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The Curse of Lokrum

Updated on October 4, 2010

 Imagine a charming little island in the sun, where everyone would like to spend their vacation, or even live. It’s a little corner of Paradise: sunny days most of the year, abundant vegetation, marvelous beaches, pure marine breezes. An ideal destination for rest and a change of scenery. And yet, for the last 200 years, the island of Lokrum, which is in the Adriatic Sea near Dubrovnik in Croatia, has been uninhabited, the victim of a curse that has brought ruin to everyone who tried to live there.


It all started with the construction of the Monastery of St. Benoit in the 11th century. In 1023 a terrible fire ravaged the city of Dubrovnik. It spread so rapidly it could not be controlled. The inhabitants vowed to build a monastery in honor of St. Benedict if their city was spared from the raging fire, which seemed impossible.



The fire miraculously died!

 The flames of hell seemed to want to eradicate the jewel of architecture that is Dubrovnik, considered the Pearl of the Adriatic. But after the citizens of the city made their sacred vow, the fire miraculously died down, almost immediately!

Faithful to their vow, the inhabitants constructed a Benedictine monastery and a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary on the island of Lokrum, which was nearby.

Life went on  peacefully and serenely for centuries, until a French general in Napoleon’s army discovered the marvelous island. He decided to get rid of the monks, close the monastery and use the island for himself.

The general was helped in his endeavors by the aristocrats of Dubrovnik, who wanted to take advantage of the situation to exploit the island of Lokrum themselves. Despite attempts at negotiation with the monks, the French general remained inflexible, and no agreement was reached. The general promptly evicted the monks from the island by force. But before leaving, the monks asked for one last favor: they wanted to celebrate a final mass.
The general agreed and gave them his authorization. He knew how difficult it was to get rid of the monks at a time when the church was still all powerful, and people were still faithful to Christianity. He thought letting the monks perform a mass would help hurry things up.

When the mass was over, the monks performed a strange ritual. They put on their hooded cloaks and walked all around the island three times, each holding a candle. The candles dripped and left a trail of wax ringing the island. As they walked they chanted incantations of terrible evils that would befall anyone who tried to profane this sacred ground and seize it for themselves. The curse of Lokrum was born!


Archduke Maximilian


A terrible malediction!

The terrible effects of this curse were not long in coming. One of the aristocrats who had helped the French general threw himself out a window, another was assassinated by one of his servants, and a third was drowned at sea on his way to Lokrum!

And that was only the beginning of the evils that befell all those who tried to settle on the island. Captain Tomalaševic, an immensely wealthy man and owner of the island after the fall of the Republic, had to declare bankruptcy and found himself ruined. He sold the island to the Archduke Franz Joseph.

Archduke Maximilian set foot on the island for the first time in 1859, in order to honor the memory of those who had died in the sinking of the imperial ship Triton. He was immediately won over by the beauty of Lokrum, its peace and tranquility, and especially by the architecture of the monastery, which had been partially destroyed by an earthquake in 1667.

He bought the island and transformed the monastery into a summer residence. But he couldn’t enjoy it for long, because the historical and political upheavals of the time forced him to become Emperor of Mexico in 1864, against the will of the Mexicans themselves, who were not long in rebelling. The unfortunate Maximilian was arrested by the Mexican general Juarez, and executed on June 19, 1867.

Rudolf, son and sole heir to Emperor Franz Joseph I
Rudolf, son and sole heir to Emperor Franz Joseph I
Empress Elisabeth de Bavire
Empress Elisabeth de Bavire
Princess Elizabeth Windishgratz
Princess Elizabeth Windishgratz

Is the curse of Lokrum the cause of Mayerling’s suicide?

Lokrum ended up in the hands of Rudolf, son and sole heir to Emperor Franz Joseph I, and the Empress Elisabeth de Bavière. Rudolf settled there with his wife Stefanie, until the only son of the emperor created a scandal by falling in love with the beautiful Maria Vecer! They committed suicide together in the Mayerling palace, and their death, which was surrounded by great mystery, became very famous.







The Empress Elisabeth decided to get rid of the island and free the imperial family of the terrible curse that had befallen its members since its acquisition by Maximilian. She gave it back to the Benedictine order, but the monks declined the imperial offer and refused to go back there, because of the curse that had been cast. Finally, the imperial family gave a large amount of silver to the Dominican friars in Dubrovnik to take it off their hands. They became the island’s new owners.







They decided to sell it at auction. Someone made an offer of 30,000 florins and was about to seal the deal when he was arrested by a mysterious emissary acting in the name of the imperial family. Not heeding the interdiction of the Empress, the Princess Elizabeth Windishgratz had bought it. She was the granddaughter of Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth, and the daughter of the unfortunate Rudolph, who had died a few years earlier. Shortly after she acquired the island in 1888, she was assassinated by someone called Lucceni, an Italian anarchist.

A damned sea?

It would take an entire book to recount all the tragic stories that befell the owners of the island of Lokrum, not to mention the many criminals who were put to death there by being thrown off the island’s steep cliffs, and the numerous marine tragedies that took place around its shores. One such wreck was a frigate belonging to the English King Richard the Lionhearted, another bring the famous Triton, mentioned earlier, which was how the Mexican Emperor Maximilian acquired it.

Ever since these terrible events, the island has been inhabited only by animals. It’s sometimes visited by tourists, but they never stay more than a day, finding the atmosphere very strange in this sacred place, which was profaned and cursed forever, centuries ago by the Benedictine monks.


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