Ernest Katić

Ernest Katić

Ernest (Nesti) Katić Jr., a lawyer, playwright, collector, but also a dedicated worker in the field of culture, was born in Dubrovnik on February 6, 1883. He received his primary and secondary education in his hometown, and in 1901, after graduating, he went to Graz (Austria) to study law. He received his doctorate in 1906, and spent most of the period until the end of the First World War in the Financial Department of the Governorate (Provincial Government) for the Kingdom of Dalmatia in Zadar. Katić’s fulfilled social life, spent socializing with the people of Dubrovnik who were connected to Zadar by work or life, including Josip Bersa, will be recorded in the obituary which he published on the occasion of Bersa’s death in 1932 in the Dubrovnik weekly paper, Narodna svijest:

Sunday sittings with him on Sunday afternoons remain unforgettable, especially during the war. In a nutshell, it was a literary Cénacle, because everyone had something to talk about, to read, to discuss new currents and works, and then to bring out and review old books or manuscripts, then the latest editions, the latest studies by French critics etc. Our sittings would be transferred to the empty halls of the closed hotel ‘Bristol’ on Zadar’s new coast, which were rented by some Dubrovnik residents sheltered in Zadar, and as there was no food due to roads to Rijeka being cut off, one would often stare in front of an empty table. Yet the conversation flowed vividly; enthusiasm and hope for liberation strengthened the soul and hearts.

Ernest Katić
From the weekly paper Narodna svijest, 1993

We also learn from the obituary that Bersa sent his work Dubrovnik Images and Opportunities to the press of Matica hrvatska (Matrix Croatica) in Zagreb, although it will be another ten years before its publication in 1941, which the author did not experience. We see that Bersa collected until his death, every line from the rich history of Dubrovnik, in which, as he writes, among others, Katić himself helped. After the end of the war, Katić moved for a short time together with the offices of the provincial government from Zadar to Split and finally to Dubrovnik, where he practiced law, but also active social engagement.

Ernest Katić’s first poetic breakthrough came in 1908, but he began to take literature more seriously in 1914, when he published Jakobinka, a four-act drama staged on the boards of the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb the same year. Like Bersa, he was extremely attracted to Dubrovnik’s past, which he thematized in his literary works and radio dramas. As a playwright, but also an essayist, he often published in magazines and newspapers of the time under the pseudonym Lukša from Orsan. Under that name, in 1922, immediately after the consecration, he published a review of the newly erected building – Meštrović’s Mausoleum in Cavtat.

As a true lover of the Dubrovnik tradition, Ernest Katić was a member of the board of the Blaga djela foundation, an active member of the Dub society, but also a churchman at the Church of St. Blasius.

At that time, the churchman of the Saint’s temple, Mr. Dr. Ernest Katić raised the flag of St. Blasius above the church door. The sounds of trumpets, from which white flags with the image of St. Blasius fluttered, announced to the City that the festival had begun, and they were answered by the bells of all the city churches and shooting from Minčeta… was written in Narodna svijest in 1938.

Katić was also a collector, as well as a member and president of the Dubrovnik branch of Matica hrvatska.

When the Irish writer George Bernard Shaw visited Dubrovnik in 1929, his host and guide was Ernest Katić.

Ernest Katić
The audience in front of Rector’s Palace, 1933

He was also a co-organizer of the 11th PEN Congress held in Dubrovnik in 1933. The significance and echo of this gathering at which, under the chairmanship of the English writer H. G. Wells, Nazism and the persecution of writers who were against Hitler’s policies were condemned, was great.

It is interesting that for this occasion, as a central cultural event, Gundulić’s Dubravka was chosen to be staged in front of Rector’s Palace, and Slavko Batušić published the text: There are theatrical events that are so big, strong and suggestive, that they are never forgotten… One such a great event took place on the historic plaque in front of the Rector’s Palace on the evening of May 25, 1933

However, the fate of Katić’s plays was different. Over time they fell into oblivion, but at the time they were published they aroused great interest. That is how Vid Vuletić Vukasović, during the reading of III act of Katić’s play dedicated to Cvijeta Zuzorić published flattering verses, but it will never be performed theatrically.

Ernest Katić
Ernest Katić with G. B. Shaw in cloister of Franciscan Monastery, Dubrovnik

In Katić’s rich manuscript legacy, which is kept today in the State Archives in Dubrovnik, in addition to manuscripts of his own works, there are numerous documents related to genealogies of Dubrovnik families, parts of correspondence of various public figures of the 19th century, including Đuro Pulić, as well as transcripts of various older documents. The manuscripts of Katić’s uncle, Ernest Katić the Elder (1838-1905), also a lawyer and occasional poet, are also kept there. It is interesting to mention that the older Katić was a close friend of Baldo Bogišić and his legal representative in the management of his estate during Bogišić’s frequent absences from his homeland, as evidenced by the preserved letters.

Katić expressed his love for Dubrovnik antiquities by buying the Bettera family’s summer house in Župa dubrovačka with plans for its revitalization, but unfortunately all restoration ideas and projects failed because after World War II his property was taken away, i.e., nationalized.

Ernest Katić died on June 10, 1955.