Myths and Legends

Local Legends and Beliefs

Paul and the Martyrs

There is a legend that "When Paul was patriarch of Aquileia the priest Geminianus was told in a vision to go to the destroyed city of Trieste to find the bodies of 42 martyrs buried between the wall of the church dedicated to them and the city wall. Going thither with many other Venetians he found the holy bodies in the specified place, covered over with marble slabs, and, taking them, went to the destroyed city of Aquileia, where he added to the relics the bodies of Cantius, Cantianus, Cantianilla, and the virgins Euphemia, Dorothea, Thecla, and Erasma, and then took them all to Grado.'' Paul is Paulinus I. (557-569), and the occurrence took place after the Lombards had gone by in 568. The forty-two martyrs were laid side by side in the church of S. Vitale, and Paul died the next year.


  • The Shores of the Adriatic, The Austrian Side - The Küstenlande, Istria, and Dalmatia by Frederick H. Jackson (London, 1908), Chapter 4, Grado.

The Beautiful Countess of Veprinac

Once upon a time, Countess Anna Stell dwelled in Veprinac castle, on the very spot where the church lies today. There was a small chapel in front of the castle. This noble lady had a very good nature and was also very beautiful. She gladly offered help, but preferred praise of her beauty to a usual thanksgiving. If someone told her ' thanks for your good heart', she would give him a coin, but if one - enchanted with her beauty - told her, instead of thanking - 'your beauty equals that of Madonnà, she would give him two coins. Countess Anna was very vain about her looks, so she didn't even want to bear children, in fear of loosing her appearance. She feared even to think of the fact that when she grows old and ugly, no-one would remember her beauty.

And what did she think of? From Venice, she summoned the best sculptor of the time and commissioned a statue of Our Lady sculpted to her very own appearance. The sculptor said, 'All right milady, but after whom will I carve Jesus Christ? Maybe after your son?'

The Countess answered to the artists: 'No, I will be Madonna without a child'. And so, the sculptor created a statue without a child. No-one saw such a statue before and everyone thought it was a sinful act.

When the statue was finished, Countess Anna set it on the shrine of the small chapel, thinking that everyone who comes to adore Madonna will in fact admire her own figure. She knew it was a sin, but since she did lots of good deeds and helped the poor, she believed God would forgive her.

When the Countess was on her deathbed, she composed a will, assigning all of her possessions to the project of building a great church, much more beautiful than the already existing chapel. It was understood that the main altar of the future church would have Madonnàs statue on it with the Countess's appearance.

After many years, when the castle finally collapsed and when people could start building the new church on the very same spot, workers went ahead with taking off the statue of Madonna from the chapel alter and at that very moment, ropes holding the statue snapped. The statue fell down and broke into thousands of pieces.

Thus, even today people remember the good Countess Stell that willed her money for the church, but no-one can remember how she looked. Someonès goodness always counts more than his or her outward appearance, because beauty is transitory, while goodness performs great deeds.


  • Dragan Ogurlic, Littoral Fairy Tales and Stories - (no longer online)

The Story of Moro
[also known as the legend of the Moretti]

Long ago, in the battle of Grobnik Plain in 1242, Tatars were destroyed, loosing an entire army of 30,000 people lead by the notorious army leader Buchuk Batukan, grandson of the legendary Genghis Khan. They were beaten by units from all the corners of Croatia, and so natives could be at peace, until the new danger from the east started advancing. From the end of the 15th to the beginning of the 17th century, people were in constant terror of the Turkish force.

During the last advances by the Turkish army towards the Croatian Littoral around 1600, Uskok pirates of Senj often used to tell inhabitants of Rijeka about their fierce battles with Osmanli soldiers. News spread of what the Turks did in Lika, and fear began to reign when it leaked out that they raided the county of Gorski Kotar, the mountainous district at the back of Rijeka. Panic caught hold of Rijeka and its' environs when the powerful Turkish Army raised camp in the nearby Grobnik Plain. During the siege, inhabitants of Rijeka looked toward Heaven and prayed St Michael to release rain of stone on the Turks.

In these fatal days in 1601, the Croatian nobleman Zrinski stood on his Gradina Castle near Jelenje, above Grobnik Field and observed the Turkish army preparing for the final onslaught. He looked and was upset, because he knew his handful of brave men would be obliterated, when the swift Muslim Cavalry comes at them. In the meantime, the Turks raided the whole of Grobnik Plain, its churches and villages. Barbarians drunk wine from the sacred chalices, and held their horses inside the churches. In the middle of the camp, sat a Turkish pasha and smoked his giant pipe, which was steaming like a factory chimney. The poor people escaped in all directions and the Grobnik mountains were full of them. People had no arms except for slingshots and catapults at the best. On the top of the Grobnik mountain Obruc, two brothers sat, both with their slingshots. Looking on the Plain, where Turks and pasha dwelled, one brother said to the other:

- Brother, where shall I shoot him? - thinking of pasha.

- In the eye! - came the answer.

Upon hearing this, the brother who was the more skilled shooter, shot his rock from a slingshot and pasha fell down dead, in the midst of Grobnik plain. When Turkish soldiers lost their leader, they fled, without thought of return. During their escape, heaven granted prayers of the local people and showered rain of burning stones, that buried the Turks on that very Grobnik plain, leaving only their turbans above.

As a memory of this event, the goldsmiths of Rijeka, called moorettists, created earrings with a figure of the Negro with a Muslim turban on his head. These earrings represented Turks, and were named Moorettes or Moros (coming from the word Maurus, meaning Arabs). These earrings were widely accepted among Rijeka ladies and also by women from the city's environs. The goldsmiths made only earrings at first, but later they started to produce other jewellery; rings, bracelets and necklaces, brooches and hairpins, all adorned with the figure of either female or male Moro.
This is the story of MORO that became a part of the traditional jewellery of this region, reminding everyone of that fatal day when 'rain of stone showered from Heaven'.


  • Dragan Ogurlic, Littoral Fairy Tales and Stories - (no longer online)

Why the Bora is Healthy

In the beginning of the 20th century, the city of Kraljevica near Rijeka, invested all its' efforts in order to become a renowned climatic sanatorium. At that time, Mika Kosic, M.D., published a booklet describing all the benefits of the Kraljevica climate. There was nothing strange with such a fact, because lots of our towns and cities of that time were proud of different tourist publications, if Doctor Kosic did not attempt to foist on tourist our most unpleasant wind, Bora.

This physician, born in the continental town of Samobor near Zagreb says that the Bora has a healing effect on our bodies. Inhabitants of the littoral area consider the Bora to be a real benefaction to their health. This wind's influence disables the gathering of carbonic acid between our body and our clothes. Further on, when we fight against it, walking outside, almost all of our body's muscles are engaged, which produces significant heat. Dr Kosic claims that this effort strengthens muscles and toughens skin. After a walk in the Bora, we excrete the mucus from our respiratory system with a certain unusual ease. And the heart is bound to perform more vigorously after each walk in such a wind.

Exposure to the Bora is also obvious, says Kosic, in activities of the stomach, because previously unperceived hunger demands a make up of the lost energy. Summit of the Boràs benefits is certainly a long and peaceful sleep.

Lots of wind prevents the gathering and multiplying of micro-organisms. And what to tell about men and women of this region? Kosic thinks of them as the symbol of longevity, especially when it comes to women. The littoral area does not have many diseases, because the Bora carries them away before they even start 'plundering'. This sanatorium physician concludes that, no doubt, in the near future we will witness the Bora becoming acknowledged as a medicinal means, despite those who wanted to defame the littoral area on the same basis.


  • Dragan Ogurlic, Littoral Fairy Tales and Stories - (no longer online)

La corona dei re d'Istria

[C'è una parte del testo del Almanacco regional Benforad di Vittorio Furlani, Venezia Giulia (1920) che riguarda una escursione a Porto Badò, che fu il porto dell'antica Nesazio, la leggendaria capitale di re Epulo. Si fa riferimento a presunti tesori trovati sul posto da contadini, prima degli scavi ufficiali. Viene riportato il seguente racconto tratto da un libro di G. Stadner e A. Stefani: Novi schizzi dall'Adria*. Pietro Valente]*

"Nella seconda metà del secolo decimottavo, a quattro chilometri a ponente della Valle dell'Arsa, viveva il contadino Bellavich, padrone di una masseria. Era ricco, e la gente andava sussurrando che egli doveva la sua fortuna a un tesoro trovato sotterra. Il Bellavich aveva certa generosità che manifestava con banchetti in onore del suo amico, il notaio Capponi di Barbana. Una volta non pago del solo convito, uscì brillo dalla sua stanza, avvolto in mantello regale, cinto il capo d'una corona e con lo scettro in mano, rivelando così al suo ospite una parte della ricchezze scoperte. Interrogato d'onde provenisse tanto tesoro, gli sfuggì di bocca: dal Mulino di Valle Blas presso il canale dell'Arsa. Indi, ritiratosi in una stanza attigua, depose quegli indumenti; da allora in poi nessuno più vide le insegne regali dell'Istria. Non s'ha difficoltà a spiegare come il Bellavich non lasciasse più vedere il tesoro, quando si rifletta che allora le leggi venete confiscavano a favore dello Stato gli oggetti di valore trovati e punivano severamente chi li nascondesse. L'astuto villico aveva, quindi, ogni ragione per eludere le incalzanti domande del notaio, per negare tutto, e far credere che il suo ospite avesse visto la corona e il resto tra i fumi del vino." 

Tratto da:

  • Vittorio Furlani, Venezia Giulia (1920). Almanacchi regionali Benforad per i ragazzi. 

The Legend of Baredine Cave

BAREDINE cave, near Poreč-Parenzo has a love story going back to the 13th century. If one should believe a legend, a Poreč nobleman named Gabriel fell in love with a beautiful milkmaid from Nova Vas called Milka. Gabriel's mother tried, in every way, to diminish his love for her, but she couldn't, so she gave three gold pieces to highway robbers to secretly kill Milka.

The robbers did not kill the milkmaid but instead threw her into the cave. When Gabriel found out of his lovès ill fortune, he got on a horse and disappeared. Only his horse was found but near another cave. The story has it that the stone body of the milkmaid is slowly skidding, from century to century, down to the bottom of the cave where we can see it now as it is seeking her lover. Today's cavers claim that one could pass through to the next cave by digging. So as our legend has it, we can assume that one day the bodies of our Romeo and Juliet will meet in the underworld and stay together forever.




La leggenda da San Lorenzo del Pasenatico

A San Lorenzo iera un veceto de nome Barba Piereto e lu al contava (a lu ghe iera sta contà de suo nono) che, nel' antichità, al Canal de Leme al iera 'sai più curto. Un giorno, però, l'aqua del mar, che xe in sto canal, la ga scuminzià alzarse sempre più e cussì, vegnuda avanti, la coverseva la «Draga»: una tera 'sai bona, dove cresseva patate, fasioi, formenton e capuzi, anca se pioveva poco.

San Martin, che 'l stava sul monte, al vedeva vegnir sempre più avanti al mar, ma al se rassegnava al dano chè l fazeva, parché al pensava che iera destin de Dio che fussi cussì. Ma pò, co 'l se ga visto al mar soto al monte, tutintun ghe xe vegnù al pensier che bisognava far qualcossa, che sto mar no vadi 'vanti. Alora, con un gran desiderio de esser esaudido, al ga rivolto a Dio una preghiera piena de fede, pò, cun tuta forza, al ga butà zo 'l baston, che al portava senpre cun sé, zigandoghe al mar: Fermite!

E giusto là, soto al monte, che par questo al se ciama de San Martin, al mar se ga fermà e, ancora agi, al xe fermo là.

Tratto da:

  • Giuseppe Radole, Folclore Istriano, MGS Press (Trieste, 1997), p. 152-3.

Sardelle, sgombri, lanzarde e... nascituri

Una delle più belle leggende che riguarda i lauranesi

Si racconta che in un tardo pomeriggio due pescatori scendessero al mare per andare a pescare. Arrivati in porto, prepararono la barca e, una volta al largo, aspettarono il buio e poi accesero la lampara. Ed ecco subito la luce intensa attirare le sardelle: una, due, dieci, cento, un migliaio! Era tutto un luccichio. E, dietro alle sardelle, ecco arrivare anche dei begli sgombri che guizzarono veloci. E poi delle lanzarde! Erano già le dieci di sera. Soddisfatti i due pescatori stavano per gettare le reti quando, lontano lontano, sulla riva, intesero degli acuti lamenti di una donna:

- Aiuto, aiuto! Gente sono sola, aiutatemi, vi prego aiutatemi!...

Uno di loro esclamò:

- Al diavolo anche le sardelle, gli sgombri e le lanzarde! Dobbiamo accorrere, aiutare chi ha bisogno!

Immediatamente si misero a pigiare sui remi, giù e giù, la prua diretta verso il luogo dal quale arrivavano le grida. Così dopo un po’ arrivarono in una piccola insenatura quasi sotto Moschiena. Nel buio, sulla riva, videro una casetta, un lumicino a una finestra. Pronti approdarono, legarono la barca a uno scoglio, staccarono la lampara e con quella luce in mano accorsero. Erano le grida di una povera donna che stava partorendo.

I due, voglia o non voglia, dovettero improvvisarsi levatrici. Veramente uno reggeva la lampara e l’altro aiutava la donna. Ed ecco, senza tante difficoltà, nascere un bel bimbetto. Ma non finì qui! Altri lamenti della donna e sotto la luce della lampara ecco nascere un secondo bambino. Poi ancora lamenti e, incredibile a dirsi, ne spunta un terzo!

A questo punto il pescatore che aiutava la donna, rivolto a quello che reggeva la lampara disse:

- Spegni, spegni quella luce, perché qui vengono avanti come se fossero lanzarde, sgombri e sardelle!

Tratto da:

  • © La Voce del Popolo, 27 ottobre 2007 -

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Created: Wednesday, October 25, 2000; Last updated: Sunday, April 17, 2016
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