How Zagreb Got Its Name

How Zagreb Got Its Name

Most tourists experience their first contact with the capital of Croatia through the central square, the Ban Josip Jelačić Square. The square is dominated by the statue of the powerful ban, facing south, and the noises of the busy marketplace Dolac, the most famous one in the city, in the background. The east portion of the square holds the well-known spring Manduševac.

 

This spring that offers refreshment in the unbearable summer heat, where high-school seniors jump in the cold water every year to mark their passage into adulthood, is the site of numerous legends.

One of these tells how Manduševac breathed life into Zagreb and gave it its name. Like any legend, it too begins “once upon a time...”

The Spring of Zagreb’s Good Fortune

According to folklore, the area of present-day Zagreb was once a large desert struck by a great drought. A great military commander who was passing through with his exhausted and dehydrated army stopped at one point and dug his sword in the dry, cracked and weakened ground, and water suddenly began gushing out of it.

 

Legend has it that a beautiful girl by the name of Magdalena (or Manda for short) happened to be walking nearby, when the commander told her: Mando, dušo, zagrabi vode (“Manda, sweetheart, grab me some water”). The combination of the words “Manda” and “dušo” led to the name Manduševac, and the town that would soon develop around the spring got its name from the word zagrabi.

 

The spring beneath the thick walls supplied the city with water for centuries, and many were saddened when it was filled in during a reconstruction of the square in 1898. It took 88 years and another reconstruction for the Manduševac to be given its rightful place in the square, to the delight of Zagrebians. A multitude of tourists and locals have since then enjoyed the gargling water at the heart of the city, which provides a wonderful spot to sit and relax, watching the imposing towers of the Zagreb Cathedral.