Johann Weichard Valvasor
Relevant Non-Istrians

Themes From Valvasor's Works

  • Beekeeping

    Valvasor includes a reference to beekeeping as a distinctive and widespread form of economic activity. What is especially important is that he published a recipe for mead, a drink that has only recently acquired the necessary formal, legal and technical requirements for its authenticity to be internationally protected. Valvasor does not report on beehive panels, as this phenomenon had not been known at the time his book was published.

  • Cave salamander (Proteus anguinus)

    In his encyclopedic work, Baron Valvasor wrote about the fear and astonishment of local inhabitants when an immature "dragon's offspring" was found at a water source near Vrhnika. The postman, a certain Mr. Hoffman, even took it home and put it on display. But having spoken to the "brave" imperial official, the honourable Baron admitted that the so-called dragon "was only a span long and looked like a lizard, in short, it was an underground worm and wermin of the kind that is common in some parts."

    People had already forgotten about the terrifying Vrhnika monster when 1751 an enterprising fisherman caught five four-legged fish, white as snow. When he tossed them out of the stake net, they started "screaming and squealing." But people were used to fishermen's tales even then and did not get particulary excited about it. Of course we should not swallow hook, line and sinker the stories of dragon's offspring and squealing fish, and today we can be absolutely sure that in both cases only one creature was responsible for all the excitement - Proteus anguinus.

Valvasor's myth, 1689: Dormouse hunt; Devil chasing dormice. VALVASOR, J. W.: Die Ehre Dess Hertzogthums Crain. I/3, Laybach.

  • Dormouse hunting

    Among the rural population in 17th, 18th and 19th centuries a myth about the devil represented by the dormouse shepherd was widespread. The Devil, the dormouse shepherd, clicked, whistled and made a hullabaloo while chasing dormice through the woods.Valvasor was the first to describe dormouse hunting in his great work in 1689, still believing the devil was herding dormice. Even after Steinberg, Hacquet and Kordesh had found an explanation for the myth, that the clicking, whistling and hullabalooing was produced by an owl, even in 1840 the original myth was still deeply held by simple people (KORDESCH, 1840).

    The myth was the basis for the novel of Josip Jurcic, An Autumn Night Among the Slovenian Dormouse Hunters, published in 1865. It is interesting that the story was still alive after the second world war in the forests of Kocevsko. It is fascinating that even today the myth not only functions as a part of the collective memory of dormouse hunters but is also a typical and very popular Slovenian myth.

    The above text is taken from:

    Peršič, M.: Dormouse hunting as part of Slovene national identity. Nat. Croat., Vol. 7, No. 3., 199-211, Zagreb, 1998.
    ISSN 1330-0520 / UDK 599.323.2:591.61'611(497.4)
    Nat. Croat., Vol. 7, No. 3., 199-211, Zagreb, 1998. Hrvatski prirodoslovni muzej, Demetrova 1, Zagreb, Croatia

  • Vampire of Kringa (Deutsch)

    "In 1672 there dwelt in the market town of Kring, in the Archduchy of Krain, a man named George Grando, who died, and was buried by Father George, a monk of St. Paul, who, on returning to the widow's house, saw Grando sitting behind the door. The monk and the neighbours fled. Soon stories began to circulate of a dark figure being seen to go about the streets by night, stopping now and then to tap at the door of a house, but never to wait for an answer. In a little while people began to die mysteriously in Kring, and it was noticed that the deaths occurred in the houses at which the spectred figure had tapped its signal. The widow Grando also complained that she was tormented by the spirit of her husband, who night after night threw her into a deep sleep with the object of sucking her blood. The Supan, or chief magistrate, of Kring decided to take the usual steps to ascertain whether Grando was a vampire. He called together some of the neighbours, fortified them with a plentyful supply of spirituous liquor, and they sallied off with torches and a crucifix.

    Grando's grave was opened, and the body was found to be perfectly sound and not decomposed, the mouth being opened with a pleasant smile, and there was rosy flush on the cheeks. The whole party were seized with terror and hurried back to Kring, with the exception of the Supan. The second visit was made in company with a priest, and the party also took a heavy stick of hawthorn sharpened to a point. The grave and body were found to be exactly as they had been left. The priest kneeled down solemnly and held the crucifix aloft: "O vampire, look at this," he said; "here is Jesus Christ who loosed us from the pains of hell and died for us upon the tree !"

    He went on to address the corpse, when it was seen that great tears were rolling down the vampire's cheeks. A hawthorn stake was brought forward, and as often as they strove to drive it through the body the sharpened wood rebounded, and it was not until one of the number sprang into the grave and cut off the vampire's head that the evil spirit departed with a loud shriek and a contortion of the limbs."

    See also: Giure Grando, il vampiro di Corridico (Italiano)

  • Lippizan horse

    In 1681, almost a century after Lipica's foundation, historian Johann Weichard Freiherr von Valvasor wrote: "Among other things, he (Charles II) founded a stud farm on the Karst in the village of Lipica in 1580, where the best horses are bred and brought to the imperial court. They are the most excellent and most robust horses you can find. They go and graze on hard rocks, where only very little grass grows." The tough, fast Karst horse that was famous in the Roman Empire, and the noble Spanish Genett had evolved into a top quality baroque horse.

  • Postojna / Postumia cave

    The first explorer of caves in Slovenia, Johann Weichard Valvasor, in his Glory of the Duchy of Carniola of 1689 lists 70 caves. It was sheer curiosity that first prompted Valvasor into exploring caves, while later he focused on their hydrological features and the composition of stalactites. Another fact that testifies to the long tradition of spelaeology in Slovenia is that one of the country's most beautiful caves, Vilenica, was opened for sightseeing as early as the 17th century. Research continued in the 20th century and as a result, a register of caves was composed. His description of this contains a strong element of fantasy and contained a terrifying description of a cave of immeasurable depths and monstrous shapes. Valvasor is reputed to have brought several foreign acquaintances to Postojna to show them the cave. He considered Postojna Cave to be the largest and longest but at the same time the grimmest of all the caves he had seen.

  • Skiing

    The 17th century description of a skier from Bloke is the oldest written record of skiing in Central Europe. J.W. Valvasor described Slovenians skiing in 1689 in his book The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola. He writes:
    glagoljica.gif (63614 bytes)

    Table of Cyrilic and Glagolitic Script

    "The Peasants of Upper Carniola know of a rare invention of the sort I had never seen anywhere else: in wintertime, when the snow is plentiful, they descend into the valley with incredible speed. For that purpose they take two strips of wood, each a quarter of an inch thick, half a foot wide, and some five feet long. At the front the wooden strips are bent upward; in the middle there are leather straps to put the feet into. One such strip of wood is strapped under each foot. On top of this, the peasants take a stout cudgel into their hands push it under their armpit, bend backward, and use it as if it were some sort of a rudder to slide off, or even fly down the steepest slopes ... no less swift than those who use skates in Holland to glide on ice."

  • Glagolitic script

    In the chapter Carniolan and Slavic language, Valvasor writes about the origin of the Slavic peoples and the extent and spread of “Slavic” language, which in his time was ”spoken from Venice in the west to Sweden in the north, Constantinople in the south and Moscow in the east”.

    He identifies two scripts used by Slavs, Cyrillic and Glagolitic and  provides a table of both scripts, with examples of Slovenian words in Latin script illustrating each letter. While the table is very clear and well executed, Valvasor is less clear on the origin of the Glagolitic script, ascribing it to St. Hieronimus. He is much clearer when it comes to discussing the extent of its use. He tells us that it is firmly entrenched in Croatia and Dalmatia, that the Missals in Glagolitic script are printed in Rome and the language of the church offices is Slavic.

    In Carniola, according to Valvasor, both the Glagolitic script and “Carniolan” or “Slavic” language are still used “in many places”. This may mean either the 17th century spoken Slovenian or Old Church Slavic, the language of the religious texts as translated by Constantine and his disciples, or probably both. Valvasor further tells us, that the Glagolitic script is no longer as widespread as it used to be, since the “learned Lutheran preacher Primozz Trubar invented the writing of  Carniolan or Slavic language with Latin letters” (1551 A.D). He adds that Croats and Dalmatians are also increasingly using the Latin script.

Valuable information from Valvasor who is the main 17th century source for Slovenian territories, on matters which were generally of little concern to historians, and a valuable insight into historical process which caused the appearance of Glagolitic script and later its decline.


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Created: Wednesday, February 22, 2006; Last Updated: Thursday, November 24, 2011
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