The island of Korčula belongs to the central Dalmatian archipelago, separated from the Pelješac peninsula by a narrow strait of Pelješac, between 900 and 3,000 metres (3,000 and 9,800 ft) wide (illustration, right). It is the sixth largest Adriatic island with a rather indented coast. The highest peaks are Klupca, 568 m (1,864 ft) above sea level and Kom, 510 m (1,670 ft) high. The climate is mild; an average air temperature in January is 9.8 °C and in July 26.9 °C; the average annual rainfall is 1,100 mm. The island is largely covered with Mediterranean flora including extensive pine forests.The island also includes the towns of Korčula, Vela Luka and Blato and the coastal villages of Brna, Lumbarda, Račišće, Zavalatica, Prižba and Prigradica and in the interior Žrnovo, Pupnat, Smokvica and Čara. The main road runs along the spine of the island connecting all settlements from Lumbarda on the eastern to Vela Luka on the western end, with the exception of Račišċe which is served by a separate road running along the northern coast. Ferries connect the city of Korčula with Orebić on the Pelješac peninsula and Drvenik on the mainland (near Makarska). Another line connects Vela Luka with Split and the island of Lastovo. Fast passenger catamarans connect those two ports with Split and the islands of Hvar and Lastovo. The main Adriatic ferry line connects Korčula with Dubrovnik, Split, Zadar and Rijeka and in summer there are direct ferries to Italian Adriatic ports. The island is divided into Korčula, Smokvica, Blato and Lumbarda municipalities.
According to legend, the island was founded by Trojan hero Antenor in the 12th century BC who is also famed as the founder of the city of Padua.The island was first settled by Mesolithic and Neolithic peoples. There is archaeological evidence at the sites of Vela Spila (Big Cave) and at Jakas Cave near the village of Zrnovo. The finds of Vela Spila are on display at the Center for Culture in Vela Luka . The fate of these peoples is not know but the sites do provide a window into their way of life.The second wave of human settlement was by Illyrians. It is believed that the Illyrians arrived in Balkans approximately 1000 BC. They were semi-nomadic tribal people living from agriculture. There are numerous old stone buildings and fortresses (gradine)  left behind by the Illyrians.Melaina Korkyra (Greek: Μέλαινα Κόρκυρα, “Black Corcyra”) was the ancient Cnidian Greek colony founded on Korčula. Greek colonists from Corcyra (Corfu) formed a small colony on the island in the 6th century B.C. The Greeks named it “Black Corfu” after their homeland and the dense pine-woods on the island. Greek artifacts, including carved marble tombstones can be found at the local Korčula town museum. A stone inscription found in Lumbarda (Lumbarda Psephisma) and which is the oldest written stone monument in Croatia (and, until recently, in former Yugoslavia), records that Greek settlers from Issa (Vis) founded another colony on the island in the 3rd century BC. The two communities lived peacefully until the Illyrian Wars (220 BC to 219 BC)  with the Romans.The island became part of the Roman province of Illyricum after the Illyrian Wars. Roman migration followed and Roman citizens arrived on the island. Roman villas appeared through the territory of Korčula and there is evidence of an organised agricultural exploitation of the land. There are archaeological remains of Roman Junianum  on the island and old church foundations. In 10 AD Illyricum was split into two provinces, Pannonia and Dalmatia. Korčula became part of the ancient Roman province of Dalmatia. In the 6th century it came under Byzantine rule.The Great Migrations of the 6th and 7th centuries brought Slavic and Avar invasions into this region. As the so-called barbarians began settling on the coast, the Romanised local coastal population had to take refuge on the islands. Along the Dalmatian coast the Croatian Slavic peoples poured out of the interior and seized control of the area where the Neretva River enters the Adriatic, as well as the island of Korčula (Corcyra),which protects the river mouth. The Christianisation of the Croats began in the 9th century, but the early Slavic rural inhabitants of the island may well have fully accepted Christianity only later; in the early Middle Ages the Croatian population of the island was grouped with the pagan Narentines.
Marco Polo‘s alleged birthplace in modern-day Korčula
It is apparent that piracy on the sea emerged as the Narentines or Neretvians quickly learned maritime skills in their new environment. At first Venetian merchants were willing to pay an annual tribute to keep their shipping safe from the infamous Neretvian pirates of the Dalmatian coast. After the 9th century, the island was briefly under nominal Byzantine suzerainty. In 998 the Principality of Pagania came under Venetian control. Doge Pietro II Orseolo launched a naval expedition along the coast and assumed the title Duke of Dalmatia. Afterwards Korčula came under the control of the Great Principality of Zahumlje.In the 12th century Korčula was conquered by a Venetian nobleman, Pepone Zorzi, and incorporated briefly into the Venetian Republic. Around this time, the local Korčula rulers began to exercise diplomacy and legislate a town charter to secure the independence of the island, particularly with regard to internal affairs, given its powerful neighbors.
South coast of Korčula
The brothers of Stephen Nemanja, Miroslav and Stracimir, launched an attack on the island on 10 August 1184, raiding its fertile western part. The island’s inhabitants called for help from the Republic of Ragusa (Dubrovnik), which in turn captured all of Stracimir’s galleys.The Statute of Korčula was first drafted in 1214. This legal document is the second oldest example of legislation among Slavs, with only the Russkaya Pravda of 11th and 12th Century Russia predating it. It guaranteed the autonomy of the island, apart from her outside rulers: the Grand Principality of Raška, the semi-independent Great Principality of Zahumlje and the Republics of Ragusa and Venice. Captains were created for each of the island’s five settlements for organized defence. Korčula had fewer than 2,500 inhabitants at that time.In 1221, Pope Honorius III gifted the island to the Princes of Krka (the Šubićs). Then in 1222, the Serbian KingStephen the First-crowned of Nemanja gifted his monasteries and lands on the island, referring to it as Krkar, to his followers of the Benedictine Monastic Order on Mljet.During the 13th century the hereditary Counts of Korčula were loosely governed in turn by the Hungarian crown and by the Republic of Genoa, and also enjoyed a brief period of independence; but, in 1255, Marsilio Zorzi conquered the island’s city and razed or damaged some of its churches in the process, forcing the Counts to return to Venetian supreme rule. According to a local tradition, Marco Polo would have been born at Korčula in 1254 to an established family of merchants, although there is no proof of this claim. What is more definite is that the Republic of Genoa defeated Venice in the documented Battle of Korčula off the coast of Korčula in 1298 and a galley commander, Marco Polo, was taken prisoner by the victors to eventually spend his time in a Genoese prison writing of his travels. However, some Italian scholars believe that he may have been captured in a minor clash near Ayas (in sources from those times: Laiazzo).After the writings of Pope Martin IV in 1284 and Pope Honorius IV in 1286 to the Archbishop of Ragusa, the Archbishop implaced a certain Petar as Bishop of Ston and Korčula – stacnensis ac Crozolensis. In 1291, Ivan Kručić was in Korčula’s city as the Bishop of Korčula. Bishop Ivan contested his overlord, the Archbishop of Hvar, and wanted to unite Ston with his church domain. In 1300, Pope Boniface VIII finally founded the Korčula Bishopric under the Archbishopric of Ragusa. In 1333, as the Republic of Ragusa purchased Ston with Pelješac from the Serbian Empire, the suzerainty of Ston’s Roman Catholic Church with the peninsula was given to the Bishopric of Korčula.
A panoramic view of the easternmost parts of Korčula, with Lumbarda, City of Korčula and Orebić (Pelješac) from left to right
Austrian KK stamp cancelled in Italian CURZOLA ca 1863
During the First World War, the island (among other territorial gains) was promised to the Kingdom of Italy in the 1915 Treaty of London in return for Italy joining the war on the side of Great Britain and France. However, after the war, Korčula became a part (with the rest of Dalmatia) of the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs in 1918. It was ruled by Italy from 1918 to 1921, after which it was incorporated into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, known from 1929 on as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. In 1939, it became a part of the autonomous Croatian Banate.After the Axis occupation of Yugoslavia from 1941, Italy annexed the island. After the Armistice between Italy and the Allied powers in 1943, it was briefly held by the Yugoslav Partisans who enjoyed considerable support in the region. Korčula was then occupied by Germany and finally liberated in 1944. With the liberation of Yugoslavia in 1945, the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia was formed, and Korčula became a part of the People’s Republic of Croatia, one of the six Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The state changed the name to Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1953, and so did the Republic into Socialist Republic of Croatia. After 1991, the island became a part of the independent Republic of Croatia, recognized in 1992.
Arneri Lords of Korčula
The Arneri family, since the 15th century, were one of the land proprietors of Korčula. The palace itself where the Arneri resided is of Venetian Gothic architecture and has been described as a place in which a Contarini might have lived. It has a bronze knocker adorning the door representing Hercules swinging two lions by their tails. In the courtyard there is a marble draw-well. It has three pears cut into it. This symbol is the arms of the family.Andrew A. Paton an English writer  (19th century) spoke to Signor Arneri. Andrew Paton described him as a polite gentleman who had a white neck cloth and a broad-brimmed hat.
Signor Arneri: “These three pears you see on the wall,” said he, “are the arms of my family. Piruzović  was the name, when, in the earlier part of the 15th century, my ancestors built this palace; so that, you see, I am Dalmatian. All the family, fathers, sons, and brothers, used to serve in the fleets of the Republic (Republic of Venice); but the hero of our race was Arneri Piruzović, whose statue you see there, who fought, bled, and died at the Siege of Candia, whose memory was honoured by the Republic, and whose surviving family was liberally pensioned; so his name of our race. We became Arneri, and ceased to be Piruzović “
The original Patriarch of the clan was called Petar. He had a status of a minor nobleman (local Patrician status of the City of Korčula). The Clan’s ancestors lived in the Republic of Ragusa. In 1420 the family was mentioned in the charter of the town of Korčula as the Duke/Lord of Manor of Korčula. In 1558 the clan was awarded Venetian holdings on the Island of Hvar, thereby making them Counts there as well. Other noble families of Korčula were Kanavelić, Izmaeli, Gabrijelić and Nikoničić.
Don Marko Bono of Žrnovo
On 10 June 1715, Turkish pirates set out to raid one of the provinces of the Republic of Venice, Dalmatia. It is well documented that the two empires had their fair share of conflicts between each other over the centuries. Sailing around Korčula in two of their galleys, they disembarked at the bay of Brna and 260 of them went on to plunder the island. Firstly they set houses on fire in Smokvica and took 23 of the villagers as prisoners.When they set fire to the house of the parish priest, Don Marko Bono, a native of Žrnovo, Don Marko decided to fight back. In the process he killed two of them and wounded seven. The pirates took him in chains to Ulcinj. There he was sold in public as a slave for 100 sequins. After two years of searching for him, his relatives found him and managed to buy him back for 141 sequins. Don Marko Bono returned to the village of Smokvica on the island of Korčula where he remained as pastor until his death in 1745. The other 23 Smokvica residents taken prisoner in 1715 remained in slavery, including the sister of Don Jakov Salecic (1678–1747), a noted theologian, poet and historian who was a native of Smokvica.
The 17th century saw the rise of Petar Kanavelić who wrote love songs, occasional epic poems and dramas. He also translated from Italian the major poetic works of that time. He is regarded as one of the greatest Croatian writers of 17th century. In 1673 he became the representative of the Korčula community in Venice. There is a primary school named after him in the town of Korčula.Moreška is a traditional sword dance from the town of Korčula. It is one of the many proud traditional sword dances that are performed on the island. It arrived in Korčula around the 16th century. Korčula has a rich musical history of Klape groups. Klapa is a form of a cappella style of singing. The tradition goes back centuries, but the style as we know it today, originated in the 19th century. Oliver Dragojević is a famous Croatian pop singer who comes from the island.Korčula has a very old Stonemasonry history, a tradition which reached its peak during the rule of the Venetian Republic (1420–1797). The island also has a very strong art tradition.
Korkyra Baroque Festival
The Korkyra Baroque Festival is a new annual international event, which will be launched from the 7th to the 16th September 2012. The festival will showcase a selection of the world’s leading ensembles and soloists specialized in Baroque music, including the Academy of Ancient Music (Great Britain), Le Parlament de Musique (France), Currende and Erik Van Nevel (Belgium), La Venexiana (Italy), Red Priest (Great Britain), Croatian Baroque Ensemble (Croatia) and others. Twelve concerts will be held over ten days along with a series of supporting events focusing on Baroque music. Along with the festival’s high artistic credentials the event will also promote the richness of Korčula’s cultural monuments and the whole town as a unique architectural treasure.
The economy, besides tourism, is based on agriculture, namely the cultivation of grape vines, olives and fruit, and fishing and fish processing. Shipbuilding still exists although its importance to the local economy has diminished. Summer tourism has a long tradition on the island. Nautical and village agro-tourism have recently been developed.
Korčula is linked to the mainland by a regular ferry service that runs between Dominče, just outside of Korčula Town and Orebić. There are numerous other local ferry services including one linking Vela Luka and Lastovo. The main Croatian ferry operator Jadrolinija runs a service linking Korčula Town with Rijeka, Split, Hvar, Mljet, Dubrovnik and (from May to September) Bari. An operator Linijska nacionalna plovidba runs a seasonal service linking Korčula with Drvenik.There are also bus services that link the island to major cities on the mainland, which reach Korčula using the Orebić ferry service.Korčula town also has mooring facilities. The western harbour gives shelter from wind though not against the ‘bora’ and north-westerlies. Boat owners are advised to shift to the eastern harbour or to Luka Cove. The port is open to international seaborne traffic as a permanent Port of entry; it offers all types of repairs to hulls and engines at the Brodograditelj Shipyard.Source: Wikipedia