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Photo Credit to @silba_u_srcu

Myths and Legends of Silba and Olib

calendar iconJan 11, 2023

The islands of Silba and Olib enchant visitors and travellers with their incredible nature, pristine waters, and myths and legends. The locals are always ready to share their rich culture and the history of their islands with curious visitors from all around the world.

For guests coming to Silba and Olib with Zadar Archipelago boat tours, this represents a unique opportunity to get to know the very interesting side of these islands. Rich history intertwines with legends and myths, creating an enchanting atmosphere that mixes aspects of natural and unreal.

When you arrive to Silba, touring the island will not be the same after you hear some of these stories from your hard-working Zadar Archipelago tour guides or from welcoming locals.

Speedboat arriving at a coastal settlement
Only when you arrive to Silba the sunny island, can your Croatian vacation truly begin

Out of many stories that remain half-remembered, there are 2 that can be recollected in vivid detail by historians and locals; the story of Pankogulo the vampire and the buried treasure story.

There is also an oral cultural heritage, about the first settlers coming to Silba and Olib, but only fragments of this story remain, with several lines of text that mention the first three shepherds on the island.

What is interesting is that all of these stories specifically name two churches located on Silba: the church of St. Marc and the church or St. John the Baptist.

When you decide to visit the islands of Silba and Olib, ask your Archipelago Zadar tour guide for a detailed tour of the locations and buildings mentioned in these stories. We are sure you will enjoy touring the same places you have heard about.

The story of Pankogulo the vampire: The first version

Once upon a time, there lived on Silba a man named Pankogulo, who was a loner and a murderer. At night, he would sneak into little children’s rooms and kill them, sucking their blood and ripping out their intestines.

The mothers of the slaughtered children would cry and the fathers would seek revenge, but to no avail, because Pankogulo would find shelter in some of the many tombs and graves around graveyards on Silba island.

As time progressed, Pankogulo`s madness would push him into more and more horrific acts, and one night, he slaughtered a total of 47 children.

But, this time the locals were prepared and laid a trap at the gates of St. Marc`s church. Not having to wait long, the locals faced the bloodied culprit with axes and started wailing at him as soon as he entered the church grounds. He was hit repeatedly but managed to get up three times, finally succumbing to his wounds on the stone altar of the church.

The entire floor of the church was full of blood and the women were called to clean the holy place. After their labours, a single blood stain resisted all efforts of cleaning and can be seen to this day.

If you ask the church groundskeeper, as well as the impression of the killer`s face, left on the 7th stone above the chapel, facing east as diving punishment, so the killer always has to observe the place of his horrific crimes until judgment day (or because the vampire was turned to stone due to the rising sun).

face on the wall in silba island
The face of Pankogulo is left on the wall, Photo credit to Frane Šarić

The story of Pankogulo the vampire: the second version

There is a second version of this story with some elements that are much more realistic. Pankogulo Badurina lived near the Torretta tower. He was a vampire who feasted on the blood of children. This is the romanticized version of the story, but the locals are embarrassed to tell all sides of the story.

Pankogulo was actually a Polish vagabond named Pan Kogula, who settled on the island of Silba in the first half of the 19th century. The locals pitied this new arrival and found him a job as the church bell ringer.

Everything was going well until 1895 when in a fit of maniacal rage and madness he killed his wife, his offspring and himself. Until this part, the story is, more or less, part of factual history, but here is where the facts end and fiction begins.

Because his crimes would not let his soul rest, Pan became a vampire, and his dark awakening was followed by a massive livestock die-off.

The locals were distraught and gathered to discuss what to do next, until an unnatural voice called out to them from the darkness: „Would you prefer two or four“? The locals answered „four“ and the next day, all the livestock on the island (which walked on four legs) was dead.

The locals then gathered in the church of St. Marc, so they could pray the evil away. During this time of crisis, Pankogulo manifested in a form of a goat`s intestines, which the locals attacked from all sides and with anything they could lay their hands on.

myths and legends of silba church of st. marc
Church of St. Marc, Photo Credit to Z. Galić

The punctured goat`s intestines spouted out black blood and the curse was over, after which the local women washed the floor of the church with seawater for 40 days, to which even the royal Austrian archives can attest to, for some reason.

There are interesting scientific and historic interpretations of this story, relating to the meaning of the name Pankogulo (some locals think the etymology of the word stems from „baker“ , while there are some interpretations of Pankogulo meaning a small tax imposed on reasonable quantities of perishable goods.

Because Silba and Olib were under direct Venetian rule, the tax could have reflected in the impressions that the locals had with the name Pankogulo, giving it to the person who „sucked their blood“, just as the taxes did). Others claim the Pankogulo could also mean „boneless prosciutto“, which could explain why the supposed vampire turned into sheep`s intestines.

The story of the Dolac valley treasure

There was a young man, sitting in the top of a fig tree, not far from the church of St. John, on the island of Silba. Then, three people approached the church: a man, a woman and a child, carrying with them a large trunk.

Stopping, they started to dig a hole, in which they placed the trunk, but not before the man and the woman murdered the child and lay him atop the trunk in the hole, which they proceeded to bury. Afterwards, a covenant was concluded about the retrieval of the treasure; only the man and the woman could retrieve it if they were together, and only after they ate, drink and danced naked atop the gravesite.

The unwilling witness then climbed down from the tree and proceeded home with a heavy heart, unsure of what to do next. Should he tell what he saw to the village or should he try to take the treasure for himself? After some time, the witness said to his wife to bring some food and drink and meet him at Dolac, where the treasure was buried.

Silba island Sotorišće bay private boat tour aerial
Enjoy in stunning Sotrišće bay

There, he ate, drank and danced naked with his wife, proceeding to unveil the tomb and the treasure. Afterwards, they lived a rich life until the end of their days.

To this day, the locals of Silba believe that the Dolac valley is a gathering place of witches and wizards, especially during the summer solstice. There are many more Silba myths and legends tied to a specific place on the island, which you can visit with the help of your expert Zadar Archipelago tour guide.

The ghosts of Silba

There are accounts of ghosts that come at night and knock on windows of the holiday tourism complex, located in the old „Fotokemika“ building in Silba. Men are known to walk around the area and get slapped with invisible hands, while women get pulled by their hair, without anyone in sight.

Regarding the supernatural on Silba island, there are also interesting remarks (not stories) about a cursed tree in the courtyard of the Bogdanović, which no local person dares to chop down, due to the course that will fall upon the hand that touches the tree.

Silba is also known as the “Island of Captains”, and there are still more unique features to experience if you visit this island.

The Maić-devil incident

The Maić-devil story centres around a child that was born and died before it could be baptized. For this reason, the child came back from the grave and was known to swing and jump from tree to tree while wearing a red cap.

The people of the island tried to shoot it down but to no avail. Then, a wise man (who could communicate with the dead) approached the locals and advised them to put 9 wheat seeds into their buck shoots. After doing so, the locals managed to shoot down the Maić-devil successfully.

Because the local population of Silba is constantly exposed to legends and supernatural stories, it is more likely that they overexaggerated something that could be explained more plainly. There is a probability that the Maić-devil was a just regular monkey, brought back by a Silba sailor from some exotic location.

The animal escaped its owner and did what it normally does – swung on trees, which made the local population create a fantastic backstory. It is interesting to note some similarities between this story and the popular story “Murder in Rue Morgue” by E.A. Poe.

The construction of St. Marc`s church

In 1638, a rich merchant named Ventura was passing near Silba island, moving from Venice to the Mediterranean, when he was surprised by a vicious storm, not very far from the bay where the Church of St. Marc is still located today. The storm devasted the wealthy merchant`s ships, and he lost a tremendous amount of wealth to the sea.

Barely escaping with his life to Silba island, he vowed to build the church of St. Marc if he could get his treasure back. When the sea calmed, the local fishermen drew nets over the seafloor and managed to collect most of the treasure, returning it to the rightful owner. The rich merchant then fulfilled his promise, building the sacristy of St Marc on the foundations of a Byzantine chapel.

The story of the tower of love

A girl and a boy lived on Silba island. The girl, Antonija, came from wealth, whilst the boy, Petar, was poor. When they wanted to marry, Antonija`s family forbade it, due to the wealth gap. Because of this, Petar vowed to cast off, finding wealth in the world`s oceans and returning with a fortune.

Before his departure, the lovers vowed to eternal love and loyalty, with Petar promising Antonija a tall tower, from which she could await his future returns.

As years turned into decades, Antonija`s love withered and she eventually succumbed to marrying one of Petar`s friends. After nearly 20 years, Petar returned to Silba island. It is said that the celebration was huge, with the entire island coming together to celebrate the new wealth of the rich local captain.

Toreta Tower on Silba island

As Petar blissfully looked for Anonija, she was nowhere to be found, but a version of her, young as she was before he departed, was in the crowd. Later, Petar found out that this was Domenika, Antonija`s daughter, so he concluded if he could not have Antonija, he would marry her daughter instead.

After waiting for Domenika to blossom, the wedding was announced and the couple was married. Afterwards, the captain fulfilled his long-given promise of building a tower for his true love. Today, this tower is known to the locals as the Marinić tower or simply the Torreta.

This incredible building can be visited absolutely for free, while you are touring the island of Silba with Zadar Archipelago`s tour guides.
If you are planning a romantic getaway with your special someone, there is no place better to visit than the Tower of Love. Unlike all the other stories, this one is completely true and a matter of historical record.

All the people are real, with Domenika and Petar`s offspring living in Croatia and abroad.

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