Discover Croatia, Legends of Croatia presenting you the most beautiful and interesting legends of Šibenik – Knin and Dubrovnik – Neretva County. Read them while we film. Dates are 16.-26. June. Stay tuned!
In the archipelago of Šibenik, there are some ten shipwrecks of which two were discovered near the island of Žirje. The second shipwreck site dates back to the 1st or the 2nd century B.C. but no research was conducted on its remnants; instead, nets were placed under the sea to protect them from looters. According to the shape of the amphorae, it is assumed their origins are Mediterranean.
It was built at the time of the byzantine emperor Justinian, above the cove of Velika stupica. After the end of his reign, the fortress was pillaged and burnt and only some parts have been preserved to this day.
The remains of the Roman settlement Colentum, the ruins of mansions, mosaics and frescoes, which can still be seen on land and under the sea.
The remains of the antique town of Colentum are nowadays largely covered by the sea; they can be found at the bottom of the mount of Gradina, on the northern side of the cove of Hramina. It is believed that Colentum was savaged and looted by the pirates in the beginning of the 2nd century but there are indications that it was struck by an earthquake.
On the island of Murter, when asking for a girl’s hand in marriage it was a tradition to plant 50 olive trees. All young men who truly wanted to show their love would do this with no difficulty. However, not every father was ready to give his daughter’s hand in marriage, so one young man was compelled to make substantial efforts to prove his love. The task he received involved planting 365 olive trees on one of the islands of Kornati.
His pertinacity paid well; olive trees were planted and although it took him an entire year, the maid became his wife.
On the mount of Kružak there is a church of St. Constance. Its erection was assisted by the young diseased inhabitants of the town of Lakes; they climbed the mount carrying heavy stones for the construction of the church and the surrounding wall. And so at high summer temperatures, wearing winter clothes and carrying heavy stones, as they would reach the top, they would get well. The temperature created at such efforts would make it impossible for the malaria virus to survive. Ever since, the legend says that St. Constance helped the diseased suffering from malaria to get well.
The Tower of Sighs was occupied by the Turks (15th century) and was ruled by Mehmet Bey. Paul and Stana were a young couple but Mehmet Bey was spellbound by Stana. One day, he sent spie to eavesdrop on Paul and Stana, but unfortunately he was killed. Having learnt of this event, Mehmet Bey blamed Paul for the misfortune, imprisoned him in the Tower of Sighs in which he spent years alone sighing, which is why it was named the Tower of Sighs. One day, Mehmet’s wife showed mercy and set all prisoners free. Paul married Stana and Mehmet Bey died in anger and despair.
Martha, a mother of a boy, had a lover whom no one was to know about. Unfortunately, her son found out. Martha wanted at all costs to prevent her son from sharing her love secret with others. So one day she lured him to a pit and pushed him. While he was falling, he grabbed her by her hair and dragged her down the abyss with him.
In a village near Drniš there was a girl in love with a village boy whom she wanted to marry. However, one of the haiducs, Maleta, set his eyes on this girl. As the girl did not wish to marry a haiduc, he forged a devious plan with his fellow haiducs. They attacked the wedding procession and planned to abduct the bride, hence getting his revenge for her refusal to marry him. The wedding procession was slain, and the bride boldly decided to ask the best man to decapitate her to save her from misery.
At that time, the scarps leaning over Krka were adorned with two towers (which are still there to this day) – Nečven and Trošenj – preserving a sad secret. The legend says that the ruler of the town of Bogočin, knyaz Bogoje, lost his son and his ill-fated daughter-in-law on their wedding day, as a terrible dragon flew from the scarps, grabbed bride Miljeva and dived into a lake with her. Trying to rescue her, the son drowned in the lake. The unfortunate father, driven by his sadness, imprisoned two village girls in the two towers and they wept in memory of the lost son. He also had a bridge erected on the Roški waterfall which the travellers could only cross if they paid an unusual price – two tears.
Since that time, the town of Bogočin has been known as the Town of Fairies, the area between the river of Krka and the river of Čikola as Miljevci – named after the girl, Miljeva – and the river of Poljšica has been known as Čikola – named after the mother of MIljeva, Čika.
Dobra was married to Jurko who had a mistress, but she was not innocent either, so she seduced a nobleman who fell head over heels in love with her. The talk of the town was that Mrna, her mother and Dobra were scheming with the devil to cast a spell on this nobleman.
They were to be punished for this mischief and subjected to an inquisition from Church for which friar John of Trogir was summoned. The mother and her daughter managed to flee from the dungeon and have been untraceable ever since.
With his friend Marinko, who drove him as his personal chauffeur, he often welcomed foreign ladies at the airport and railway station and seduced them with his charms. Then he would eat and drink at their expense, and would stay long into the night in their hotels. At the end, he would simply disappear and the ladies would pay for everything.
Johnny, the Casanova from Šibenik, a charming lover whose passion for women was oozing already in his young age, succeeded in winning over the heart of every damsel he set his eyes on.
Eternally unemployed; rich in the summer, poor in the winter, ready for adventures and silly scheming, tradesman, surveyor or something else, he lived his entire life making a legend the town of Šibenik still talks about.
In 1936, a boy named Stipura, a do-gooder by nature, tended his sheep. While he was chatting with his shepherd friends, he did not notice that his sheep vanished. However, as this was the first time such a thing had happened, he hoped he would find them by climbing the mount Debeljak from top of which the whole valley seemed like a stone’s throw away. While he was climbing, he would turn around every now and then to check if his sheep were behind him. When he came close to a cave at the very top of the hill, he thought he saw something strange in there. A white light was dazzling from inside and Stipur entered to take a closer look. What he saw was stunning. A young woman all dressed in white was sitting on a stone holding a child in her arms. Such a beauty, Stipura thought, had never been seen before. Yet, he was frightened. He fled and returned after a few minutes with his friend. Of course, no one was there anymore.
In the town of Tenen, there lived a lovely maid Tena, whose beauty was known all across the country. In a cave on top of a hill, a dragon called Zmajpaša dwelled, and he assumed a human appearance to deceive people. He and fairy Zlosutnica were after the lovely Tena who was to marry prince Radovan, the son of king Zvonimir and queen Jelena.
Tena would only be safe if she stayed in the fortress which was located on the sacred ground. But Zmajpaša and Zlosutnica forged a plan to lure and capture her and when Radovan comes to save her they would kill him.
Tena escaped from the lair of Zmajpaša and returned to the fortress Spas where she waited for Radovan who did not appear for months. She was engrossed in sadness, as she thought Radovan was dead. Radovan wandered through the maze of the dragon’s lair and looked for a way out. After he found it, he killed Zmajpaša who just before he was killed, flew into the air, lifted the fortress high above and then collapsed under it.
He has been under the fortress of Knin ever since.
Source: Various legends. Tena is an invented character created to complement this story. The legend is associated with the event “Days of Zvonimir”.
After the death of their parents, three brothers were to share the land. One of them was blind, but not foolish, and he knew quite well that the other two wished to trick him. In a fervent discussion and with tumultuous feelings the blind man cursed his brothers saying:
“If you tricked me, the land will turn into a lake and a dragon will surface and swallow you.” The lake from which the dragon emerged is known as the Dragon’s Eye.
An old fisherman was at sea catching fish when all of a sudden he noticed an unusual light. It was a painting of Our Lady which he took home after fishing. However, the next morning, the painting was not there. He went fishing again and the same light took him by surprise, but this time he took the painting to the priest. The painting seemed every time to mysteriously find its way back to the sea where it would then be found by someone.
On this exact location, the chapel of the Lady of Chapel was erected and this is where we will film the story.
In the oldest part of the Croatian coast, Cape Planka, there is a natural dividing line between the Adriatic’s winds and currents which makes the sea dangerous for ships. Of course, this was not beneficial for the sailors who sailed the sea but in spite of that, on one occasion, during a shipwreck, a miracle occurred. Whilst walking across the waters, St John of Trogir saved the sailors and all the cargo on the ship, and they happily landed on the coast. As a sign of gratitude, a chapel was later erected at that exact location.
Queen Neda, the daughter of Petar Krešimir the 4th, who ruled in the 11th century, was a danger for all plotters who schemed and fought for the future king of Croatia, Zvonimir. To place him upon the throne, Neda had to be imprisoned in a dungeon cell. Jelena, the wife of Zvonimir, took her in secrecy to the island of Maslinovik from which she managed to escape once but was caught and again imprisoned in the tower of the castle in Bihać. At that time, Zvonimir became king.
At the end of the 19th century, people from Primošten went to the island of Maslinovik to collect grass for the cattle. Grass was scarce as vineyards and olive groves were clear-cut. One day, an old woman named Old Bene was collecting grass. She dug out gold coins for which it is believed that they belonged to Queen Neda. Secretly, she filled a bag with coins and left the island to see a fortune-teller who told her that if she went back to Maslinovik, she would again find gold coins but she would not live very long after that. Old Bene chose life and she never set foot in Maslinovik again. Local people, who heard what happened, ran off to the island to find gold coins but no one except for Old Bene ever succeeded in finding them.
One morning old Jakov went to the field, a little valley where he was cleaning the pathway towards the grape vine. His wife prepared him a meal, he loaded the donkey and left. As he was reaching the valley, he spotted a girl, an astounding beauty, and he thought this could not be a human being. The girl was sleeping in the sun and he decided to make her some shade. Afterwards, he continued to work in the field until noon and, then, thinking of the maid who had surely woken up by that time, he got weary and fell asleep. He dreamt of her and her lovely companion fairies dancing around the water. He woke up in the late afternoon and went home. On his way, the same beauty appeared in front of him and thanked him by saying: “I shall give you a gift as a token of gratitude for having saved me from the sun, my skin would have burnt in the sun. Just make sure you do not open it until you get home.”
But the old man, curious as a child, opened the bags which were now full, not giving a second thought to what the fairy had said. He was deeply disappointed and grew angry as he realized the misfortune had befallen him, as there were no more gifts in the bags.
He arrived home and told his wife what had happened. She began to empty the bags. Only several gold coins fell out, along with lop and grass. This was the only fortune they were left with.
Ominous news spread. In a while, the Turkish pirates, the Catalans, landed on the shore nearby, fierce enemies sowing death, looting, enslaving and burning. The village and the islanders were terrified. Men were preparing for defence and women with children and the elderly were getting ready to flee to the mountain refuges.
A Prophet came to the village, all dressed in black. Slowly and sluggishly she approached the stone altar, first from one side, then from the other. She bowed and raised her hands high in prayer. After the ritual of bowing, she spoke to the assembled crowd. Her voice roared like a thunder while she pronounced the prophecy on the battle with the Turks. The battle was ferocious but in the end the Turks were defeated.
In Smokvica, there lived a young man called Antonio, who was so handsome that all girls had their eyes on him. However, he cared little for this; he had his mind set only on work, and every day, on his way back from Ledine, he walked down to the cove to enjoy the sea.
On the seashore, Antonio met Nera, the sea-maid, the daughter of the king of the seas. The young man and the girl fell desperately in love with one another and they met whenever she emerged to the surface. But one day, her mother and her sisters followed and ordered her to go back to her old life, as her hand had been promised in marriage to the king of the Greek seas.
Despite her mother’s order, Nera decided to become a woman of Earth and renounce her life to be with Antonio. When the king of the seas heard of this, he emerged from the water and threatened to turn them into stone if they insisted on their love. Nera, who was immensely in love with Antonio, obeyed her father’s order, plunged into the water and never surfaced again in order to save Antonio’s life.
The story that accompanies the ritual of making lumblia tells the tale of love between two young people who were compelled to be apart – the love between a French soldier-baker and young Blajka. When the French army left, the soldier-baker had to leave too. At leave-taking he gave his beloved one a cake saying “n’oublie pas” (do not forget me).
The soldier left, the French ruling ended and young Blajka and her name drowned in numerous love stories. However, the cake “lumblia” remained as a memory to this tale. The words pronounced “n’oublie pas” sounded to the girl like “lumblia”, but the message was clear.
Since that time, lumblia has been made of special ingredients which are first prepared and collected in the summer…
The Turks entered Blato and enslaved women and children. The men of Blato formed Kumpanija, a national army; they defeated the Turks on Giča and set their people free.
It is this army’s tradition that developed a knight’s dance called Kumpanjija, which is preserved today by the Knight’s Association Kumpanija.
Many thousands of years ago, at a time before the great flood, when our world was still young and shackled by snow and ice, there was a group of huntsmen who lived in a cave on a hillside called Pinski rat. They survived by hunting animals. That year, hunting luck was not on their side; it had been weeks since their last prey, children were starving and the elderly were losing strength. The group was threatened by death and extinction. There was no place to run; great frozen mountains were waiting on the north, a dry waterless valley lurked on the south, and somewhere in the distance was a large salt lake which the elderly called the sea. Their leader was a young handsome huntsman whose name vanished in the fickle layers of time; he had the biggest responsibility – to find solution and procure food.
In a grove at the bottom of the valley there lived a longhaired nymph; the protector of animals, nature and harmony. A fair-coloured roe with tender round eyes was particularly attached to her. Some said that the roe was the nymph herself who could change her form if she wished. Her father was the very Creator, the one who breathes life into all living beings, the one who looks after all beings being born again in an unbroken circle of life.
The huntsman, although skilled and daring, was ill-tempered, with no humbleness, modesty or respect. One cold and windy day (at that time, almost all days were cold and windy), he was chasing after the swift roe. Although it seemed as if he would catch her, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a beautiful girl appeared in front of him. The bewildered huntsman stopped, wandering if this was reality or magic. “Please do not hunt the roe, she is mine, she asked me to protect her, to save her life”, the girl told him. The huntsman, thinking of his hungry parents, friends, children…ignored her plea and continued his chase. He reached and pierced the roe with his spear. Just as the roe was falling down, she turned into a girl – the blond nymph, protector of animals.
Her father, desperate and sad, restored the image of the roe to the girl and placed her among the stars in the sky. He did the same to the huntsman who has been hunting his nymph in the welkin ever since. Angry and sad, the Creator decided to punish all men, to elevate the sea level and flood the entire valley where his beloved daughter detached from life, erasing hence the place of sadness. The sea entered deep into the bay and formed what is today known as Vela Luka. The stars in the sky are the only reminder of the times when the bay was a peaceful valley.
This is the story I heard from my grandfather and he heard it from his; now I have told it to you so that you can tell it to your children.
After a storm at sea threw them into the channels of Pelješac and Korčula, making them delay their quest for Golden Fleece and destroying their ship Argosy, the Argonauts found their way through the valleys of Boguša to Kočje.
It was a moonlit night and they were off to find some water. Suddenly, at a lea near the rocks they spotted fairies dancing in circle and they remained dazzled by the sight.
They approached them and asked for some water, or even better, for some drops of dew.
However, this was not possible, as fairies were born in dew, they lived in dew and could not renounce on dew even though they wished to give the thirsty castaways some to drink.
Then, one of the fairies took her magic wand made of sorb tree, scraped it against the rock and a spring opened up. (The sorb tree has always been deemed having wondrous powers by the locals).
Then some of the Argonauts fell hopelessly in love with the fairies and decided to terminate their journey (Jason, Heracles, Hylas, Orpheus); they remained in Kočje to wait for the dew and their fairies.
Headed by the brothers and their sister Crnomiri in the 11st century, Čarani fought the knyaz of Venice for they did not wish to hand him over fertile land with vineyards where today the largest production of pošip (wine) is located. The story, which has been carried across generations, begins when the Venetian knyaz summoned local heads on the island of Korčula to take their land as a levy.
Čara was represented by Petar Crnomira, one of nine brothers who belonged to a mighty family of this village. Upon the knyaz’s request to hand him over fertile vineyards, Petar refused under the excuse that the village was poor.
Being put under enormous pressure, Petar caved in and offered the peak of a gradient and a tiny part of the field where land was pervious to storm water cursing him that not a single vine would bear fruit on this gradient.
The knyaz was unhappy with the offer and the head of Čara was very angry; he turned his back on the knyaz, farted loudly and said: “If you think little was offered to you, take this as well!” He ran immediately but was soon captured and killed. When they found out about this, his brothers decided to avenge him. One day, from an ambush, they attacked the knyaz while he was visiting his vineyards. They murdered him and buried on a location known today as Knesev greb (The tomb of the knyaz).
The Venetians gathered their army and entered Čara, slaying many villagers and two Cronomiris and taking the rest of the brothers to the galleys.
The archives contain no documents to confirm this legend but it shows how people of Korčula have appreciated and defended their fertile land with vineyards since ancient times.
After the shipwreck, Odyssey was washed on the sea shore of the island of Ogygia where nymph Calypso lived. Dazzled by her beauty and spellbound, he spent seven years on the island.
After seven years, gods decided it was time Calypso let him go. Urged by Athena, Zeus sent Hermes to tell this to the nymph. Odyssey then left on a raft, with supplies of food, water and wine.
The island where Odyssey was washed by the sea reminds in many things of Mljet: the island has a cave, it is located in the Southern Adriatic, it has four springs and the rock named Ogiran, which all resembles the island of Ogygia where Odyssey was shipwrecked.
Locals nurture a legend according to which the owner of the island used to be a woman who lived like a queen, which also recalls Calypso.
According to various sources which mention the travels of St. Paul, during his sail across the Adriatic he was shipwrecked and stranded on a deserted, wooded and unknown island full of snakes – Melita.
The ship was marooned on a small sea rock, which the natives of Mljet call the Rock of St. Paul. Fishermen still believe that they must pass through the strait of St. Paul before going fishing in order to have a good catch.
In the area of Crkvine, there are excavations of unknown stone wall for which people believe it is the foundation of the Church of St. Paul. (See Discover Croatia video on the island of Mljet.)
In the first thirty years of its existence, a defence wall was built, the longest in Europe, extending from one side of the peninsula to the other, and then as per the single project design, two fortified towns were erected: Ston on the southern side and Mali Ston on the northern side, with the aim of assembling people to protect borders and to work in salterns which were the source of high revenue for the state.
According to the tradition of the people from Dubrovnik, when fortification of the walls was carried out in Ston, no old walls were torn down but only new ones were added, so Ston today boasts some preserved parts of the walls from the first half of the 14th century. And yet, everything was so well developed and adapted that, if these fortresses were entirely preserved to this day, as they were in 1874, they could very much rival the famous Carcassone in France.
King Norin was so ugly that he hid his appearance from the world and let no one see him. Being a freak with an odd face and hairy body, he ordered a barber to come once a week and take the hair off his body after which he would decapitate the barber. Great sadness engrossed the town which was robbed of young men. The last man was summoned by the king and his mother thought of making a loaf of bread and blessed it with her milk.
When the young man finished shaving the king, he wished to eat his last meal. Watching him eat with such enjoyment, Norin asked to be given a slice of bread to taste and having done so, he was thrilled. The young man said the bread had been made of mother’s milk and the king made a decision not to kill him as they were brothers now. He let him go provided he told nothing and if he desired to do so, he could only tell it to the dark earth and the hole he dug in it. As the hole was sited near water, sedge sprouted from it. A shepherd made a flute using this sedge and it poured out a melody of the song of the ugly King.
According to the legend, Dubrovnik selected St. Vlaho for its patron saint after the event of 971 when the Venetian fleet sailed into the waters of Dubrovnik. Before coming to Dubrovnik, the Venetians defeated the people of Neretva and intended to use trickery to defeat Dubrovnik: they told them they were sailing towards Greece. The people of Dubrovnik were unaware of their intentions and they welcomed them with open arms. In the cathedral of St. Stephen, which was later demolished after an earthquake, the pious Don Stojko prayed long into the night. Suddenly, as he was praying, he saw the church fill with armed men and among them was a grey-bearded old man with a stick in his hand. He said he was a bishop, a martyr called St. Vlaho, who was sent from above to safeguard Dubrovnik. The heavenly soldiers fought with him the whole night to defend the city walls from the Venetians. The next day, the Venetian fleet set their sails in haste and the caring hand of St. Vlaho has been protecting Dubrovnik for more than a thousand years now.
A general of the French army decided to close the Benedictine monastery on the island of Lokrum and he banished all Benedictines from there. Astonished by his decision, the monks did everything they could to remain there where their order lived for centuries. When nothing seemed to help anymore, one night they went to the Church of St. Mary, they held their last church service on the island, put their monk cowls on and went, one by one, at a slow pace to patrol the island. As a sign of curse they turned the lit candles towards the earth so that the flame burnt from below and the wax dripped along the pathway they treaded on. They crossed the entire island three times and the whole time they solemnly pronounced the ominous words of the curse: “Let every person who reaches for Lokrum for their own pleasure and enjoyment be cursed!“ At dawn, they left the island and never set foot on it again. Lokrum was thereafter cursed and the curse began to come true. All owners after that time died either tragically or under unexplained circumstances.
The chronicles from Dubrovnik and England noted down that Anglo-Norman king Richard the Lionheart came to Dubrovnik in autumn of 1192 after returning from the Crusades. He ended up in a storm and then vowed to build a church on the location where he found rescue. He was stranded on the island of Lokrum but the authorities of Dubrovnik persuaded him to build the Cathedral of the Assumption within the walls of the Town for which, according to the stories of the folks, he gave 100 000 ducats. This cathedral was demolished by the earthquake of 1667.
According to the legend, there was a dragon named Voaz, who dwelled in this area, in the cave of Cavtat called Šipun. The dragon was evil and the local people prayed to St. Ilar to free them from this misery. St. Ilar went to the cave Šipun and by the power of God’s will he ordered the dragon to leave with him. He raised his hand and a path opened up through the sea so he took the dragon across dry land towards Mlini. He ordered to the people of the town of Mlini to make a large bonfire on the coast on which he burnt the dragon. To thank him, the people erected a church on the location where St. Ilar burnt the dragon, making him thus the patron saint of Mlini. The large church tower bell dedicated to him bears an inscription saying: “I tell to the people that you, St. Ilar, destroyed the dragon of paganism. MCMXXV”.
Sources: Regional and local tourist boards