An Island of Legend and Authenticity
Dubrovnik owes some of its historical identity to an islet in its closest vicinity, that is, to Lokrum, clad in fit dark-green vegetation, its name reminding of the Roman 'acrumen', at sole 680 metres from the City's port. Lokrum is a historical location, with intertwined legends and real diplomatic and historic events, with many historical personalities and often flaming interests of the town as their protagonists.
It is first mentioned in 1023, when by the gift of deed issued by Dubrovnik arch-bishop Vital and Mayor Lampredi, it was donated to Leon, a clergyman, and Peter, a Benedictine. The generous donation fruited with a Benedictine Monastery that served to the Dubrovnikers as a guardian and, often, as a spirit-level in the fine and ingenuous play of changing interests. By erecting their monastery at the southern part of the island, the Benedictines set themselves as watchful observers of common interests.
All the way up to the late 18th century, when the island was sold away, they would often warn the City about the dangers coming form the sea, either with fires from the island's hilltop, or with stubborn ringing of the bells from their church tower.
A legend has it that on his way back from the Third Crusade, in 1192, even the English king Richard the Lion-Heart found himself stranded on Lokrum after a tempest. Decisive to have an impressive church built at the spot he set his foot on first, he gave a generous donation for the purpose. Reportedly, then, in the game of various interests, the donation was passed on to the City, which used the hefty amount to enlarge and restore the cathedral. As by the legend, the King wanted the church dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary - which Dubrovnik Cathedral actually is!
Lokrum does not only excel by its unique beauty - it is a unique blend of the Mediterranean contrasts - of the green, the bluenness of the sea and the whiteness of the city walls at hand. It is the guardian of the city, its reconnaisance party over the many long centuries. Battles were fought around it, its coves of Portoč and Skala anchored Venetian gallions and Austrian war ships alike, thus keeping away many a danger off the City itself, while incessantly living a life of its own, created by the industrious Benedictines on the wings of their order's simple and laconic motto: "Ora et labora" ( "pray and work" ). It is the Benedictines whom we owe the deed of turning the island into a paradise - on its slopes they grew some very special grapes and made the unique kind of white malvasia wine.
Finally, its was their own doom that has turned Lokrum into an island of legends. When in the late 18 century the impoverished Dubrovnik Republic came upon the idea of selling the island, and asked the permission for it, all with the aim of recharging its empty treasury, it created the legend about a spell that is still living. The last Benedictines were expelled from the island on January 4, 1799. The night before, they made three rounds of the island with lighted candles turned upside down, pronouncing a spell to any that would ever dare to buy their earthly abode. The legend mentions the ill fate of the three Dubrovnik aristocrats that suggested the sale of the island to the Republic's Senate, and the foundering of the Austrian brig Triton in 1859, threatening with a clash over the supremacy on Sardinia between France under Napoleon III and Austria.
The clash, however, did not happen, but the fact is that the pier at Skala saw the biggest catastrophe that ever happened on quiet water, carrying away almost hundred lives of innocent sailors. The memory on this tragedy is marked with the stone cross. The event forced out a visit by Archduke Maximilian Ferdinand, commander-in-chief of Austrian naval forces. This sensitive aesthetist fell in love with the island, oversaw the spell, and had one wing of the old monastery replaced by a summer vila for his beloved spouse Charlotte.
He visited Lokrum over eight consecutive years, without a premonition that the appointment to the king of Mexico would cost him life right after the disembark at Queretaro. His cousin, Archduke Rudolph, was of similar destiny. Himself taken by the atmosphere of the small town in the Mediterranean south of his empire, he visited Dubrovnik and, especially, Lokrum. He died under unclear circumstances at the Mayerling Castle, having shot his gorgeous mistress Maria Wetsera.
Read the whole article: The Legend of the Lokrum Curse
The last owner of Lokrum was The Duchess of Windischgratz, from a family related to the Habsburgs, who in 1919 sold it to the then Yugoslav government for 11 million crowns. For a number of years the island hosted a children's resting home, and when it was proclaimed natural reserve, the Benedictine spell on unfortunate ownerships, tragic dooms and bewitched walls of the old monastery, was pacified forever. However, the cloister does shelter the earthly remains of the self-proclaimed Dubrovnik Rector Damjan Juda, and the tombs and bodies of the most reputable patricians. The small Maximilian's garden was the base for the Botanical Park whose palms, exotic plants and tall pine-trees intertwine in the scenography of enchanted, genuine nature, close to the blue depths of the sea and the global voyages.
Summertime on Lokrum has since long become the property of many. A shuttle sets off from the Old Port evey half hour, Lokrum being the destination of sun bathers, a paradise for lovers - too precious to belong to one single person. In its middle lies the "Dead Sea", close to the white monastery, on its top the Fort Royal, offering a close view on Dubrovnik, itself resembling a precious stamp of the past, the present and the times to come.
Publication: Welcome to Dubrovnik
Author: Tereza Buconić Gović
Good to know facts
Lokrum Island is situated in front of Old Town Dubrovnik, ten minutes pleasant sail by the taxi boat that departs from Dubrovnik. From the Old city port regular taxi boats run every hour during spring and automn, during summer the departure and return are every 30 minutes.
It is forbidden to stay on Lokrum over night, the last boat during summer departs from the island back to Dubrovnik around 19.00.
Visiting Island Lokrum with children
On the southern part of the island there is a small lake linked with the open sea called Mrtvo more (Dead Sea). This lake and the surrounding area are suitable for smaller children and non swimmers to bathe in. Other Lokrum's beaches are rocky, there are ladders to enter the sea but for really small children this area is not so suited.
After passing the monastery there is a large meadow next to the olive groves. There is also a volleyball and a small football field. Close by you wll find the area with swings, games and open space for kids, shaded and protected from the sun by cypress and pine trees.
More about Lokrum island Javna ustanova Rezervat Lokrum