Island Lokrum is located just in front of the Dubrovnik old city and is one of the most popular destinations in Dubrovnik area. Thanks to its unspoiled nature, beautiful coastline, botanical garden and historical remains it righteously holds that title. Actually, the nature here is so beautiful and diverse that the entire island was even proclaimed a reservation and protected by the state.
During the long history of Dubrovnik, Lokrum has been slightly ignored. No settlements were built here, despite the vicinity to the mainland. The only buildings on the island are those of the Benedictine monastery, which was built and improved from the twelfth century onwards. The Republic of Ragusa gave the island to the monks and they constructed their monastery on the southeastern part of the island, in a valley away from the city walls.
Although it is a great defensive position, Republic never built any fortifications on Lokrum. They feared that it could easily fall to the enemy hands in the case of invasion and siege. If the enemy would control a fortress on Lokrum, he would threaten the entire city walls and the main harbor. This doctrine changed only after French army took control of the city in beginning of the nineteenth century and they started constructing the fort Royal on the highest point of the island. Since it was constructed, it was never used beside for a viewpoint for tourists visiting the island.
Lokrum is quite big and surely offers something for everyone – for individuals, couples, families with little children, divers… Close to the port of Portoč (the only port where visitors are allowed to enter the island) there is a café bar offering various refreshments, and a restaurant is located in the buildings of the old monastery. Next to the buildings there are sports grounds so bring some equipment if you fancy an active vacation. To the south of the monastery there is a small lake with an even smaller beach which is connected with the sea with a natural cave. That way it is filled with sea water and called the “Dead sea” and you don’t have to go to Israel to swim in the Dead sea. Also, the entire southern coast of the island is a nudist beach, and there is also a lot of interesting things to see under the surface of the sea.
In the middle of the island, there are a couple of meadows in the shade of old oil trees and are great for picnics. Also, the botanical garden is located here with the miniature fire station. As it is a protected reservation, Lokrum has its own fire brigade which keeps a close eye over the island, maintains it and keeps it safe from fire. They have a vast and well organized network all over the island’s forests and they even maintain their Facebook page. Be sure to check it out for pictures and situations from this beautiful island.
Boats for Lokrum deprat from old city harbor during the summer months from the ports of Cavtat, Plat and Mlini, you can take some of Adriana boats. Also, do note that there is an entrance fee for entering the island.
Beside the beauty of the nature, Lokrum is also known for its legends which surround the island and its history.
The legend about the Lokrum curse
According to the legend, after the fall of Republic, the new authorities decided to close the monastery on Lokrum and to banish the Benedictines. The Benedictines tried in every way they could to revoke the decision on the basis of their centuries-long presence at the island, but it was no use. The last night which they were allowed to spend on the island, they left the church of St. Mary after the divine service dressed in monk’s dresses with hoods on their heads. In a manner of a funeral march, they walked around the island three times with lit wax-candles, which they turned upside down as a sign of a curse.
The procession lasted for the whole night and the wax was dripping along the path while the priests were uttering the curse out loud: “Let every man who gets Lokrum for his own personal pleasure be cursed!” The Benedictines left the island at dawn without turning around or stepping on it ever again. Some say that the curse can be removed only if all wax drops from their candles are collected again.
What fueled the local belief in this legend is the fact that more then a couple of people who owned Lokrum did die. Amongst them is Maximilian the first, the unfortunate emperor of Mexico. He took the island as his own and turned the monastery into his summer retreat. He didn't get to enjoy it much as he tragically ended in Mexico where he was overthrown from power and executed. Other Habsburgs who came close to Lokrum were also connected with sudden deaths - the heir Rudolf died in an unexplained double suicide at Mayerling. His mother, the Empress Elisabeth died on the Lake Geneva - from stabbed. Lokrum was passed to both of them as a legacy of the imperial family.
Couple of decades later, another Habsburg should have come to rest on the beautiful summer retreat in front of Dubrovnik, after a small trip to Sarajevo. It was 1914 and his name was Franz Ferdinand and he was assassinated on that trip, what started World War I.
After the chaos of war and the rule of the Habsburg family ended and their ownership of the island as well. After a couple of phases and owners, Lokrum came under the control of the local organisation Rezervat Lokrum which now manages and preserves it. It looks that this solution is allowed by the curse, as there were no more suspicious death connected with Lokrum in the past century.
The legend about Lokrum and Richard the Lionheart
In 1191, Richard the Lionheart, the king of England, was returning from the Crusades by a ship and sailed through Mediterranean towards home. Big storm caught his on the voyage. While drifting in the sea, he took a vow that if he survived the storm, he would built a church on the first place his leg stepped on. The remains of his ship were stranded on the island of Lokrum and he was happy and gratefull and wanted to keep his promise by building the church on the very spot on Lokrum.
The citizens of Dubrovnik heard about his intent and convinced him of building a church in Dubrovnik instead on Lokrum as it would be much more practical and usefull for them. Cunning as they were, they explained that from the top of the new church in Dubrovnik, he would be able to see his place of rescue. King Richard heard their wishes and obliged. So, according to this legend, King Richard donated a large amount of gold which was later used for building which became the cathedral in Dubrovnik.