“Only the imagination of a skilled writer could have placed an island like Lokrum by a city like this one. When you set foot on Lokrum, you encroach upon a mystery. You can hear the murmur of the whispers of all the lovers who have gazed at the stars from this very spot, hear the rustling of silks and the beating of wings, the sound of poems and the muttering of Latin prayers, as if you were hearing them now in the cloister of the Benedictine monastery. Lokrum is under a spell, a spell that you cannot hope to undo.”
– Luko Paljetak
The history of Lokrum is very lengthy, eventful and intriguing one, mostly since all of its owners after the “Benedictine curse” died in a tragic or mysterious way. It is an island of unbelievable beauty and priceless treasures wrapped in a veil of legend and mystery.
Keep on reading …
The origin of the name itself comes from the Latin word ACRUMEN, a collective name for citrus fruits and oranges, and the earliest written records mentioning Lokrum appeared in the year 1023.
According to the annals, it was the year 1023, the celebration of St. Benedict’s day when Dubrovnik was caught in a large fire. The citizens were so afraid that they made a vow to St. Benedict – if he saved Dubrovnik they would build a church and a monastery in gratitude for saving their lives. The same moment that Dubrovnik citizens said the words of their vow, the fire was gone.
The monastery was built the same year, and the Benedictines enjoyed the position of owners of the island for seven long centuries (11th – 18th century).
On April 6th, 1667 the fatal destiny befell Dubrovnik and the island of Lokrum when a powerful earthquake destroyed much of the city and buildings on Lokrum in a matter of seconds. Those seconds left deep scars on the island. The earthquake destroyed the church, and severely damaged the Lokrum monastery, which never managed to recover. On August 7th, 1798, the Senate of the Dubrovnik Republic decided to sell the island of Lokrum and all its possessions, which were the property of the Benedictine monastery, to 12 wealth private buyers. The banished Benedictines then cursed the island and all its future owners.
The hasty termination of the monks’ stay on Lokrum left behind lasting consequences. It is believed that on that dark night in 1798 when the monks were forced to leave the island of Lokrum for good, they gathered together, put their hoods deep over their faces, lit the candles and turned them upside down so that the wax could fall on the path as they walked. Carrying the candles like this, Benedictines circled the island three times, through the ancient walkways, saying prayers, singing songs and murmuring chants. Setting their way deep into the night they cast a curse in Latin: “Let the one who owns the island and takes it for his own pleasures be damned forever…”.
According to the legend, when dawn started to creep over the horizon, the Benedictines took their places in a ship and left the island forever, without even once looking back at Lokrum for the last time. From that point in time, legend has placed a dramatic veil over the island. Shortly after, three nobles from Dubrovnik who wanted to sell the island died of unnatural causes – one of them drowned, another fell off a cliff and the third one was killed.
Same ‘ill’ faith followed the Archduke Maximilian Habsburg who bought the island in 1859, dying a few years later in the Mexican cue, and the next owner, his nephew Rudolph who committed a suicide.
Lokrum today is a bellowed bathing and excursion place for people of Dubrovnik and their guests, especially during the hot summer months. Featuring an extensive botanical garden and protected under UNESCO as a natural forest reserve, Lokrum is a true green oasis of tranquillity. Its rocky shores are full of solitary places to call your own for a day (unless you catch the attention of quite curious peacocks who inhabit the island.
A must-see is the lake “Dead Sea” – a small saltwater lake connected to the open sea on the east side of the island. However, there are plenty of beaches for every visitor to take a swim. Signs are posted throughout the island so there is no danger of getting lost.
You can get to Lokrum by a lovely 10-minute boat ride with the “Skala” and “Zrinski” vessels, which depart every half hour from the Old City port. Tickets can be purchased at the pier, just before boarding.
The first boat departs from the Old City port at 9 a.m. and the last one returns from Lokrum at 7 or 8 p.m. (depending on the season). Visitors are forbidden to stay on the island overnight. Boat transportation is available 7 months of the year, from April through October.
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