According to legend, Lokrum Island is cursed.
It began in the 12th century, when a French general ordered expulsion of the Benedictine monks who had built and lived in their house of worship on Lokrum for centuries. Dismayed, the monks went to the church of St. Mary to pray to the god of the island for guidance. That night, shrouded in hooded cloaks, they circled the island – slowly and methodically, singing a quiet hymn, turning their lighted candles toward the earth. The curse played out as the representatives from the aristocratic houses of Gozze, Pozza and Sorgo from Dubrovnik who brought the order immediately met their fate – one drowned in the sea, one jumped from a high window, and one was killed by a servant.
Lore lives on that boats aiming for Lokrum are swallowed up by the sea and those who stay overnight are doomed to live there for all of eternity. Locals will tell you that screams can be heard from the monastery at night.
That is the legend. This is the history:
In 1192, Lokrum gave shelter to shipwrecked King Richard the Lionheart who erected a Roman cathedral that would protect him on his future return from the third Crusade. The ruins atop the highest point on the island would later provide a post location to Napoleon, the only military leader to conquer southern Dalmatia, who kept his army safe within its walls while maintaining watch of the area. In the 17th century, at the height of Europe’s fateful Bubonic plague, the Lazzaretti quarantine area was built on Lokrum Island to intercept and contain new arrivals to Dubrovnik until they were deemed free of disease and safe to enter and live within the ancient city walls. In 1859, Archduke Maximilian of the House of Habsburg (and the future Emperor of Mexico,) converted the monastery into his summer residence. And today, this small island off the shores of Dubrovnik, is a translation of natural beauty crossing centuries, it’s biblical. What you will find:
Cypress, pine and oak trees. He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak, which he strengtheneth for himself among the trees of the forest: he planteth an ash, and the rain doth nourish it. – Isaiah 44:14, King James Bible.
Olive orchards and citrus trees. Lokrum inherited its name from the Latin, acrumen, meaning “bitter fruit” named in reference to the citrus trees that flourish there.
Peacocks. First brought from the Canary Islands by Maximilian. Males show their vibrant and colorful feathers to attract mates. Females are brown with slight blue markings on her neck. Have you ever seen a baby peacock? You will see them on Lokrum. These birds of this paradise will ask you for food as they have learned from tourists past, but they are not pests, so play nicely. Generally, it is not good to feed wild animals.
Natural swimming areas and sheltered coves. Lokrum earned the nickname the “Island of Love” or “Island of Lovers” in the 1970’s with its popular sheltered coves and nude beaches. The appeal was rampant then and it is now – tourists love it, locals love it, love abounds.
- By ferry: 15 minutes from Old Town Dubrovnik. Look for boats named the Skala and Zrinski, leaving every 30 minutes. Cost: 35 kuna (about 5€) in 2013.
- By kayak: 45 minutes of hard (and quick) paddling from the mouth of Dubrovnik through the ferry passage and around the northwestern side of the island to a rocky shore where you can hitch your boat. Wander on and enjoy the day. Price varies based on group size, duration of rental, etc.
The Botanical Garden on Lokrum
The botanical garden on the island was established in 1959 by the National Academy of Arts and Sciences and its goal was to study the behavior of non-native tropical and sub-tropical plants and how they might adapt to the dry hot summers and temperate rainy winters that the region is known for. The plants came from Australia, America and Japan through a worldwide horticultural exchange program.
The garden was designed by a landscape architect from Dubrovnik named Dr. Sc. Bruno Šišić, and the layout of the grounds resulted from the laborious love of Dr. Lav Rajevski in 1960 – who was determined to develop an intelligent tourist attraction while nurturing a research location where native flora of the southern Adriatic could thrive.
When Croatia’s war of independence came in 1991-1992, artillery also came to Lokrum and damaged much of the infrastructure on the island, causing significant damage to the botanical garden. Fortunately, like the early scientists who built this section of the island preserve, there are dedicated scientists who arrive when the sun rises, and leave in the evening when the sun goes down – ensuring that there is an island of love for future travelers.
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