own great fortress at the same location, in order to hold Dubrovnik powerless against them. The people of Dubrovnik learned of the intention of the Venetians and they immediately decided to build a fortress on this virtually inaccessible cliff to protect the city from the Venetians. Historians claim that the fortress was built in three months time. When the Venetians sailed in with the materials intended to build the fort, they were left only to see that the people of Dubrovnik had outwitted them and beat them to it. The fort has exceptionally thick walls on three sides, the north, west and southwest, the sides the enemy could approach from. These walls are between 4 and 12 metres thick. On the eastern part of the fortress facing Dubrovnik, the walls are only 60 centimetres thick. This was also a wise precautionary measure by the Dubrovnik Republic, for in the event that the fort commander, who was always from the ranks of the aristocracy, tried to act as a tyrant over the city, the Republic's artillery could easily penetrate this wall from one of the other fortresses, thus preventing any such attempts. The fort was armed with cannons and the exceptionally large cannon "Guster" (the lizard), a masterpiece by domestic cannon maker Ivan Rabljanin.
Throughout the centuries, this fort was adapted many times and following the fall of the Republic, it served a different purpose: it was a military base during the Austrian occupation, then it was converted into a hospitality facility. In 1933, the Fort of St. Lawrence was the venue for several sessions of the PEN club (meetings of the most eminent writers of the world, who then discovered Dubrovnik as a tourist attraction). For centuries, the fort was the greatest defender of the city's freedom, and engraved above its gates is a message for descendents and for the world "Non bene pro toto libertas venditur auro", ("Freedom cannot be sold for all the treasures of the world"). Today, in this free city and free country, the fort shines again with its former greatness, and freely flies the flag of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival with its symbol "Libertas" (Freedom).
It has become one of the most dignified beautiful stages of the world for the performance of one of the world's best plays, Shakespeare's 'Hamlet'.