If you have already done your research online, then you probably know some facts about our island like how the noble Ragusans liked to spend their summers here, or how crystal clear the sea water is, so perfect for swimming on a hot summer day, or how beautiful the symphonies of bird songs are (in May they literally sing nonstop, including night time), and how relaxing the creaky cicada sounds in the hot days, or how filled the air is with the fragrance of herbs...
Here we are sharing some interesting and less known facts about the most emblematic spots on Šipan island.
Suđurađ is our beautiful small place located in the south-eastern cove of the island. The name means Sveti Đurađ, or St. George after the old church at the very centre of it. The place was nothing like a living area in the past. It was simply too dangerous to live on the sea shore because of the frequent pirate attacks. There was a ship building factory on the left far end, a couple of warehouses and the small church of St. George in the middle.
View towards Suđurađ from the port.
Suđurađ with the summer residence of Skočibuha, and the uninhabited island of Ruda in the far.
View towards the port of Suđurađ, with the passenger's ship "Postira" seen at the pier. "Postira" operates the regular line that connects the Elaphite islands with Dubrovnik.
The church of St. George (Sveti Đurađ).
The big summer villa of the Ragusan family of ship builders Skočibuha was built in the 16. century, right at the centre of the cove. The estate is equipped with watchtowers from which the guards used to detect coming pirate ships and defended the property from attacks.
Apartments Kate is built on an old property that is at least a couple of centuries old. From the design of the house we know that people originally built it to live in it, so it was not one of the store houses. The first floor was a commercial property used to store goods or to conduct business, and on the upper floor was the living area: a bedroom, a fire place for cooking and a large dining room/ living room. It used to be a very small, modest house, and the first owners could have been fishermen or traders.
A view towards our property, the house with the open windows, the connecting terrace and another building with a rooftop belvedere window.
Apartments Kate property facade.
Our garden from within our property.
The small church of St. George at the centre of Suđurađ was built in the 13th century and was originally half its today size. Later, in the 16th century the other half of the church was built (St. Nikola), and since then it functions as a roman catholic church where service is held every Sunday and on some christian holidays.
Here is another emblematic spot on Suđurađ. This is the renaissance summer villa of the Getaldić family, under reconstruction today. The members of the Ragusan Getaldić family were known writers, diplomats and scientists. Among them is Marin Getaldić, a mathematician and a physicist who worked on improving the geodesic measurements of his time and invented the optical lenses. He was in contact with other known astronomers and mathematicians such as Galileo Galiley, Christophorus Clavius and Christoph Grienberg. The Getaldić summer villa was destroyed by a fire in the 18. century. Today's reconstruction project aims to rebuild the original.
The summer villa of Skočibuha
The rise of the Skočibuha family was an example of the emerging middle class and the changes in the structure of society during the renaissance. The ship builder and trader Tomo Skočibuha from Šipan managed to accumulate significant wealth, then acquired land and built beautiful villas. The magnificent Skočibuha palace in Dubrovnik is built in the prestigious Restićeva street, not far from the Rector's palace and the Dubrovnik Cathedral.
A painting of Tomo Stjepović Skočibuha in the main guest reception hall in the summer villa of Skočibuha on Suđurađ.
A portret of Vice Stjepović Skočibuha and a painting from medieval Dubrovnik, both at the Dubrovnik Maritime Museum.
Tomo's son Vice Stjepović-Skočibuha followed in his father's footsteps and developed further the family trade business along with the shipbuilding. Vice has often joined his crew on their long journeys as a captain on his ships. He has been a connoisseur and a patron in art, distinguished for the loyalty and the nobility with which he conducted business and approached people.
Vice's sons did not have any offspring, and the surname Stjepović was lost at the beginning of the 17. century. The villa of Skočibuha still stands proudly at the centre of Suđurađ and holds the spirit of times and people long gone, yet still reminding to us of the values once created and the heritage that is left.
The garden in the summer villa on Suđurađ. This is also where men met to discuss business. On the outdoor premises were also accepted visitors with a low social status.
The top of a terrace, a common place for the ladies to get some fresh air and have a chat, is also the top of a water reservoir. At the bottom is the renaissance version of today's water faucet.
Left: a 16. century clock of the Skočibuha family in the main reception hall, with the family crest on top.
Right: the Skočibuha family crest upon the main entrance of the summer villa on Suđurađ.
The oak balcony in the main guest reception hall. Here musicians used to play music for the high society guests.
Since the 17. century the ownership of the villa of Skočibuha has changed many times. The place has a complex and a long history, part of which is told by today's interior.
The original cooking area with the fire place still looks exactly like a kitchen from the renaissance.
This collection of items represent the evolution of lamps throughout the centuries.
The beach of Suđurađ
This is the perfect spot for swimming, and little children's favorite place for splashing and jumping and going crazy with water.
Just walk to the left from St. George church, continue along the sea and in appx. 100 m reach some arched stone wall ruins. These are the remains of a renaissance ship building factory. The factory structure and the archs used to continue further into the sea, and their ruins can still be spotted in the sea along the shore line. The beach itself is small, but tranquil and clean, with crystal clear water and beautiful view towards Lopud island and the mainland.
Other nice spots for swimming can be found at the other end of Suđurađ, pass the main port. Our favorite one is at the port itself where with the local kids we jump from the pier.
If you are not into jumping, please don't forget to bring along your swimming shoes, because sea urchins can be often spotted along the shore. If one of them stings you, it can be quite painful, but don't worry, put some olive oil on the spot and this will help the nasty thorn come out easily.
Big palaces and majestic villas could not be built on a hilly land and were usually close to the coast or on the easily accessible parts of the island, which made them attractive targets for pirates.
The peasants built their houses on the inland, and Frajga is one such settlement. A peasant's house would usually be a simple one or two story building, with sometimes two or three families living in one. In the yard there would be another smaller building for housing farm animals: goats, sheep or cows. What appears like a veranda is usually the top of a reservoir constructed to collect rain water that can be then pulled out with buckets. As you walk among the many house remains in Frajga or another similar place, you will notice that a house's doors and windows are noticeably smaller than what we are used to have today. This indicates that people in the past were probably smaller than us, and that would be no surprise if we imagine how much harder life must have been back in time.
Among the ruins are the remains of an old toilet, made out of stone and possibly dating back to a couple of centuries ago. Now nature has taken over and spring flowers have turned the place into a real garden.
In Frajga people cultivated olive trees and carobs, and their main source of food have been the farm animals and the small pieces of land they owned. The settlement was relatively hard to reach and the residents were safe from potential dangerous pirate attacks.
Fraiga was inhabited until the sixties of the 20th century approximately. Today there are only 6 people still living there. The place has become a ghost town and is one of the emblematic spots on Šipan that is worth paying a visit.
Church of St. Mary (crkva Sv. Marije/ Velika Gospa)
There are more than 30 churches on Šipan, and this is one of the most beautiful ones. It is located in the area called Pakljena, and is our parish church built in 16. century, and part of a complex that includes a benedictine monastery and a watch tower. The old wooden polyptych depicting the Assumption of the Virgin Mary was recently reconstructed and restorated and today again shines with its remarkable beauty upon the main altar.
The facade of the St. Mary church in Pakljena, the watch tower, and the ruins of the Benedictine monastery. The monastery was a functioning one until the 19. century. The church itself was built in the 14. century, and reconstructed in the 16. century, while the Benedictine monastery is first mentioned in texts from the 13.century.
The restorated polyptych of the Assumption of St. Mary.
Other details from the church interior.
In the past vulnerable women used to leave in secret their unwanted newborns here, in fear to be excluded from society life and in hope that the nuns will raise the baby giving it a quiet dignified life in accordance with God's will.
On the right side from the main church entrance, by the door leading to the monastery is a shelf made out of stone. This is the place where the basket with the newborn was to be left in the night for the nuns to pick up the next morning.
The church of the Holy Trinity and the church-fortress of the Holy Spirit (Crkva Sv. Trojstva i crkva-tvrđava Sv. Duha)
The church of the Holy Trinity was one of the churches from the parish of the vanished settlement of Pakljena, also dating from the 16. century. It is built on one of the highest peaks on Šipan, and was an unusual church. It also had the strategic purpose of a watch spot for overlooking the sea and detecting approaching pirate ships. If the nuns spotted a coming danger, they would start ringing the church bell to warn the islanders.
A view towards the church of the Holy Trinity from Frajga.
The church of the Holy Trinity and the island of Mljet on the horizon.
Stunning views towards other islands, the field of Šipan and the mainland from the church of the Holy Trinity.
The inhabitants of Suđurađ and other easily accessible settlements then rushed to seek refugee in the church fortress of the Holy Spirit.
The latter is located just outside of Suđurađ, on the right side of the road, as you head towards the field of Šipan. In the past couple of years it has been under restoration. Some century long rainwater leaks have damaged the beautiful wall paintings behind the altar, and now the complete stone walls, as well as the church hall inside are being repaired and restorated. You can't fail to notice the unusual style of this church, built in the shape of a cross, with the characteristic church bell on the top, yet the high massive stone walls betray its former purpose as a fortress. It was equipped with technology designed to prevent the attacking pirates from breaking into the church: at the main entrance there are holes on the sides and at the top. From there spears have been pointed towards the invaders and hot olive oil has been spilled upon them.
Facade of the church of the Holy Spirit. On the side is visible the scaffold from today's restoration works.
The entrance of the church of the Holy Spirit. Visible are the holes through which weapons have been pointed out towards the invaders. From the roof top hot olive oil has been spilled upon the pirates who were trying to break in.
The field of Šipan represents the flat inland surrounded by hills. The main road passes through the whole field reaching the other modern settlement called Šipanska Luka (translated as Šipan's port). As you walk or ride down that road you will pass wine yards, olive gardens and old carob trees, remains of renaissance villas and abandoned farm land.
Just outside of Suđurađ, in the field of Šipan is the summer villa of the Sorkočević family, built in the 16. century. The family origins are traced back to a 13th century Albania. In the Ragusa Republic they gained the nobleman status after importing sorghum at a time of femine and thus helped save Ragusa's suffering population. The Sorkočević grew in numerous family branches, and their members were known diplomats and musicians.
Known as Villa Beccadelli, the archbishop's residence was built in 14th century to accommodate Ragusa's archbishops. They were never Ragusans and were changed frequently to avoid building up of powerful circles and connections that could induce corruption. The known Italian humanist and writer Lodovico Beccadelli lived here for 5 years as the archbishop of Ragusa in the 16th century. Beccadelli was a great admirer of Michelangelo's art that was celebrated in Pellegrino Brocardo's frieze works in the archbishop's residence on Šipan.
The house of Federiko Glavić resembles to renaissance villas of Dubrovnik, but it was built in 1898. Federiko Glavic was a shipowner and was among the founders of today's shipping agency “Atlantska plovidba” from Dubrovnik.
In the past the field of Šipan has been the pride of the islanders and besides fishing was their main source of food. The soil is fertile, and the natural water spring provides enough water for the plants. People used to grow all sorts of local fruits and vegetables: potatoes, cabbage, figs, tomatoes etc. Šipan was famous for its high quality wines and the olive oil. Our relative Mato Goravica recently re-established his family tradition of wine production. His wine yards are in the field of Šipan, right across the olive processing facility where today the olive oil from local farmers is produced.
Production of olive oil is still favored on Šipan. No wonder we are in the Guiness book of records for having the highest number of olive trees per capita, even if the population has been in decline in the past couple of years. The olive oil from Šipan is of a superb quality and has been praised on many local and international fairs. Like everyone else on Šipan, our family too has our own olive gardens, by the long vanished settlement of Pakljena and in the field of Šipan, where we enjoy working after the summer tourist season ends.
Velji Vrh (The High Peak)
This is the highest peak on Šipan, and it is located in the north-west from Šipanska Luka. You can spot it and the big antennas installed on it on your right as you enter Šipanska Luka from the field of Šipan. Velji Vrh is 243 meters above sea level and reveals a fabulous panoramic view towards the mainland, other islands around Šipan, even Mljet, Šipanska Luka and the field of Šipan.
Impressive antennas mounted on Velji Vrh.
Šipanska Luka as seen from Velji Vrh.
View from Velji Vrh towards the gulf of Šipanska Luka.
Šipan's archipelago of small islands.
The road and then the path to Velji Vrh is signposted and passes through olive trees and gardens, old stone houses and patches of medicinal local herbs along the road. Honestly, it is like a fairy tale, unmissable!
Šipanska Luka translates as the Port of Šipan, even though today the main port is in Suđurađ. Watching the sunset in one of the small restaurants at the shore upon a glass of wine can be one of the most romantic experiences one can imagine.
The place has been primarily a fishermen's home, and now with the global decline in the catch fishing is becoming less popular while tourism is of a growing significance for the local economy.
In the small park there is a centuries old plane tree, palm trees, oleanders and hydrangeas, as well as exciting playing structures for children. In August every year here are projected the creations of our youngest artists, the children from the Summer School of Cinema, as well as other Croatian independent films.
More details about the Summer School of Cinema and this year's program can be found on the school's web site: http://sipan-film.com.
This page was created with the kind help of Marija Goravica from Šipan island, a licensed tour guide for Dubrovnik with interest in Šipan's history.