Island of Brac
Description. Murvica is situated on the southern slopes of the island on the
boundary of the lime caves that rise steeply in the backround of the alluviums
of the marsy soil which is gently set and tilled on terraced fields that stretch
from the settlement to the sea. The bare karst with the expressive examples of
Mediterranean manquis and the gentle hill-side near the sea with the exuberant
Mediterranean shrubs. And Murvica in the middle: turned towards the sea, but
still far enough from it, just like the ancient settlements on the Mediterranean
coast that prefered such a location.
Murvica was a place to the first settlers, those above Dracevica by the sea and those that dwelled under the cliffs themselves high and steep above, towards the east of the settlement.
Although modest, the former cottages. almost dug into the hill with their back walls, were interesting examples of the folk architectural heritage. Their aspect bears witness to the hard economic conditions forced upon the Brac population in the past.
Later on, higher houses were built in Murvica, with large fronts turned towards the sun. Murvica is a small, sunny settlement with a very free arrangement of houses. This place did not wish to jump across the path that runs through its southern edge and to enter the soft and fertile soil out of which it lives.
Murvica is an excursion-spot that one reaches by the road from Bol. The mountaineers pass through it heading for the hamlet of Planica and Blaca’s hermitage (q.v.), admiring on their way, the exciting morphology of the karst forms, the steepness of the gorges and the exuberant vegetation reflected in the sea of this very developed coast.
The harbours of Murvica and Dracevica are remarkable for their clear water, the whiteness of the sand and the pines on the coastline interwoven with elegant cypresses and huge aloes, a genuine Mediterranean atmosphere.
History. In the surroundings of Murvica some Roman coins were discovered as
well as some Roman graves along the road to Bol, and remains of the Roman estate
on the Rat (The Cape), (q.v. Bol). It is reasonable to conclude that these
fertile surroundings with the fresh water spring (Studenac, The Well) and the
good sites for forts were already inhabited in ancient times. It is also
confirmed by the place-names.
Many centuries afterwards, in 1286 the Brac landed gentry presented to their prince some lands here from which he collected revenue in wine and grain. At that time Murvica is mentioned for the first time. This region was evidently, at least partly inhabited and cultivated as early as the 13th century.
In the 15th century from 1416 to 1512, to these parts came the monks and nuns (picokare) from Poljica, who had run away in fear of the Turkish threat, and, consequently, established a few monasteries on Brac.
Above the Draceva luka (The Draceva Harbour) half a kilometre to the southwest from Murvica, in 1512, the monks from Poljica who formerly settled in the cave of Drakonja above Murvica, raised a monastery. In the neighborhood of this monastery, in the same year, the nuns established their convent called Dutic. The other two monasteries are raised under the cliff above Murvica. Those were the hermitages called Silvio (Dubravcic) in 1497 and the nunnery Stipancic in 1416 near the Cave of Drakonja (Drakonjina spilja). These monasteries are called Pustinje (hermitages, the literal meaning-deserts) and the monks were called pustinjaci (hermits, recluses). The monasteries survived up to the period between the two wars when the last two nuns moved over to Supetar. The monasteries are now disused and becoming derelict so that they can hardly demonstrate to us the real nature of monastic life.
The monasteries possesed big estates, either inherited or bought. They employed Brac farmers, mostly from Nerezisca. In 1841 Murvica had 16 families with 86 inhabitants. It was more than the offical census showed 130 years later, in 1971.
Name. The oldest name referred to the mountain Koscun, set to the west of
Murvica, which is a Croatized name of the Lat. castellione (fort, castle).
Koscun seemed to have served the Croats who did not understand that Latin name
and called it Gradac (fortress, fort), and the traces of these names are found
in the names of the Murvica’s coves Veli and Mali Zagradac (The Big and the
Little Zagradac. Murvica is a recent settlement and is named after the tree of
murva (Lat. morum).
In the vicinty of Murvica are Zivin dolac and Vilisce, names that preserve the traces of Slav mythology. In Murvica I heard the tale of the white ox and black ox which are eternally fighting for supremecy and which represent the personification of good and evil. The black ox comes from Brusje (on Hvar) and brings with him hail and storm. When a young man, following the order of his master (the personification of the whiten ox) killed the black ox on the coast of Murvica the bells of death started ringing in Brusje announcing the death of an evil amn. This ancient legend is the remains of the old Slav dual belief that was cherished by the Croats in the 7th century when they came over to Brac from the pagan Neretva region (the old Paganija).
The famous Drakonjina spilja (The Cave of Drakonja) derives its origin from the Lat. dracone (dragon). It is often called today, because of the relief of the dragon in it, Zmajeva pecina (The Dragons Cave). The sullen, mysterious cliffs with numerous caves on this uninhabited side of the island, probably inspired the imagination of the old Croats bringing to their memory the characters from their rich mythology, like that of the godesses (Zivana), fairies (Vilisce), vampires, dragons, etc. The dragon was probably carved by a simple friar in the 5th century, who settled in the Zmajeva pecina, putting near the dragon the moon and other symbols of the ancient cult.
The monastery Silvio (alias Dubravcic) is the translation of the Latin noun silva with the Croatian synonym dubrava (the wood).
Monuments. All the four hermitages attract attention with their
picturesqueness and their architectural forms. The simplicity and firmness of
their exterior (preserved) forms reflected harmonry and moderation while the
patina of the stone unobtrusively matches the karst in the backround. Above the
Draceva luka (The Draceva Harbour), from the architectural point of view, the
most interesting thing is the church from the 16th century. The valuts in the
interior are formed out of a natural cave. The front has the characteristic
prifiled portal, rosette and the typical Dalmatian belfry. Very similiar to it
is also the chapel with the destroyed roof of the upper hermitage not far from
the Drakonjina spilja (The Drakonja’s Cave). The new, modern church as raised
in Murvica after the Second World War.
Drakonjina spilja (Drakonja’s cave) which one reaches by a steep footpath in half an hour, also belongs to the church complex, with its western wall carved with figures. On the wall is the dragon with open jaws with a lion lying above its head, and on the left are two heads, one of them symbolising the moon. On the walls all around are holes of various shapes and at its foot are stone seats. On the eastern side, above the little chapels are human figures and birds on their nests. We are inclined to believe that in this Christian shrine coexist the elements of the pagan and the Christian creeds which have not until now been completely separated in this island, set on the edge of the Slav world.