The island of Lopud lies north-west of the city of Dubrovnik, the ancient Ragusa, between the islands of Kolocep and Sipan, and is part of the Elaphiti archipelago (Cervi Islands). The name Lopud is derived from the Greek Delaphodia and in Italian it was called the Isola di Mezzo.
The ancient name of Delaphodia implies that the island was once part of the Greek territories and later part of the Roman Empire, but no architectural remnants of these historic periods survive. The oldest ruins date from the early Middle Ages. After the fall of the Roman Empire, southern Dalmatia came under Byzantine rule. From 1204 to 1358 it was part of the territories of the Republic of Venice. In 1358, following the peace of Zadar, Venice was forced to give up its territories in Dalmatia. The inhabitants of Ragusa won the right of autonomy from the king of Hungary and so began the history of the glorious Republic of Ragusa as an independent state, which reached its greatest economic, cultural and artistic splendour between the 15th and 16th centuries. Two major monasteries were built on the island of Lopud and a further seven minor ones (hermitages), along with numerous villas for the aristocracy of Ragusa, two fortresses and 32 churches and chapels.
The Elaphiti archipelago met the same fate as the Republic of Ragusa, which ceased to exist in 1808 when it was incorporated along with the rest of Dalmatia into the Kingdom of Italy by Napoleon.
Chapel of the Holy Spirit
The chapel was built at the end of the 15th century. Some architectural elements of the loggia that originally extended out from the façade, surmounted by a small bell tower, are still visible.
Remarkably, the pointed arch vault of the building is built with blocks of stone. The surfaces of the internal walls were originally plastered. Some architectural elements of a, probably 16th century, stone altar can be seen on the end wall. There is no definitive information on the painting that once decorated this altar. A house was built not far from the chapel, probably towards the end of the 15th century. This was converted into a monastery between 1665 and 1753, which took its name from the nearby Chapel of the Holy Spirit. The chapel was in a state of total abandon.
All the stone walls and the vault were repaired and reinforced and the roof remade with old recovered tiles. The vestiges of original plasterwork were repaired and restored.
Steven Harris and Lucien Rees Roberts generously financed this campaign to save a rare vestige of 15th century architecture.
Chapel of St. Catherine
Archival documents in the parish church of Lopud show that a Franciscan nun died in the hermitage dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria in 1484. The same sources indicate that the last nun to live in the small monastery died in 1873.
The chapel is built on a rectangular plan with an apse and two doors decorated externally with carved architectural friezes from the church of St. Mary, which at the time was the convent of the Franciscan monks in Lopud. After almost 150 years of abandon, the chapel was in a terrible state of conservation. The building had lost its roof and most of the original fifteenth-century terracotta floor tiles had been removed. The tombstone in the center of the chapel had been uprooted and broken and a pomegranate tree was growing inside the nuns’ tomb. The original stone walls were strengthened with injections of hydraulic lime and aggregate. The roof was completely rebuilt using old wooden beams to form the trusses. Old, handmade terracotta tiles were laid on the roof. The remains of original plasterwork inside the chapel were strengthened and an anti-vegetative treatment applied.
Some of the original terracotta floor tiles were taken away so that copies could be made of them. Once the floor had been insulated and the masonry vault of the tomb below strengthened, the new tiles were laid, made by hand in Terni, Umbria, in a tone and granulometry similar to the originals.
The new wooden doors and window frames were made by copying some original examples still extant on the island.
Steven Harris, Lucien Rees Roberts, Marie France Coursier Terraillon and Toto Bergamo Rossi financed this reconstruction and restoration project.