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Lokrum – a living legend

Lokrum – a living legend

The island of Lokrum, Dubrovnik’s green oasis, seems to float on the turquoise Adriatic Sea just a stone’s throw from the historic Old City Walls. It looks tranquil and idyllic, a spot of peace, and for many centuries the citizens have used the island as their summer getaway. Visitors see rich Mediterranean vegetation, pine shaded pathways and crystal clear waters, to all the island echoes calm and harmony. One would think that nothing of any great interest has ever happened on Lokrum. Think again. Beneath the laid back feel the island has had a very eventful past.

A vast array of foreign rulers has arrived in Dubrovnik over the centuries. One such visitor was Richard I of England, or as he was known Richard the Lion Heart. It could be argued that this king of England was an unexpected visitor to Dubrovnik, more precisely the island of Lokrum. According to legend he visited Dubrovnik in 1192 on his return from the Third Crusade War in Palestine. His ship became caught in a terrible storm in the Adriatic Sea and he desperately sought shelter. Afraid for his life he pledged that if he survived the storm he would build a church on the spot where he first touched land and another back in England. After a bitter struggle his ship finally found shelter in a bay on the island of Lokrum and not forgetting he vowed to build a church on that very spot. The citizens of Dubrovnik soon heard about the Kings arrival and sent representatives to meet and invite him into the City. They gave him many beautiful gifts and persuaded him to stay longer in the City to relax and recuperate after his ordeal.

However, the Dubrovnik City Council convinced him that a church in the City would be a much better idea, whilst they would organize building a church on the island. King Richard gladly accepted this proposal and legend says that he even asked the Pope for permission. To seal the deal they offered to take the King back to England in their ships. Before his departure King Richard left 100,000 gold coins, for the construction of the church, with one of his men who was charged with completing the task. Satisfied that he had fulfilled his pledge he sailed to Ancona in Italy with Dubrovnik ships. From Ancona he travelled across Europe to England. The church was built between the 12th and the 14th centuries and it was one of the most highly decorated Romanesque churches in Europe. The final cost was 80,000 gold coins and a further 20,000 was spent on the decoration. Unfortunately the church was badly damaged in the great earthquake of 1667 and very little of it remained standing. The church was rebuilt between 1673 and 1713 and is known today as the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin.