Lastovo Island

Lastovo is an islandmunicipality in the Dubrovnik-Neretva County in Croatia. The municipality consists of 46 islands with a total population of 792 people, of which 93% are ethnic Croats, and a land area of approximately 53 square kilometres (20 sq mi). The biggest island in the municipality is also named Lastovo, as is the largest town. The majority of the population lives on the 46 square kilometres (18 sq mi) island of Lastovo.

Lastovo, like the rest of the Roman province of Dalmatia, was settled by Illyrians. The Romans conquered and settled the entire area, retaining control until the Avar invasions and Slavic migrations in the 7th century. The Croats and other Slavic tribes subjugated by the Croats secured most of the Dalmatian seaboard. Sometime around the year 1000 the Venetians attacked and destroyed the settlement, due to the island’s participation in piracy along the Adriatic coast. In the 13th century, Lastovo joined the Dubrovnik Republic where for several centuries it enjoyed a certain level of autonomy until the republic’s conquest by the French, under Napoleon. Austria then ruled the island for the next century, then Italy and Yugoslavia until it finally became a part of the independent Republic of Croatia.

The island is noted for its 15th- and 16th-century architecture. There is a large number of churches of relatively small size, a testament to the island’s long-standing Roman Catholic tradition. The major cultural event is the Poklade, or carnival. The island largely relies on its natural beauty and preservation to attract tourists each season. In 2006 the Croatian Government made the island and its archipelago a nature park.

Geography

The island of Lastovo belongs to the central Dalmatian archipelago. Thirteen kilometres (8.1 miles) south of Korčula, the island is one of the most remote inhabited islands in theAdriatic Sea. Other islands in this group include Vis, Brač, Hvar, Korčula and Mljet. The dimensions of the island are approximately 9.8 kilometres (6.1 miles) long by up to 5.8 kilometres (3.6 miles) wide.

The Lastovo archipelago contains a total of 46 islands, including the larger islands Sušac, Prežba, Mrčara and an island group called Lastovnjaci on the eastern side. Prežba is connected to the main island by a bridge at the village of Pasadur (“passage” in the local dialect). The island has a daily hydrofoil service and ferry service linking it to the mainland at Split and stopping along the way at Korčulaand Hvar.

The town of Lastovo is spread over the steep banks of a natural amphitheatre overlooking a fertile field, facing away from the sea. This is unusual compared to other Adriatic islands, which are normally harbour side. Other settlements on the island include the villages of Ubli (also known as Sveti Petar), Zaklopatica, Skrivena Luka, andPasadur.

Despite major fires in 1971, 1998 and 2003, about 60% of Lastovo is covered with forest, mostly Holm Oaks and Aleppo Pines and Mediterranean underbrush. There are rich communities of falcon and hawk nests. These used to be exploited by the Dubrovnik Republic for falconry and traded to other kingdoms, especially to Kingdom of Naples in the Middle Ages. The underwater life is the richest in the entire Adriatic, featuring lobsters, crayfish,octopus and many high prized fish such as John Dory and Groupers. There are no venomous snakes on the island.

Landscape and coastline

Lastovo has a dynamic landscape consisting of 46 hills and 46 karstic fields that often contain layers of red soil and quartz sand. The highest point is Hum at 417 m (1,368 ft) and there are another three hills higher than 400 m (1300 ft), Pleševo Brdo, Gumanca and Mali Hum and another thirteen other hills higher than 200 m (650 ft). Its dolomitic valleys are located between limy hills and mild calcareous slopes rich in caves. There are five caves on the island — Rača (the largest), Puzavica, Pozalica, Grapčeva and Medvidina.

The coastline is mainly steep and the surrounding sea is deep. On the southern coast is a large, deep bay at Skrivena Luka which offers protection from the bura and westerly winds. The other main deep port is located on the western side at Ubli which is where the main ferry port for the island is located.

Climate

Lastovo possesses all the basic characteristics of the Mediterranean climate, dominated by mild, moist winters and warm, long, and dry summers. The island receives around 2,700 sun hours per year, ranking it among one of the sunniest in the Adriatic and pleasant for tourists. This produces a water temperature around 27 °C (81 °F) in summer. Annual rainfall is 622 millimetres (24.5 in). Since there are no permanent surface water streams, residents rely on bores, dams and wells.

Demographics and economy

According to the 2011 census, the municipality of Lastovo has a population of 792 people living in 286 households, including 350 people living in Lastovo town. There are seven registered settlements on the island, two of which (the lighthouses at Sušac and Glavat) are no longer populated.

The average age of the people of the Lastovo municipality was 40 years old, slightly older than the national average of 39 years old. About 90% of the people of the Lastovo municipality are Roman Catholics and 95% are Croats. The highest level of education for 44% of the municipality was secondary school, for 13% it was college or university.

The island’s population peaked at 1,738, in 1948, and has been in a steady decline since, due chiefly to emigration to mainland Croatia and abroad. The number of people who emigrated from the island between 1953 and 1991 exceeds its current population.

Like many of the Mediterranean islands, the Lastovo economy is centred around agriculture and tourism. The 2003 Agricultural Census reported that the municipality had 57 ha (140 acres) of land used for agriculture. Of this 25 ha (62 acres) were vineyards and over 9000 olive trees grew in Lastovo. Following decades of isolation from foreigners, due to the Yugoslav National Army activities and the Croatian War of Independence(1991–1995), the island has become attractive to tourists partly because it has remained largely undeveloped; even supplying the island with fresh water has been difficult.

Culture

The most important event on the island is an authentic carnival that the locals call the Poklad. All the island residents participate by wearing folk costumes. The origins of the Lastovo carnival go back to a historical event. Legend has it that Catalan pirates attacked neighbouring Korčula and sent a Turkish messenger to Lastovo to tell the islanders to surrender or they would be next. The inhabitants of Lastovo did not let themselves be intimidated — instead they armed themselves and went on the attack. The women and children prayed to Sv. Jure (St. George) for help and their prayers were answered: a storm destroyed the pirates’ ships and the inhabitants of Lastovo caught the messenger. In order to mock him, he was taken through the village on the back of a donkey and was afterwards sentenced and burned to death. This event is celebrated through the Poklad every year over a period of three days. The event takes place in the middle of February and since the summer 2006 it has become main attraction for tourists. Locals enjoy this event very much and Lastovci from all around Croatia return to Lastovo to attend the carnival.

The main church is the Church of Saints Cosmas and Damian (Crkva sv. Kuzme i Damjana). It is situated in the oldest part of the square in the town of Lastovo and dates from the 14th century. On the main altar is the painting of Saint Cosmas and Damian. Out of the rest of the paintings Pieta, the work of an anonymous Venetian painter from 1545, can be distinguished. On its place there was a smaller church that dates back from 5th or 6th century. The church of Sv Vlaho (Saint Blaise) from the 12th century is on the entrance of the settlement. Beside it the chapel of Saint John was built in 1607, and around the church a defence wall and a tower.

On the graveyard on the southern edge is the little church of Saint Mary in the field from the 14th century and is considered as most attractive on the island. Near the ferry port in Ubli an archaeological find of the remains of a 6th-century church dedicated to Sv Petar (Saint Peter) are situated. Other churches of interest are Sv Luka (St Luke) built in the typical Croatian 11th-century sacral architecture, and Sv Jurje (St George) at Prežba also built in the 11th century, was demolished between the two World Wars. Another church called St Peter in Ubli built somewhere in the 11th–13th centuries was demolished by the Italians in 1933 to make way for extra fishing sheds. All together there are a total of 46 churches, making the number 46 omnipresent since the island also has 46 hills, covers 46 km2 (18 sq mi), has 46 fields, and contains 46 islands in the archipelago.

Architecture

The town’s buildings date mainly from the 15th and 16th centuries when the construction of about 20 Renaissance houses redefined the village’s appearance. Most of them have high broad terraces which have become the “trade mark” look of Lastovo houses. Their unusual cylindrical chimneys that the locals call fumari are picturesque and unusual since they look like miniature minarets, although there is no record of Arab or Turkish influence ever directly reaching this area. The ornate chimney on the 16th century Biza Antica house is probably the oldest preserved chimney in Dalmatia. The lighthouse built on Lastovo’s southern tip in 1839 predates all other lighthouses in Croatia.