From the Ancient Times to the 21st century… the town of Nin proudly stands surrounded by its ramparts. Despite its turbulent history, the many adversities it went through, one of which was certainly its demolition in 1646, when Venice, whose rule it was under at the time, decided to execute this action in order to deter the Ottomans from occupying the town, Nin survived it all , and today is stronger than ever. It might be given its strength by the foundations of the ancient city of Aenona, as well as Christian faith, due to the fact that there was a diocese and evidence of the work of Dominicans, Franciscans and Benedictines in its territory in the early modern century . But as evil always seeks to destroy good, the Benedictine churches were destroyed during the Venetian-Ottoman wars. However, this did not destroy Nin either, but it welcomed the 21st century with numerous material, cultural and historical evidence of its history. And while this oldest Croatian town proudly stands and defies the weather and all political, economic and climatic influences, many legends that are connected to Nin must be mentioned.
The first legend has to do with its name. It is not only the oldest Croatian town, but Nin is also one of the oldest Mediterranean towns with a three millennia long history. It is stated in scientific works that Nin has changed seven names throughout history - Hemionoi, Ainona, Aenona, Enona, Elona, Nona and eventually Nin. The former Nin is first mentioned under the name Hemionoi in the work of "Periplus" by the Greek writer Pseudo Skilak. Subsequently, the Greek writers used the name Ainonoi and Ainona. The Roman version of that name is Aenona. At the beginning of the 1st century BC, Roman influence was growing and a new name appeared - Enona. The poet Petar Zoranić has greatly simplified these claims and said that Nin was in fact founded by the king of Assyria, Nino, and that is the reason why the town was named after him.
Seven Croatian kings were crowned in the Church of Saint Nicholas
At the entrance to the town of Nin, in the prehistoric area of Prahulje, there is the Church of St. Nicholas from the 12th century, to which another legend relates. This small Romanesque building has the shape of a trefoil while its vaults shape a quatrefoil. The church was extended during the Ottoman invasions in the 16th century when it served as a patrol tower. Later, according to tradition, seven kings were crowned in the church of St. Nicholas, probably the most significant being King Tomislav. It is interesting to note that all the coronations took place according to the same scenario - the crowned ruler would ride in the entourage to the church where he would introduce himself to the people and make a cutting gesture with the sword on the four sides of the world as a sign of royal authority. Thereafter, they made solemn promises to the people. Unfortunately or fortunately, Croatia no longer has kings who could be crowned there, but going to this historic site can definitely arouse peculiar feelings for every visitor because of the location of the church and because of the times which the church had witnessed.
The third legend has been revived even today. Namely, for almost 500 years, the Apparition of Our Lady of Zečevo has been celebrated in Nin. A pilgrimage is organized three times a year in order to pay homage to Our Lady of Zečevo. But why is Our Lady of the Zečevo celebrated at all? According to church records from the 16th century, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to the then young shepherdess Jelena Grubišić in 1516. Three legends are related to this event - according to one, the Turks attacked the islet of Zečevo, set fire to the church and the monastery, killed the monks, and threw the statue of Our Lady into the sea, which somehow reached Nin, and when it was halfway down the bay, church bells started ringing by themselves and did not stop ringing. The people of Nin went to church and found the statue of Our Lady. According to another legend, the statue of Our Lady "swam" to the pier where residents found it and took it to church. Today this pier is called Our Lady's Pier and it was named after the statue. The third legend states how the people placed the statue of Our Lady on the main altar of the church of St. Anselm, but was found by the people of Nin the next day on an altar in a neighboring chapel. They brought it back to the main altar and found it again on the altar in the chapel the next day. They decided they should obey Our Lady's will and desire and leave it at that altar. In honor of this apparition, pilgrimages have been organized to this day, on the first Monday before the Feast of the Ascension, on May 5 and August 5.
Foto: Željko Mršić, Marija Dejanović