Become a Zagrebian

The Grič cannon - a piece of Zagreb's historical legend

The Grič cannon is a popular part of Zagreb's history and folklore. The cannon is even a subject of its own legend that dates back to 19th century Zagreb.

If you are new in Zagreb, roaming somewhere through the Upper town, peacefully absorbing Zagreb's culture and atmosphere, you might encounter a strange sighting. Every day, somewhere before the noon, you will see locals covering their ears. And while you're wondering what kind of strange custom is that, we recommend that you do as the locals do. Because what follows is a loud BOOM! This, my friend, is your first encounter with famous Grič (pronounced as Greech) canon.

First of all, don't panic. You are not under attack. (At least not a physical one, we might call this a cultural-audio-attack or rather a culture shock.) The Grič cannon is a real cannon, placed at the top of the Lotrščak (pronounced as Lotr-sh-chah-ack) tower. It is the pride and joy of the citizens of Zagreb and our cultural treasure. The Grič cannon has been marking Zagreb's noon for more than 137 years.


Image credit: Zagreb Tourist Board, Marko Vrdoljak


This famous symbol of Zagreb is even a center of its own legend. In fact, according to the legend, it has saved the city of Zagreb once. How did that happen?

Well, although details of the legend may vary, it is certain that these events have occurred during the 15th and 16th century while Croatia's lands were heavily attacked by the Osman empire. The great leader of Osman forces named Sinan-pasha has set for his goal to conquer Zagreb. As he placed his forces next to the Sava river, Zagreb was almost at the top of his fingers, and Zagreb citizens knew their forces were outnumbered. The only thing they could do was be brave and hope for a miracle.

And the miracle arrived under the most unexpected circumstances.

According to the legend, during this occupational state, two old friends, young men named Grga Bedrenički and Miško Grebenički, fell in love with the same girl, Magda Vragović. They saved her from a violent Italian merchant, and let her decide whom she will marry. Magda couldn't decide, so she said she would marry the one who saved Zagreb from the attackers.

This made Grga and Miško think, and after a lot of thinking and planning they remembered that the old cannon of Medvedgrad might still work. It was a heavy artillery, but it was old and damaged, they couldn't even know for sure if it would actually work. So it was placed at the top of the city wall to help protect Zagreb.


Image credit: Klovićevi dvori Gallery, Damil Kalogjera


One night soon after, just as the attackers were getting ready for the upcoming battle, Grga fell asleep while guarding the cannon on the wall. Meanwhile, Miško was patrolling with a torch. As he was thinking of Magda and hoping he would win her hand, he didn't notice Grga lying on the ground, so he tripped and his torch fired the cannon. The same canon grain blew up a rooster that Sinan-pasha was just about to eat before leading the attack. He was shocked because there was no possible way the citizens of Zagreb could know he was going to attack them that exact night. Being a superstitious man, he took this as a bad sign and decided to cancel the attack.

Because of the accidental firing the cannon, the same night Miško and Grga were imprisoned. And their captain had a full right to do so since they could've seriously injured somebody. But the next day, when they found out the attackers were gone, they have set the duo free and honored them with the St Stephan's medal of honor, marking them as heroes of Zagreb.

As for Magda? Whom did she choose for a husband? Well, it was hard to tell which one of the men helped more in preventing Osman attack since Grga was sleeping on his duty and Miško was being reckless when he tripped over Grga. So, she decided to forge her own destiny and ran away with neighbour's boy Vinko to Mediterranean cost. She decided to choose love. And indeed, as you can imagine, Grga and Miško didn't really appreciate the romantic value of such choice. But, being the heroes of their town healed their wounded hearts and pride in time.

But the real hero of the story was, in fact, the Grič cannon, as it was named afterwards. And the citizens of Zagreb showed their gratitude and appreciation by firing it every day at noon. It is placed in the upper town, the most historical and romantic part of Zagreb, on top of the Lotrščak tower, which today contains a museum and a gift shop. This way, the Grič cannon can always watch over the hometown it saved and remind the citizens of Zagreb's history and heritage.


Image credit: Zagreb Tourist Board, Marko Vrdoljak


Header image credit: Zagreb Tourist Board, Marko Vrdoljak

Author: Zdenka Karaman