The first mention of Lokrum in writing came in 1023, in connection with the founding of the Benedictine abbey and monastery. According to legend Richard the Lion-Heart was cast ashore here after being shipwrecked in 1192 while returning from the Crusades. The vow he made to build a church on the spot where he came ashore should he be saved was kept at least in part. Although he came ashore in Lokrum, at the request of the people of Dubrovnik, he agreed to have the church built in the city itself.
Lokrum is a green island, covered in fertile land and lush flora. However, what lies underneath that thin layer is clearly visible only at the shore: the whole island is made of thick layers of sedimentary rock – limestone and dolomite.
The sedimentary rocks hide an interesting geological story millions of years old – they used to be a part of the Adriatic-Dinaridic carbonate platform. The platform’s remains still make up the karst region in Croatia, from Karlovac, Gorski Kotar and Lika to Istria, the Croatian Littoral and Dalmatia, but its largest part has sunk under the Adriatic Sea.
Grave goods at the Dubrovnik Museum indicate that Lokrum was inhabited since prehistoric times. A fragment of an ancient gravestone and four interlaced relief fragments, built into the south-west part of the former Benedictine monastery, were preserved. Certain records state that Lokrum was settled by the Benedictine monks around 915 A.D.
THE MONASTERY COMPLEX was first mentioned in 1023 as the first of many Benedictine monasteries on the territory of the Dubrovnik Republic. The entire island was owned by the monastery, while the abbey served also as a hospital and an almshouse until the mid-15th century.
The Roman Curia granted the mitre in 1149 to the Lokrum Abbot and ever since then the monastery’s abbots, after the archbishop, are considered the first prelates of the Dubrovnik Church.
The ruins of the monastery complex are divided into three parts. The most ancient are the remains of the three-nave and triconch Romanesque-Gothic basilica (12th and 13th century), the east and west monastery wing with its tower and a destroyed cloister.
In the 15th and 16th century, a new monastery in the Gothic-Renaissance style was constructed to the south of the old Romanesque one. The west and north wings of that monastery collapsed during the devastating earthquake of 1667, and only two wings with the cloister were preserved.
Over the cloister door a timeless and ever meaningful message is inscribed:
(“Harmony makes small things grow, lack of it makes great things decay. ”)
At the beginning of the 1860s, in the south-east corner of the new monastery’s courtyard the summer villa of Maximilian I, the Emperor of Mexico, was constructed.
Built according to the owner’s wishes, where the south section of the east wing of the Romanesque-Gothic monastery used to stand, with a guardhouse, the summer villa is a blend of neo-Romanesque, neo-Gothic and neo-Renaissance elements which reflect the historic architecture of Maximilian’s time.
The WOODSMAN’S LODGE was also erected in Portoč during that period and in the same style.