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Korcula is the second most populous island in Croatia’s central Dalmatian archipelago, a place renowned for its fine beaches and bays, friendly fishing villages and historic coastal towns, vineyards, citrus and olives groves, and its cultural traditions. Some people claim that Marco Polo was born on the island to a family of merchants in 1254; there is no evidence to support their claim, but it is true that he was captured off-shore during a battle between Venice and Genoa.
It is also true that the island has produced many notable sculptors, painters, artists, and writers, including the 17th century wordsmith Peter Kanavelic, whose epic poems and love songs earned him rapt audiences at home and in Venice. Klape singing – not unlike Italian a cappella singing – is one of Korcula’s oldest cultural traditions, as is the Moreska, one of many sword dances. Believed to have originated in Spain, the Moreska symbolises the conflict between Moors and Christians (subsequently adapted to reflect regional struggles against the Ottoman Empire); it includes ritual dialogue and choreographed sword battles between two kings and their armies.
Legend holds that Korcula was founded by the Trojan hero Antenor in the 12th century BC. It subsequently flourished with waves of Illyrian and Greek colonists, who left behind some stone buildings, fortresses, and tombstones. Under the Romans, it became part of the province of Dalmatia, later falling to waves of Avar and Slavic immigrants in the 7th century AD.Read more
Venice ruled the island on and off until the 14th century, a period associated with its golden age. During this time, the Statute of Korcula was drafted, codifying its laws and guaranteeing it some degree of autonomy – it was a very advanced document for its time. The Venetian renaissance greatly influenced the island’s most important medieval city, also called Korcula.
Situated on the east side of the island, the Old Town of Korcula is surrounded by stone walls and towers. Its narrow streets are laid out in a fishbone in a pattern said to reduce the effects of wind and sun. Built in gothic-renaissance style, the Cathedral of St. Mark is the most important building in the town. It dominates the main square and features a fine facade. There are many other churches, chapels, and monasteries dotted in the vicinity. Opposite the cathedral stands the Museum of Korcula with displays of local history and craft, as well as a permanent exhibition dedicated to the sculptor Krsinic (1897-1982). It is a good place to get grounded in the island’s culture and traditions before striking out to more remote destinations.