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Thursday, 6 November 2014

The Guardian Dragons Of Trsat Castle In Rijeka (aka "Basilisks Of Trsat")

A dragon at Trsat Castle in the city of Rijeka.

I came across this the other day while doing a post about a botel/floating hotel that's been operating in Rijeka for a year. (Anything having to do with castles, medieval era and /or art/history I find interesting). Basically, it's just some video from the city of Rijeka where the trivia question posed to the passersby is whether they know about the basilisks at the nearby Trsat Castle. Ever since the 19th century when they were fist erected they came to be known as the "Dragons of Trsat". As familiar and well known to the city as the various gargoyles that are found on buildings and cathedrals throughout Europe, especially since the 19th century.

In a nutshell, it's not a very important question, it's more like to see if the average person knows their history, how knowledgeable they are about local history, statues, the history and meaning behind them and such. In this case whether they know the technical difference between a dragon and basilisk. It would sort of be like asking people do they know the history behind an art nouveau called statue somewhere, and did they know it was actually art deco, did they know that tomatoes are technically a fruit although used as vegetables in cooking. Or like how Croats are part of the general Slavic speaking linguistic group known as Slavs, just as Czechs, Poles, Russians, Ukrainians, Slovaks, Slovenes and Belarusians etc are also, but technically and more importantly we are Croats/Hvati with our own personal history something like that.

I'm not going to translate any of the video or article because that pretty well sums it up. I just found the video footage of Trsat Castle in the below video to be pretty cool, it gives some really good views and perspectives that one doesn't usually see. Even though they are technically basilisks, I'm sure that they will continue to affectionately still be known and called the "Dragons of Trsat" because they're technically dragons also. (In Croatian they're still called "Trsatski Zmajevi" (Trsat Dragons), according to old legends they are the reptilian king of serpents and reputedly able to cause death with a single glance, they guard and protect the courtyard in front of the mausoleum and all of Trsat Castle since the 19th century). In this case, an amalgam of a large serpentine body with bat-like dragon wings, large talons and the head of a rooster. Besides their death inducing gaze, they have a poisonous breathe and are so dangerous that wherever they go they leave behind a venomous trail that can kill, even the very soil they tread on becomes infected, no grass or plants ever being able to grow there again. Quite the bizarre looking and ominous creature which I think was the point.

Sketch of  the medieval Trsat Castle overlooking the walled fort town of Rijeka from 1689.

Here's an interesting map of the Croatian lands dedicated to Petar Zrinski, Ban (Viceroy/Prince & Governor) of Croatia during the 17th century, and showing the location of Rijeka. The map was created at the workshop of Joannes Blaeu in Amsterdam as an addition to the work by Croatian historian Ivan Lučić, (Latin: Johannes Lucius) "De Regno Dalmatiae et Croatiae libri sex", Amsterdam, 1666. (On the Kingdom of Dalmatia and Croatia in six books) Blaeu had included the map in Atlas Maior in 1667, and dedicated it to the Croatian Ban Petar Zrinski. At the bottom of the map in the middle it reads..."To the most illustrious and noble Lord, Prince Peter of Zrin, the Ban of the united Kingdom of Dalmatia, Croatia and Slavonia, (Triune Kingdom) hereditary Ban of the Littoral, hereditary captain of the Legrad fortress and Medimurje peninsula, master and hereditary Prince of Lika, Odorje, Krbava, Omis, Klis, Skradin, Ostrovica, Bribir etc.., Master of Kostajnica and the sliver mine at Gvozdansko, councillor and chamberlain to his anointed imperial majesty, master Ioannes Blaeu dedicates this map". The map highlights the Croatian lands including its regional divisions and the location of the fort town of Rijeka/Trsat Castle and surrounding area during the time of Peter Zrinski. 

For those not in the know, today's Trsat Castle actually has it's roots from the Early Middle Ages when it was a fort and strategic fortification. The Croatian Prince Višeslav in the year 799 defeated Eric of Friuli and his Carolingian army near Trsat which included the area of modern day Rijeka, later it became part of the holdings of Croatian nobles such as the House of Frankopan. It played a crucial role in defending not only Croatian lands, but Europe as well. Defensive battles were staged from Trsat against the Jihads and accompanying rape campaigns of the Ottoman empire. The famous Croatian noble and military commander Vuk Krsto Frankopan is still buried on the grounds of Trsat today, as well as the Croatian Duke, captain, soldier and defender of Klis and captain of Senj, Petar Kružić. It has a very long and eventful history through the centuries.

Also since I already mentioned gargoyles, I also came across a few sites, (actually blogs from some tourists who have spent time in Croatia and other places) with plenty of their own cool photos of the various gargoyles and other statues and monuments in Zagreb and the surrounding area. I'll have to do that one down the road too because it's pretty interesting.

Images/article source:

Related previous posts: catherine-zeta-jones-vacationing-trsat






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