Wednesday, 28 July 2010
The first written mention of Lokrum was in 1023 when the Benedictine abbey and monastery were founded. The name Lokrum comes from the Latin, 'acrumen', meaning sour fruit. This derives from the tradition of cultivating exotic plants on the island, a tradition started in the time of the Benedictines. The last Benedictines left the island in 1798. Local legends say that the night before they departed they put a curse on the island. It is believed that because of that curse all the owners of this island ended tragically.
According to legend, Richard the Lionheart was shipwrecked in 1192 after returning home from the crusades and was cast safely ashore on Lokrum. He pledged to build a church on the island but the church was built on the nearby mainland instead.
Maximilian Ferdinand of Habsburg had a mansion built on the island in 1859 with a magnificent garden laid out, criss-crossed with pathways, full of amazing plants and botanical wonders. The island was originally purchased by Maximilian's wife Archduchess Charlotte of Austria, with part of her marriage dowry, and she retained ownership of the island even after she and her husband became Emperor and Empress of Mexico. After the Emperor Maximilian's execution the island was surrendered to the Habsburg Family in a deal struck between Franz Joseph I of Austria and Leopold II of Belgium. Charlotte had become insane and Leopold had renounced in the name of his sister all claims to her and her husband's property in Austria. The island was given to Archduchess Elisabeth Marie of Austria as part of her marriage dowry; Yugoslavia claimed it under the Treaty of Saint-Germain. Princess Elizabeth stated that she was no longer a Habsburg, having renounced her rights on the occasion of her marriage; therefore Yugoslavia had no right to the property. The case was settled by a payment of $575,000 to the Princess.
In 1959 a Botanical Garden was founded on Lokrum which contains native and imported, tropical and subtropical plants, and other vegetation originating from Australia to South America. The island is also inhabited by families of peacocks.
The island is now a popular destination forthe visitors to Dubrovnik. A restaurant is located in the former monastery, and walking routes round the island are marked out. There is also a nudist beach at the south-eastern end of the island.