History and legends....
Legend has it that in the breaking moments of these bloody battles, courageous peasants leapt to the aid of the army of Croatian knights. They wore terrifying masks on their heads and carried large bells on their backs, frightening their hateful conquerors to death and in so doing contributing to a great and important victory.
The Mongol invasion
On April 11th, 1241, the Batu Khan Mongolian army defeated the Croatian and Hungarian knights on the Šajo River. King Bela IV sought salvation in the fortified Croatian towns. During their invasion towards the south, the Mongols burnt Zagreb down, but their striking power decreased in battles in Dalmatia. According to tradition, as suddenly as they came, the Mongols withdrew from a devastated Croatia after being defeated by Croatian soldiers on Grobnik field in 1242.
Our renaissance writer, Dimitrije Demeter, author of librettos for Vatroslav Lisinski’s operas: Teuta, Ljubav i zloba and Porin, and author of the drama Dramatička pokušenja, is also known for his poem on Grobnik field written in 1842.
On the 600th anniversary he dedicated the same poem to the Croatian soldiers from the famous battle at Grobnik field.
The Ottoman siege
From the end of 15th century until the beginning of 17th century, the people were in constant fear of the Ottomans. Around 1600, during the last invasions of the Ottoman army towards the coastal areas, the Uskoci of Senj (Croatian guerrilla army from Senj) often used to talk in Rijeka, about their fierce battles with the Ottomans. Stories about the Ottoman behaviour in Lika spread amongst the common people and fear reigned when they heard that the army had also invaded Gorski kotar. Panic extended to Rijeka and its surrounding areas when the powerful Ottoman army settled on the nearby Grobnik field. During the siege the citizens of Rijeka raised their eyes to the sky and prayed to St. Michael to kill the Ottomans by throwing rocks from the sky. During these fateful days, in 1601, the Croatian nobleman, Zrinski observed the great Ottoman army who were preparing themselves for the final charge from the fortress at Jelenje. He watched and was very shaken as he was sure that nothing would remain of his small army of heroes when the Muslim horsemen forced themselves upon them. As often happens with legends, there are two interpretations of how exactly this mismatched battle took place, and of precisely how the Turkish pasha lost his life?
(Did he die from an arrow shot by the nobleman Zrinski or from a stone thrown from a slingshot by a peasant dressed in sheep skin???)
When the Ottoman soldiers remained without their pasha they began to flee without looking back. During their flight, the sky answered the prayers of the citizens of Rijeka, and burning rocks began to fall from the sky burning the Turks, with only their turbans remaining on the field.
In memory of that event the goldsmiths, known as morettists, created earrings in the shape of a black man's face with a Muslim turban on his head. Women from Rijeka and all the surrounding areas gladly wore these Morčiće (Morettos).
So this is the tale of the morčić (moretto), that still today, in its role as an original piece of coastal jewellery, is a reminder of that fateful day when "rocks fell from the sky” onto the Grobnik field.