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Badija

Badija the biggest and the most beautiful island in the Korcula archipelago lies East of the town of Korcula, twenty minutes away by boat. It has a surface of about one square kilometer and is covered by dense maquis and pine, cypresses and olive trees. Flint knives were found in the Lokve locality, proving that life existed in the caves of Badija in prehistoric times. A stone monument shows that Romans were on the island.

Badija was first mentioned in writing in a XIVth century testament by the priest Vlaho Ivanovic from Korcula, who lived here as an ascetic monk. The present Franciscan monastery and the church date from the XIVth century. This island was both an oasis of peace, a paradise on earth. and an unprotected source of booty for the numerous pirate ships which for centuries plundered valuables from the church and the monastery and killed its inhabitants.

The cloister, dating from 1477, is the nucleus of the monastery complex. The porch around it is supported by five arcades on the longer sides and four on the shorter ones. The arches of Gothic triforas rise up elegantly from their slender columns. A well with fresh drinking water is raised in the middle of the cloister and decorated by a massive crown. The cloister leads into a one - aisled church built in the Gothic-Renaissance style with a portal decorated with a rosette and a font with curly stone leaves. The lower part of the altar is built of colored marble, and a composition with the four evangelists lies above it.

The evangelists bear on their shoulders a big ball on which is Jesus Christ. The figures of Saint Francis and Saint Catherine are on the pedestals on the side. This XVIIIth century work is the copy of the work of A. Tirali from Venice, made by Giuglielmo Montin of Bassano as its main sculptor. The interior of the church ends with an apsis. A Renaissance choir is situated along its walls. Among the artistic and religious valuables are a XVIth century painting of the "Our Lady of Ascension" in the Venetian manner, and an English Gothic bas-relief in alabaster originally from Nottingham. The first work is kept in the Franciscan church of "Mala braca" in Dubrovnik and the Gothic bas-relief in the Abbatial Treasury in Korcula.

A legend says that the old arms from Badija, kept today in the Korcula Cathedral, belonged to the king of Aragon and Naples, and that they were taken from him by the Korculans in a fierce battle. The notorious Uluz Ali set the monastery on fire during his unsuccessful siege of Korcula in 1571, thus adding one more crime to the series of plunders and fires suffered by Badija over the centuries. Due to its dramatic scenery, Badija has been setting for artistic films and has been also mentioned in fiction; the American writer Merylin Sharp makes Badija the main computer center through which the superpowers control the world. Thus Badija moves from the helpless spiritual center of the lonely ascetic monks to the secular center of power.

Today Badija is a developed sports and recreation center. It is also a popular excursion point for the people of Korcula and its surroundings, for here they can grill fish and meat specialties for themselves at the very edge of the sea. The development of tourism in Korcula inevitably turns towards this natural pearl which will enable even the most discriminating tourist to enjoy himself in this exceptional scenery and stimulating atmosphere.

A few minutes boat drive from Badija takes tourists to Vrnik, best known for its impressive quarries which date from Roman times, as can be seen from the remains of old quarries in the form of underground vaults and "grottos". These passages were made when dynamite was unknown and stone was taken out through underground shafts. Gigantic rocks, some even 40 meters high, bear witness to the laborious and glorious age of stone cutting on this islet of an area of only 0.3 km2. The Duke's Palace in Dubrovnik and many other buildings in foreign parts, among them Aja Sofija in Istanbul, were built from the white stone of Vrnik. The twenty or so tall stone houses on the islet of Vrnik have been built in harmony with this island of white stone; they keep out the winds and offer a very comfortable feeling in spring and summer.

Most of the tourists visiting Korcula and the Peljesac riviera go on the RIVIERA CRUISE excursion which enables them to descend to the quarries and to admire the skill of the Vrnik stone-cutters. The recent excavations on the island of Majsan, nearer Orebic than Korcula, have proved that a Roman settlement, existed here; the ruins of a Roman villa rustica with attics, halls, fortifications, kitchen, bathroom and drainage system have been preserved on the islet. Vineyards were cultivated here. The tower on the top of the hill served as a watchtower over the sea-lane through the Korcula-Peljesac channel.

The Venetian duke Petar Orseolo II stopped here in the year 1000. He asked Korcula and Lastovo, as well as other Dalmatian towns, to submit to him, but they resisted and had to be conquered by force, beginning a centuries-long Venetian domination over Korcula. Today Majsan is the favorite place for Swimmers from the nearby nudist island of Stupe and has thus become one of those places which the human instinct to return to the nature.