Benedictine monastery of Sv. Luce, Šibenik

I recently heard the news that the famous benedictine monastery of Sv. Luce (Saint Lucia) is being restored and that it should open it’s museum/gallery for summer 2010. This is one of the best preserved Benedictine monasteries for nuns in Croatia!

I immediately remembered my first visit to this special place a while back, when we were preparing a walking tour “Secrets of Šibenik” offered only for small groups of guests.

Sister Fortunata

Monastery of Sv. Luce dates back to 1639. and it is located in the very center of Šibenik’s amazing historic core called Gorica. Only few steps (sets of stairs, that is) from the UNESCO protected cathedral of Sv. Jakov.
The monastery consist of the church of Cv. Luce and several late renaissance and medieval houses. Only last year, the original, 13.Th century entrance of an original house was found and the history of the entire place had to be rewritten.

The monastery was founded as a donation of local noblemen Nikola Rućič i Nikola Buronje to 12 poor girls of Šibenik. The monastery was only accepting the virgins from Šibenik in it’s beginning, but after the city was hit by a plague epidemic from 1649. to 1650., the community was down to only two surviving nuns and had to rewrite it’s rules accepting women from the area as well.

Part of the collection

Šibenik had 3 monasteries of Benedictine nuns in it’s past but only Sv. Luce survived. The nuns had to cope with many problems and, when they had very little income, they were doing all sorts of stuff like sewing or even educating. They even run a school for girls and a kindergarten in the past but both closed before 1950.
Now, the 12 nuns that live at Sv. Luce, are dedicated to prayer and restoration of the treasures they keep.

And there are some wonderful pieces of art and historic documents at Sv. Luce!

The gallery/museum

On the ground floor, sister Fortunata took us to the main exhibition room. It is a fairly simple space with some interesting pieces of sacral art. Most interesting are the crucifixes from 15th and 13th century and the terracotta statue of the Madonna with Christ and even a very rare representation of baby Christ in cloth diapers. The terracotta Madonna is not preserved in entirety: it broke in half during an earthquake and the top is all that is left.

The terracotta Madonna and the baroque crucifix

Sister Fortunata was (and still is) so enthusiastic about all the works and the treasures they keep that she even gave us a special tour of the rest of the complex. We toured the rooms where nuns keep many more artifacts and will probably, to some extent, be open to general public in 2010. when the restoration of the monastery is complete. Although we had to walk over the cement bags and tools, we got to see the ancient kitchen, the rooms with paintings, the church of Sv. Luce… The original, Renaissance houses donated by the founders are still in fairly good shape and connected with numerous hallways and doors giving the entire monastery a maze like feeling!

Sister Fortunata showing the collection of historic pens
The harmonium - one of three kept at Sv. Luce

The restoration of the complex is taking years due to slow funding. The government helps with limited funds and most of the financial help comes from sister Benedictine convents from Germany, Austria and Italy. The nuns even thought about selling a piece or two from their collection to raise the necessary money, but managed to finance everything without desperate measures. The collection should be available for visits in 2010. and the visitors will be able to see even a part of the library.

The tour should include a visit to the church of Sv. Luce. Recently, the 17th century organ has been restored with beautiful, painted shutters.

Church of Sv. Luce

The Benedictine monastery of Sv. Luce is one of those special places that keep and protect our national heritage. We will include it in our tours in Croatia list of tours
but even when visiting on your own, it is well worth stopping by.
The monastery is located behind the massive, yet simple, wooden doors on the main street that leads to Šubićevac fortress. It is opposite the Art B&B where most of our clients stay when in Šibenik!

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