A curious legend, which still circulates in the town and is passed down from generation to generation, has it that a dreadful dragon once had its underground lair somewhere in the middle of the hill and the inhabitants of Šišan were sacrificing one unmarried girl a month, drawn by lot, to the monster.

One day the lot fell to a young girl and she was supposed to be delivered to the creepy monster, but, a day before that, her miserable father, only to avoid such a family tragedy, left home with a grieving heart and wandered hoping to die himself rather than allow her sweetheart to end up in jaws of the dragon. And thus, while wandering through the forest crushed by pain and conjuring up the boldest actions, he was approached by a young woman of divine beauty and unspoken kindness, who was wearing a golden wreath around her head and a dress white like snow. She comforted him with kind words and told him how to tame and eventually kill the outrageous beast. That maiden was the Holy Virgin. The same night, armed with courage, he ventured into the dragon's cave and with the help of a mysterious spell, he tied the monster, which suddenly became as tame as a lamb, and took it to the village. Children rode on its back bursting in joy, the visibly moved crowd cheered and applauded, while the cheerful father pierced the vicious beast’s heart and thus marked the end of a century of terror. – This intriguing legend, no matter how mysterious it may sound, is a very frequent narrative in the oral tradition of Medieval Europe. From the 5th century, in the history of Christian religiosity, culture, and sensibility, the dragon was a symbol of the devil and paganism. Mount Madonna is a prehistoric locality with continuity of life dating back to ancient times, so the legend may refer to an ancient conflict with the community that did not embrace Christianity. In ancient cultures, dragons embodied natural forces. The basic element of the dragons' power was the control of water. Considering that Šišan has grappled with water scarcity for centuries, perhaps, the legend actually speaks of a lack of drinking water. Such a perpetual problem was reflected in the sacrifice of 12 young women as a reference to 12 months in a year. The hypothesis according to which the locals were unable to explain the discovery of fossilised remains of a tyrannosaurus and thus gave the whole story a mystical interpretation is also a possible explanation. Mount Madonna was a place of worship in the Middle Age. So far, the oldest known record of traditional processions to the said church dates back to the visitation of Bishop Eleonoro Pagello in 1690, when the processions of the citizens of Vodnjan and Galižana to Mt. Madonna were recorded. Traditionally, this was the place where springs yielded healing mineral water, just a hundred meters down from the votive chapel towards the sea. In the early 20th century, more precisely in 1902, this locality passed under the jurisdiction of the Austro-Hungarian army.

Mag. hist. Andrej Bader

Monte Madonna had a function as a shelter of the Kvarner Bay, so that it is also called “ Guard of the Kvarner”. Its role was to shelter the main military harbour Pula and to control the Kvarner. The highest altitude is at 88 m above sea level, whereas the military base is at 30 m below the mountain surface. After the withdrawal of  Austria-Hungary, after 1918, the place has consecutively been used by Italian, German, Yugoslav and Croatian army.

During the use by the Yugoslav National Army, an underground site was built with a dormitory for 24 soldiers, a light station, which covered half of the Kvarner Bay, 4 artillery batallions, a department of computer command, an ambulance, a command shelter, and an observatory at a 20 -meter height reached by steep spiral stairs.


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