The Pazin Cave Captured the Imagination of Dante and Jules Verne, and It Is Bound to Capture Yours

The Pazin Cave Captured the Imagination of Dante and Jules Verne, and It Is Bound to Capture Yours

Among over two thousand Istrian pits, chasms, caves and caverns, one stands out with what seems to be a special kind of creative energy. The wondrous natural phenomenon that can be found on the very border between “grey” and “red” Istria, where the largest subterranean river in Istria – Pazinčica – disappears into the infinite chasm known as Pazin Cave, inspired many famous authors.


The Pazin Cave allegedly inspired one of the greatest poets of all time, the Italian Dante Alighieri, during his visit to Istria, and led him to write the first canto of the Divine Comedy, which describes the descent to hell: “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.”


On the other hand, the “father of science fiction” Jules Verne never spent time in Istria or Pazin, but he set a part of his novel Mathias Sandorf in the Pazin Cave and Lim valley, using the detailed description of the travel writer Charles Yriarte and photographs given to him by the mayor of Pazin at the time, Giuseppe Cech.

Julien Duval

Many legends have been woven about Pazin Cave, one of the most well-known ones being the legend about the giant Ban Dragonja, who the Istrian river Dragonja was named after.

According to folklore, men and giants coexisted on this magical Croatian peninsula in ancient times. Although he was as big as a mountain, the giant Ban Dragonja was benevolent, noble, and always willing to help. He was once asked to help irrigate the land in southern Istria, a region with no springs or streams. The gentle giant was happy to take up his plough and have his oxen plough the soil to create a furrow from the lake to the sea that would become the river Dragonja.


The giant creature then dug another furrow that became the river Mirna, named after his wife. The giant was hard at work and began ploughing a third furrow, but the difficult terrain consisting of karst formations and caves made it impossible to dig deep into the ground. When he reached the centre of Istria and Pazin, the commander of the castle berated him from the city walls, accusing him of doing a bad job.

Pazin Cave or “Don’t Poke the Giant While He’s at Work”

Ban Dragonja became very angry and drove his oxen back home. At that exact moment, water rushed down the unfinished furrow and began filling up the Pazin valley. The terrified people begged the giant to save them from the flood and certain death.

Julien Duval

Kind-hearted as he was, the powerful Ban Dragonja took mercy on them and stomped his giant foot on the ground right next to the Pazin Castle. His foot came down with tremendous noise, and the force of the blow caused a giant pit to open up and swallow all the water, saving the people of Pazin from certain death.

Nowadays, you can see the work of Ban Dragonja if you join the unique speleological adventure beginning from Pazin Castle and ending in the mysterious underground spaces of the Pazin Cave, available on request with organised visits throughout the year. Entering the fascinating world of the Divine Comedy and Jules Verne’s imagination has never been more exciting!