Like in many old cities, the residents of Zagreb have developed a great number of myths and legends through the centuries. There are so many, that it is nearly impossible to compile them all, but this article can be your perfect starting point if you want to research this subject. The legends are so valuable to Zagreb, there are even several tours built around them. These tours are certainly a memorable experience, and shouldn’t be missed on your next visit to this lovely city.
1. The Black Queen
By far the most notable legend from the city of Zagreb is the one of the Black Queen. It is based on a real person, Barbara of Cilli, who was born in the Czech Republic. She married King Sigmund thus becoming a queen of Hungary and Croatia.
According to stories, she was very beautiful, but unfortunately, her personality didn’t match her face. While her husband was absent, she would have numerous lovers in the Medvedgrad castle, near Zagreb. Of course, if that was all, she wouldn’t get her notorious title. What really made her the “black queen” were her decisions after she was no longer interested in her lovers. When she got bored with them, she would order her guards to throw them over the walls of the castle. Remember that the next time you get frustrated for not getting a text back.
Killing boring lovers wasn’t Barbara’s only specialty. She allegedly also had a pet, a black raven to be specific. And her beloved bird wasn’t there only to keep her company. According to many sources, it would also attack people on her command. Although in modern times that would make queen Barbara a bird-whisperer, five hundred years ago it made her a witch.
The cause of her death is uncertain. Some believe she broke her deal with the devil, while others think her guard dogs attacked her. As she ran away from them, she fell over the same wall her countless lovers were thrown from. And you thought karma isn’t a real thing.
Some believe her spirit still wanders within the walls of Medvedgrad fortress, guarding her secret treasure and unable to find peace for her soul.
2. How Zagreb got its name
The widely accepted legend on how Zagreb got its name is the one of a young knight from distant lands, wandering to Medvednica, a mountain near Zagreb. Exhausted from his long journey, he was searching for water and a place to rest. He soon found a spring and a beautiful girl named Manda standing beside it. Too exhausted to go drink for himself, he asked her to go grab him some water. This story was spread through generations, and the city was finally named Zagreb after the word grab (Croatian word for ‘grab’ is ‘zagrabi‘), while the spring got the name from the girl Manda, who protected it.
3. The Petrified Wedding
On the western side of Medvednica mountain, a strange rock foundation can be found. What makes these stones unique, is that they look almost human-like. The legend of how this formation came to be can be found in a poem by renowned Croatian writer, August Šenoa.
There he describes a family who ran a mill on the mountain. The miller, his wife, and son led a peaceful, happy and wealthy life. One day, the miller’s wife sent her son to search for a wife. He soon fell in love with Janja, a daughter of a poor blind man. His mother disapproved, as she didn’t want her rich son to marry a poor girl. However, her husband insisted that only love is what matters and that the wedding should be arranged.
She couldn’t stop the wedding from happening, but the anger in her only grew stronger. When the celebration began, she cursed the participants saying: “Everyone on that cliff, you’ll become as rock stiff.”
Much to her dismay, a great storm arose out of nowhere, turning everyone, except her, into stone. She immediately regretted her words, but it was already too late. Some believe she still wanders through the mountain, crying and hugging the stones at night.
4. The Legend Of The Stone Gate
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/83/Slika_Majka_Bo%C5%BEja_od_Kamenitih_vrata.jpgThe Stone Gate is one of the most notable sights in Zagreb. It was built in 1266, together with strong walls to protect the freshly established free royal city of Gradec. But the history of the Gate isn’t nearly as interesting as the legend dating from the 18th century.
In 1731, a large fire broke in the city. It was the fourth noted fire that occurred in the area since the walls were built. But this time the Stone Gate was badly damaged, together with around 50 nearby buildings. Only one thing remained untouched: a painting of Virgin Mary with baby Jesus owned by a widow named Manduša. This miracle gave a new hope to the citizens of Gradec. They believed that once they build new houses the painting of Virgin Mary will protect them from future fires. Widow Manduša built a chapel in the Stone Gate, placing the painting on an altar. This chapel became the most significant sanctuary in Zagreb up to this day. Pilgrims light candles there, to symbolize prayer, and engrave their words of gratitude on metal plates once their prayers have been answered.