In this part of our Zagreb travel series I want to take you into the night with us. And yes, we did visit major points of Zagreb at night (but more on that in the final part), but in this second part I want to concentrate on the Stone Gate in Zagreb, which is an important historic landmark. Here, to our complete surprise, we witnessed a witch hunt and a long-standing religious ceremony, that took us into the dark corners of this city...
This is a multi-part travel series. Other parts include:
Part One: What to do in Zagreb
Part Two: Witch Hunt on the Stone Gate
Part Three: A Stroll through the City
click on the images for a bigger view
The History behind Stone GateIn order to talk about the stone gate (depicted in the images above and below), one must first mention the city quarter Gradec. Gradec, together with the Kaptol (which you saw in part one, where the Zagreb Cathedral is located), is the medival nucleus of the city. Back in the 12th century, the citizens engaged in building defensive walls and towers around the Gradec settlement, fearing a Mongol invasion. They completed the defensive system at a time between 1242 and 1261.
The Legendary FireAccording to legend, a great fire in 1731 destroyed every part of the wooden gate except for the painting of the Virgin and Child (by an unknown 17th-century artist). People believe that the painting possesses magical powers and come regularly to pray, light candles and leave flowers. Square stone slabs are engraved with thanks and praise to the Virgin.
An Interesting Turn of EventsSo we are walking down the streets of Gradec, minding our own business, when I hear screams coming from one of the side streets. I turn to my travel companions and say that something is wrong. As we look into the street, a crowd is coming toward us (image above)...
...and only then do we realize that it's a play being held on the streets! A woman, marked as a witch is being dragged down the street, with people screaming at her. "Burn her at the stakes!" a woman dressed in black screams at the girl, as she points her fingers at her. We were really surprised to see this up close. Lots of ordinary citizens are following the event, with candles in their hands.
Then a man screams at the crowd of people (including us): "Get away from the streets!!!". We do as ordered, and with the rest of the viewers, move to the side of the street. Then, from the corner a horse and his rider come galloping at fast speed (so fast in fact, that I didn't set my camera properties to get a good shot, so sorry for that), coming to the rescue of the girl!
As quickly as the show started, so it was over. A woman tells the crowd the rest of the story and with a wink in her eye urges tourists to buy the book to read more about it. :) We turn away from the people and head over to the direction of the horse. I just had to get a better shot!
As the crowd of tourists and locals move away, the streets empty out quickly and left are we with a dozen of other roamers, including the horse and the horseman. The horse made his business on the cobblestones in front of the church, and his owner was getting ready to clean up.
On the St. Mark's SquareAs the night continues, we start exploring the St. Mark's Square where we ended up after the dramatic events that started the evening. This is a very calm part of Zagreb at night, not many people are here. And also there is not much light, so you are left exploring in the night. This square houses governmental buildings as well as the St. Mark's Church.
The next shot depicts the Church of St. Mark with the coat of arms of Zagreb woven into the roof design. In front of the church the horseman is ready to depart, while the obviously tired hero, the knight, is resting.
We move along, ready to discover new parts of the city at night. As we leave, the actors are undressing in front of their gallery. The night was hot, so I'm sure it was very tiring to wear all those clothes.
To be continued...