The legend of Čeh, Leh and Meh

An old legend has it that, in the Roman times, there were three brothers called Čeh, Leh and Meh (Rus - “the Russian”) and their sister Vilina, who lived in various towns located on the three hills above Krapina: Josipovac (Psar), the hill where the Old Town of Krapina now stands and Šapac. The brothers wanted to free the towns of Roman reign, so they devised a plan on how to do it; however, their sister, who was in love with the Roman governor, betrayed them. The brothers killed the Roman governor and, fearing revenge, they fled north where they founded three Slavic states: Čeh founded the Czech Republic, Leh founded Poland, and Meh founded Russia. The unfortunate brothers confined their sister Vilina to a tower, and her child was carried out of the town by a wild ox on its horns. The ox carried the child through underground passages under the hills of Veliki Žlijeb and Hajdinsko Zrno to the other side, where a hermit raised him. From then on, the town on the other side of the hills is called Lepoglava or Lijepa glava (Pretty head) because the child had a pretty head.

Traces of this story have been recorded by many Czech and Polish authors, but there are no historical facts that can prove the story. The legend that Krapina was the cradle of all Slavic nations was promoted in the 19th century by Ljudevit Gaj, in line with the ideas of the Illyrian movement. A number of Croatian historians, including Stjepan Krizin and O. Sakač D. I., have compared the story of Krapina with similar stories in Kiev and Armenia, for which they provide evidence.

The mythology of Kiev and Armenia documents the worshipping of a feminine deity, a female oracle whose actions were related to water and the swan; she was the symbol of prophecies and her name was Karapet or the Swan Lady, i.e. Lybed – the female swan bird. Historian O. Sakač believes that, after the migration of the Croats, the word Karapet received Croatian influences in Croatian Zagorje and the result was the word Krapina, meaning the Swan Lady. This is only one explanation of the origin of the word Krapina. The other explanation is much simpler - there is a theory according to which Krapina was named after Krap, which means ‘carp’ in the Kajkavian-speaking area. Both of these names tell us that this area has always been rich in water. (Hrapćanec)

The Black Queen

On November 15, 1405, Barbara of Celje married Sigismund, the King of Croatia and Hungary, in the Old Town of Krapina. Barbara was the daughter of the mighty and reputable ruler Hermann II of Celje. History often mentions her brother Frederic II who murdered his wife Elizabeta Frankopan in Krapina in 1422 in order to be able to marry Veronika Desinićka.

Barbara was a woman of exceptional beauty. She had a good sense of humour, was full of energy and had a diplomatic spirit combined with being a capable ruler. Her contemporaries described her as a woman with a penchant for men and intrigue. She was mean and evil. Myths about the ill-fated Black Queen, the ruler of Krapina, Cesargrad and Medvedgrad, are still popular today.