We are going on a journey to the island of Lopud to discover a magical place created by Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza out of the old Franciscan monastery Gospa od Spilice. With her aura and her energy, she has transformed this historical monument into a place of strength, a place where art has a home, bringing people peace and spiritual experiences. We travel from Dubrovnik Airport to the coast where we take the ferry over to the largest (and car-free) island of the Croatian Elaphite Archipelago, and walk the last few steps to the LOPUD 1483 estate. We are greeted at the entrance by two angels from the 18th century.
The walls we pass through on our tour with Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza breathe the spirit of centuries past. The hostess has managed to find the perfect way of reviving and radiating its historical significance whilst also bringing it into the modern age. Carefully and based on historical examples, she set about restoring the 15th century complex, which had been heavily damaged by earthquakes and war. The whole thing took her twenty years to complete – during which time she followed the personal advice of the famous architect Frank O. Gehry. The art broker came to Croatia at the start of the 1990s to protect its art heritage. The Abbot of Dubrovnik led her into the magical world of the Lopud monastery and her search for the perfect place to live with her art collection came to an end here: She had fallen in love! And this is where her dream came true. A place of contemplation was created, filled with dynamic energy and a peaceful atmosphere – a place for herself and for others. Because: 'Dreams are meant to be shared. My experience can be your experience...'
With our friendly hostess, we set off on a journey of discovery across the spacious, lovingly designed site of the former monastery. She leads us to the terrace overlooking the sea and a wonderful view opens up over the Dalmatian coast and neighbouring islands. Sun loungers invite you to enjoy more than 2,584 hours of sunshine every year. And we are already looking forward to experiencing the sunset from here in the evening. Next to the terrace, we visit the remains of the old fortress complex, which has been converted into a venue complete with a stage and first-class technology – the perfect location to experience something unique. A worthy setting for concerts and film festivals, performances and family celebrations. Via an open, spacious garden with selected plants and places to sit and while away the time and recharge your batteries, we reach the opposite side of the complex and enter the monastery gardens: Before us lies a sanctuary of plants and fragrances, a magical place filled with peace and calm, lovingly maintained and laid out with lavender and herbs to replicate how their historical predecessors would have kept it. A paradise for health and relaxation. The Bell tower rises up over the garden, in its imposing eternity. The sacred atmosphere in the church, dedicated to the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is moving. We cross the inner courtyard and stepping under the awe-inspiring medieval arches, we enter the rooms in the monastery in eager anticipation.
The entrance area is a welcoming space with a calm atmosphere created by the stone floor and masonry. Straw hats hang up within easy reach for when you want to take a summer walk. With its imposing open fireplace, the old monastery kitchen has been redesigned to become a cosy, modern living space and meeting area, a place where any guest can feel right at home. The 'pharmacy' is next door. This is where the Franciscan monks would process the herbs from the sacred garden to create their well-known medicinal remedies. We are captivated by the awe-inspiring radiance, which once again illustrates just why Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza has devoted this place to meditation, relaxation and dialogue between people and nature – a place of inspiration and poetry. Something that is entirely in line with Fra Josip Sopta and his desire for a spiritual and human restoration to follow the structural restoration of the building. Back at the entrance, the staircase leads us up to where the thirteen former monastic cells have been transformed into five exquisite bedroom suites, which you can also book on occasion.
The rooms are impressive. The ambience radiates a lightness created by the use of historical renaissance furniture from Thyssen-Bornemisza's own collection cleverly combined with modern pieces by the Italian designer Paola Lenti – in colours specifically and only made for the interior of LOPUD 1483. The furnishings are additionally enhanced by a carefully curated selection of medieval and contemporary art, comprised only of originals. The precious pieces are protected by the highest museum security standards. The time at this retreat passes with sweet idleness, a good book, use of the spa and wellness area, meditation and yoga, walks and boat trips, a visit to the Your Black Horizon Pavilion from the Venice Biennale by Olafur Liasson, delightful hospitality and meetings in the refectory too. Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza has understood perfectly how to create real value for herself and for others: 'We all need to rescue ourselves from our busy lives in order to reinforce our own creativity. We need our minds to flow with emotional intelligence!'
Francesca Anna Dolores Thyssen-Bornemisza was born on 7 June 1958 in Lausanne as the daughter of Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon and Fiona Campbell-Walter. She spent her childhood in the Villa Favorita in Lugano and in London; she attended the elite boarding school Le Rosey by Lake Geneva, among others. She studied at the Central Saint Martin's School of Art and Design in London and became curator of the family's art collection in Lugano. She progressed to become a world renowned art expert and broker, collector and patron. She married Karl Habsburg-Lothringen in 1993, with whom she has two daughters, Eleonore and Gloria, and a son, Ferdinand Zvonimir. They have since divorced. The art collection, which was established by her great-grandfather August Thyssen, includes paintings, artworks and furniture from the Middle Ages to the present day. Today, they can be found in the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid, where treasures from the family's collection will be on display in a special exhibition being held there up until 23 January 2022 in celebration of her father's 100th birthday. In Vienna, she has also built up her own art collection of contemporary art, TBA21. Francesca lives through her work and wherever her conservation projects take her. As artistic director of Lopud 1483 she spends much of her time there working on retreats, and finding new ways of breathing life back into the monastery post its restoration.
Saint Francis of Assisi founded the Franciscan Order in 1212 according to the principles of a devotion to poverty and compassion for all living beings. In the Republic of Dubrovnik, the monastery of Our lady of the Cave was established on the island of Lopud in 1483 and expanded into a fortress in 1592. Devastating earthquakes in the 17th century severely damaged the monastery. It was only partially repaired and then abandoned in 1822. Bomb damage sustained during the war in the 1990s followed. The worthy initiative undertaken by Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza has given this place a new lease of life and is a reminder of the Franciscan values.