DUBROVNIK DIGEST >> Natural sights
Natural sights >> Island Lokrum
Lokrum is a beautiful forested island next to Dubrovnik that for centuries belonged to a benedictine order which had built a church there. However, at the end of the 18th Century, under finacial strain, the Dubrovnik Republic decide to sell the island in 1798.
That same year, the legend of the Lokrum curse was born. In fact - according to spoken history, held to this day - the Benedictines, angry at the decision of the authorities to sell Lokrum, began a procession on the island, in hooded black robes, carrying upside down candles in their hands, reciting a terrible curse: that death or severe misfortune befalls each owner Lokrum after them.
The first owners of Lokrum were wealthy people from Dubrovnik who quickly fell into financial difficulties, each individually getting rid of their property. The island eventually fell under the ownership of Marko Tomasevic, who died under mysterious circumstances. Meanwhile, Napoleon entered the city and became the owner of the island, only to be exiled shortly afterwards to the small Mediterranean island of Elba.
After the fall of Napoleon, the Austrian Habsburg dynasty became owners of this oasis of silence. They quickly began the construction of a fort on Lokrum which allegedly awakened the Benedictine curse because soon after completion, the Austrian ship Triton exploded nearby, with 85 crew members losing their lives.
The younger brother of Emperor Franz Joseph I., Archduke Maximilian came to Dubrovnik to pay his respects to the dead sailors and was struck with beautiful nature on Lokrum. He then decided to do it up so that he could stay on it and entertain world leaders there. The Archduke planted exotic plants and brought animals like peacocks, parrots and canaries there. The former Benedictine monastery was converted into his residence. Together with his wife, Belgian Princess Charlotte, he spends a good part of the year on Lokrum enjoying the peace and quiet.
However, the ambitious Charlotte wants more for her husband and persuades him to become a Mexican emperor. Maximilian finally agrees and goes to Mexico, where the political situation in the mid 19th Century is complicated. In the end, Maximilian is arrested and executed.
Lokrum then falls into the hands of his nephew, the son of Franz Joseph, Rudolf who is married to a Belgian princess, Stephanie. When it’s uncovered that Rudolf has a mistress, Baroness Mary Vetschera, problems begin. Rudolf kills his mistress and then himself. A film about this tragic love story was made with Catherine Deneuve and Omar Sharif in the leading roles, although the Lokrum curse is never mentioned many people from Dubrovnik will say that the curse was to blame for Rudolf's fate.
Rudolf was visited on Lokrum by his mother, Queen Emily Eugenie Elizabeth, known as Sissi, who was assasinated by Italian anarchist Luigi Luccheini.
The island of Lokrum is connected to another crown prince, Franz Ferdinand who was assassinated. Gavrilo Princip shot him during an official visit to Sarajevo, sparking the start of the First World War.
All the owners of Lokrum came to their end ina trgic way, adding fuel to the fire when it come sto the legend of the Benedictine curse. Since the end of the First World War, the island has always been in state ownership and remains so today.
Be sure to visit and don't be afraid of the curse as it's just a legend from the Dubrovnik Republic. It’s interesting that despite all of these unfortunate events happening to the Austrian royal court, the island was never set on fire during the last war, even though the enemy army showered it with incendiary grenades on a daily basis.
Today Lokrum is a fairy tale place – it's as though tiem has stood still when you set fott on its shores. Walk the trails, see Maximilian’s beautiful botanical garden Maximilian, feed tame peacocks, swim in the clear deep sea and find your beach to enjoy (Lokrum, among other things, is famous for its nudist beach).
From the old port, boats to Lokrum run every half hour (in both directions), from early morning until dark.