The green island of Lokrum stands guard in front of Dubrovnik city. The island outpost of rocks deposited on the ancient Adriatic Carbonate Platform over millions of years is now a Special Reserve of Forest Vegetation and under UNESCO protection.
First mentioned as a Benedictine estate in 1023 A.D. the connection remains nearly a millennia after. The last Benedictines left the monastery in 1798 AD after selling the property to Dubrovnik’s by then we’ll paying Aristocracy. A mysterious story of fate remains.
Legend of the Benedictine Curse
The legend has it that the friars had gathered the night before their departure, pulled their hoods low covering their faces, lit their candles, put them with bottoms up and with bowed heads, droning prayers and murmuring chants, went to a nocturnal procession around their property along the ancient path, grieving over their loss and bidding farewell to their beautiful abode. The dark mysterious procession in the weak, flickering candlelight had finally cursed the future owners of the island.
Certainly, the legend which is linked with some deaths and accidents among local folk, would fade in controversy, had it not been the tragedies which had hit the family of the Austrian emperor and Croatian king Francis Joseph I., some members of which had also been the owners of Lokrum. The execution of the emperor’s brother , the archduke Maximilian in Mexico, the murder of his wife, empress Elizabeth at the lake in Geneva, and the suicide of his son, heir to the throne Rudolph, at Mayerling. These details had fixed the legend in the memory of the people with its bloody circle, drawing a gloomy shadow over the island.
Lokrum Hiking Trails and Gardens
The oldest Lokrum path is the one from Portoč, the islands main port to the monastery complex founded in the 11th century. The Forest Rangers house (Lugarova kuća) in Portoč was built in the period of the Habsburg administration, with the Mexican stone emblem on the facade still visible. Maximillian was the Viceroy of Mexico. It now houses a reception ticket office with souvenirs and a small library if you desire to read a good book while on the island. The strange book I pulled out for the day, Crni Lav u zlatnom polju by Jan van Dorp turns out to be a tale of the life of a famous Flandrian pirate of Ostend Captain Marinusa de Boera. Check it out: The Sable Lion: A Novel
As my plan is to check out the Fort Royal and the stunning views before heading back towards the monastery complex for lunch, I progress right from the Rangers house. This path is the longer way round, but who takes shortcuts in nature? Passing through the most beautiful Aleppo Pine forest along a central part of the unique system of three tree lined walks named The Path of Paradise, leaves you with a sense of well done to the original planners and planters. Fort Royal offer a great vantage point over the whole island of Lokrum and just spetacular views of the Dubrovnik Old town, with complete panoramic vision of the layout and surroundings.
There is an alleged landing place just to the north of the Fort Royal at the oldest Lokrum port, Skalica. As the ship of King Richard the Lion Heart is returning home from the crusades in 1192 A.D. the English king sailed across the waters of the Mediterranean in November. Tortured by strong wind and waves, finds refuge in the relatively safe anchorage beside the Skalica cove within sight of the Old Town of Dubrovnik.
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