The greatest Croatian love stories, part 1

Veliki Tabor Croatia

January 31, 2015 • Articles

The forbidden love of Veronika Desinićka

Location: Castle Veliki Tabor, one of the best-preserved medieval castles in Croatia. Located in the northwest part of Hrvatsko zagorje, a province in north Croatia.

For centuries, Veliki Tabor is surrounded by folk tales and legends told by the natives. Stories of hidden treasure and ghosts haunting its eery halls provide an aura of mysticism that gives this castle a fairytale charm. The most famous legend is the tragic story of Veronika Desinićka.

Veronika was born in a peasant family. With her mother dying after the childbirth, hard times were about to get worse.  At a very young age, she took the responsibility of taking care of the family house, her father and her siblings. This was not uncommon in the old times  and there were a lot of girls like her. Well, except for one thing. Veronika was exquisitely beautiful.  Dreaming about a better life and turning down advances from numerous suitors, she was waiting for her knight in shining armor. And one day, he arrived.

While riding across his father’s estate, a young nobleman named Fridrich stopped at a nearby farm for water and refreshments. The girl that brought him water was Veronika,  their eyes met and they fell in love instantly.  So far, so good right? A perfect love story. Except for one little detail; Fridrich was married to Elizabeta Frankopan (from the famous and very rich Frankopan dynasty) and his father, Count Herman II. Celjski , was not happy about his sons disgraceful infidelity.

Soon enough, all hell broke loose. Elizabeta was found dead with a knife in her stomach, Fridrich and Veronika eloped and got married. An army was sent by the enraged count Herman to bring them back, and they did. Fridrich was found first and imprisoned in a tower in Celje, refusing to nulify his marriage with Veronika he stayed there for four years. Veronika was caught a few months later and brought back to Veliki Tabor where she was trialed as a witch, drowned and her body was mured in the castle.

On stormy nights you can still hear Veronika’s cries echoing through the castle’s halls, so they say.

A charming story indeed. Luckily, there’s not much historic evidence that these events actually occured. A female skull was found in the castle during a reconstruction in 1982, and a few locks of hair in 2012, that is all.

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The legend of Miljenko and Dobrila

Location: Kaštel Lukšić, one of the seven districts of a small town named Kaštela on the Dalmatian coast, just a few miles north of Split.

Dated in the second half of the 17th century, this tragic story of love is known as one of Croatia’s most  heartbreaking legends. It bears many similaraties to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Miljenko and Dobrila came from rival families, Miljenko from the Rušinić family and Dobrila from the noble Viturri family. And as it usually goes, they fell madly in love with each other. As soon as their parents found out, Dobrila was put under strict supervision and Dobrilo was sent to Venice. Dobrila’s father then arranged for her to be married to a local older nobleman from Trogir.

On the day of the wedding, just before the couple said their vows, Miljenko appeared and managed to stop the ceremony. Dobrila’s father was furious, he ordered Miljenko’s death and sent his daughter to a convict in Trogir to prevent him from finding her.

In disguise, Miljenko managed to escape the assassination but got in trouble with the authorities and wound up in jail. Being the clever young man that he was, he shortly found out where Dobrila was and the couple started exchanging messages planning their escapes.

They succeeded and got married shortly after. Their families were forced to reconcile, but Dobrila’s father felt betrayed. He tricked his new son-in-law and killed him on a bridge in front of his castle.

Dobrila could not take the sorrow, she fell ill and died. Her last wish was to be buried with Miljenko in the Chapel of St. John in Kaštel Lukšić. An inscription still marks their grave;  „Peace for lovers“.

The castles of both families stand in Kaštel Lukšić to this day, facing each other for all times.

Read the second part of this series here:
Greatest Croatian love stories, part 2

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