Legend has it that Ljubljana was founded by Jason, the hero of Greek mythology who stole the golden fleece from King Aeëtes and then fled aboard the Argo with his comrades, known as the Argonauts, across the Black Sea and up the Danube and the Sava until they reached the Ljubljanica. There they dismantled their ship in order to carry it overland to the Adriatic coast, where they rebuilt the vessel and set sail back to Greece. On their way to the coast, they stopped at a large lake in the marshes near the source of the Ljubljanica, where a dragon was said to dwell, whereupon Jason fought, defeated and killed the monster.
The dragon as symbol and protector of Ljubljana
Dragon symbols have thus been present in Ljubljana since ancient times. The dragon was originally present on the medieval coat of arms as a decoration, but later assumed a more central position. From its initial portrayal as a monster, the dragon gradually transformed into a symbolic protector of the city, embodying power, courage and wisdom.
The dragons on the Dragon Bridge
When the architect Giorgio Zaninovich drew up his plans for the Franz Joseph I Jubilee Bridge in 1900, his original design envisaged winged lion statues adorning the ends of the bridge. In the final design, however, the lions were replaced by the great statues of dragons that are today one of Ljubljana's most famous sights.
Dragon figures are part of city tradition in present-day Ljubljana and you will see them wherever you go. They appear on the branding of numerous Slovene products and can also be seen on street furniture and urban infrastructure – even on drain covers! The Dragon Carnival takes place in Ljubljana every winter, and there are many other examples.
Save a dragon at Ljubljana Castle
Ljubljana Castle's 500-year-old chapel may be dedicated to St George, famous for slaying dragons, but today you can discover the history of the city via the five challenges of the Escape Castle adventure – and even save a dragon.