Gregory Of Nin – The legend behind Golden Big Toe

Gregory Of Nin (Grgur Ninski) – The legend behind Golden Big Toe

During the interwar period in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, shortly after the political turbulences in Banate of Croatia, the city of Split experienced a dynamic economical progress by becoming the most important Dalmatian port. Despite the fact that the chimneys of new build factories started to surround ancient neighborhood of Lučac and Varoš many citizens still practiced the old and traditional but much needed crafts. The problem of the coexistence of a historical centre and the spatial expansion beyond the ancient and medieval borders related to the growth of the harbour and the industry caused many people to still frequently use and gather at Perystile of the Diocletian Palace.

Who was Mande and what does she has to do with the Gregory of Nin?

Market traders, street sellers and ambulant hawkers could be seen in narrow alleys desperately trying to bypass each other in order to reach different parts of the city for trade and exchange. One of those hard working but luckily for her very stubborn ladies was an old milkmaid Mande (Magdalena Duplančić). Everyone knew she did the same route every day (from Lučac to Varoš via Radunica street) since she was a little girl to sell milk produced for the fisherman families. Her quality milk was delivered from Dicmo and Sinj by the famous train (Sinjska rera) known by people who would play and sing traditional dalmatian rera songs. Children who would gather at the Golden gates to wait for Manda’s arrival were never disappointed by her. She would always meet them at the Peristyle and bring them a big bucket full of fresh and cold milk. The urban legend says that the day before the great statue of bishop Gregory of Nin was erected and presented at the Peristyle in September of 1929. all citizens were warned by the Council not to gather at the imperial square in front of the St. Domnius Cathedral due to the protocol that should be introduced the following day. Regardless the fact that the best spots were intended for the City high representatives, clerks and other important guests, Mande refused to listen. She came the next day to sell her milk at the same spot where she was coming and stood all of her life. This time instead of wide cold stairs under the Protiron stood a colossal statue of Gregory of Nin. Royal gendarmerie noticed her and unsuccessfully tried to prevent her from yelling and climbing at the statue postament. As she was climbing a few bottles of milk fell out of the basket and spilled around the statue. Slippery stone made floor gave time Mande to strengthen her position under the statue while the members of the Royal gendarmerie were falling all around.

What did Gregory do for Mande?

Numerous citizens who witnessed this event couldn’t help laughing and the whole situation amused everyone so the Mayor decided to let poor Mande stay where she wanted and to sell her milk during the whole ceremony. While all of this was happening Mande looked somehow protected by the bishop Gregory himself. After the incident Mande continued to sell her milk at the same spot she always did but since that day she decided to rub a milk soaked cloth of Gregory’s big toe to show him gratitude for what she believed he did for her. Word about bishop Gregory’s statue protection spread quickly among the citizens of the city under the Marjan Hill so everyone came later on to rub bishop big toe. With a time this tradition continued generation after generation and the big toe got its golden patina by bringing a good luck to everyone who decide to rub it.

If you want to learn more about Gregory of Nin or Diocletian’s Palace in Split, we suggest you to take a Split City Tour and explore the 1700-year-old history of Diocletian’s town.