The Three Sticks og King Svätopluk
The famous legend about the three sticks of Svätopluk appeared in the fairy tale works of the enlightened Byzantine Emperor, Constantine Porphyrogenitus, some time in the middle of the 10th century. There it is written that before his death, the mighty Svätopluk, King of the Great Moravian Empire, called his three sons. He gave a stick to each of them, ordering them to break it. The mighty young men fulfilled the wish of their father with ease. Then the king ordered the three sticks to be tied and again called upon his sons to break the bundle. This task proved to be much harder. In this manner, the king demonstrated to his successors the need for unity, because only that could ensure their invincibility and prosperity for the country.
Locusts, Earthquakes and Fires
From time to time, the otherwise peaceful life in 18th-century Nitra was disturbed by some catastrophe. Chronicles recorded that in August 1747, swarms of hungry locusts appeared in the vicinity of the town, destroying all the crops. This natural phenomenon repeated the next summer too, but the people scared the green boarders away with screams and drumming, not allowing them to settle. Where they did manage to settle, the layer of locusts reached to the height of one meter. In the years of 1751 and 1763, there was an earthquake in Nitra, but it didn't cause major damage. Much more devastating, however, were the two fires, in 1761 and 1762. The first one broke out in Párovce, and the second one affected almost the whole Lower town. However, the people of Nitra experienced the most devastating fire in October 1775. The damage was disastrous, 105 houses were burnt down. The fire broke out under interesting circumstances. It was allegedly caused by a woman who was trying to catch sparrows nesting in her house in the night and, pursuant to law, wanted to deliver them to the town hall. The mistake was that she was using a burning torch to light with, and the roof of the house was thatched... The situation repeated in March 1793, when the fire spread to the Upper Town as well. The parish church of St. Jacob's in the Lower Town had to be demolished after the fire.
St. Emmeram´s Legend
In the 8th century, many missionaries peregrinated in Europe, spreading Christianity among pagan nations. The monk Emmeram (Emmeramus) peregrinated with a similar aim to the Avar tribes in the east. His mission, however, came to an early end in Regensburg, Bavaria. Upon request of the local duke, he settled in a town lying at the Upper Danube, where he soon became bishop. However, the duke's daughter, Ota, came into his life ineluctably. She indicated him as the father of her still unborn son to divert attention from the real seducer. Ota's hot-blooded brother mounted his horse, and set off to find the bishop, who was on his way to Rome. He reached him, and after addressing him ridiculously as "bishop and our brother-in-law", he started to get even with him. Without considering the venerability of the bishop's office, he took cruel revenge on Emmeram. He had the unfortunate man taken to a barn and tied to a ladder. One by one, he was deprived of his eyes and of all his limbs. The tortured man was, in spite of all pain, constantly singing praises of the almighty God. He was silenced only by cutting out his tongue. Even though the disfigured bishop was found still alive, he succumbed to his serious injuries. After Emmeram's death, miracles started to happen. The cut-off legs of the bishop raised on their own and, with no external help, walked into the heavens, which was reason enough to declare Emmeram saint. Today, this saint is the main patron of the town of Regensburg.
Apparently, the first Hungarian king, Stephen I, did not have a liking for his cousin Vazul. He despised him so much that he imprisoned him in the Nitra Castle. He did not take into consideration that he had just become the appanage Duke of Nitra. In 1031, Hungary lost its direct successor to the throne. Stephen's only son, Emeric, suddenly succumbed to complications from his hunting injuries caused by an enraged boar. Stephen appointed his nephew, Peter Urseolo, as his heir. Vazul, however, also had a rightful claim on the throne, so an executioner was sent to Nitra by the king to gouge out the eyes of the wretched Duke and pour molten lead in his ears. To tell the truth, this deed was not befitting of a would-be saint and patron of Hungary. Later chroniclers justified this cruel act of King Stephen as defending Christianity against the pagan Duke Vazul.
The Maurus Legend
The legend named after its author, Bishop Maurus, from what is today the Hungarian town of Pécs, comes from the year 1064. The original text is lost, only its several copies from a later era are known. The most popular of these is in the Munich Codex from the 15th century. The heroes of the legend are St. Zorard and St. Benedict. Zorard, a benedictine monk of the Zobor Monastery, following the example set by the Palestinian Abbot Zosimus, retired to a cave and devoted himself to the lifestyle of a hermit. During Lent, he ate only 40 walnuts given him by the Zobor Abbot, Philip. One day, weakened by the strenuous work in the forest and by strictly fasting, he suddenly fell unconscious. He would have most probably died in the remote place, but he was found by a young man who looked like an angel, and took him back to the monastery. Zorard related the miraculous deed to his disciple Benedict who, after the death of his master, also decided to become a hermit. He retired to a barren place near today's Skalka pri Trenčíne. After three years of an ascetic life, Benedict was assaulted and killed by three robbers. They threw the monk's corpse to the river Váh. One year after the unfortunate event, people noticed a female eagle on the river bank, which was focusing on one spot. Right there, they found the incorrupt body of the hermit. With great honour, they buried him in St. Emmeram's Cathedral in Nitra, by the side of Zorard. Both men were declared saint in 1083.
Ghosts over the Zobor
In the oldest part of Nitra, in the Upper Town, the most well-known ghost was a headless monk. He appeared only very rarely, but gained notoriety by the fact that whenever he did appeare to someone, a calamity, misfortune or natural disaster happened. His place of work was the Castle Street. The headless monk was always wearing a Franciscan robe, with sandals on his feet; actually, but for the missing head, he had a discreet human appearance. The folk legend owes us where and why he had lost his head. I can remember a friend who has allegedly seen the monk with no head. During a storm in the night, lightning hit his parental house which burnt to ashes. The scary legend is connected also to the path from Mostná Street to the castle hill. Allegedly, at the end of the pathway, right at midnight, a man appeared asking for alms with a hat in his hand. When the terrified pedestrian threw a few coins to his hat, the money fell as if the hat had no bottom. Elders from Nitra used to say that it was the ghost of miller Risman. Miller Risman was very tight-fisted, never giving alms to beggars, and that is why he had to pay for his greediness. In front of the castle gate, a black dog is said to be appearing at midnight, with big, bloody eyes and a long tail. It guards the entrance to the castle and drives away anyone wanting to step through the gate. Allegedly, it is the ghost of a Turk who had killed numerous defenders before this castle gate and, as a punishment, has to keep guard here. The first corner house on Irecká Road (later Leningradská, today Braneckého Street) used to be a yeoman's manor house. The house was called Očkay's manor house because it was property of the famous General Očkay, executed in Nové Zámky for treason to Rákóczi. Well, in front of this manor house, regularly at midnight, a black carriage used to appear, which the famous general himself used to board in his other-worldly, that is beheaded, form. He used to set off for journeys along Párovce, said to be looking for his lost head. In Rolfes' mine, by chance, clay buried a 5-year-old child. Since then, a child's cry is heard from the mine. In the older starch mill (premises of the former sugar refinery), nobody wanted to work as a guard at night. In the courtyard of the starch mill, eerie things kept happening at midnight, as the guards were keen to relate. A regular funeral used to be conducted there with the coffin in which the corpse could be clearly seen. The funeral choir, along with the priest, used to sing terrifying tunes. In the village of Tormoš (today the Chrenová part of the town), the best husbandman once noticed that his four cows are not giving milk, as if they had already been milked in the night by someone. So he stayed up in the night and, behold, at midnight he noticed an old woman slipping into the byre. He immediately ran after her, but there was no sign of her in the byre any more. On the other hand, instead of the four cows there were now five. The husbandman was a clever guy, immediately realizing what the matter was. He decided to get the better of the witch. He ran to the shed, searched for all the cowshoes and the necessary tools, and shoed all five cows. The fifth one, however, never again turned up at his place. Witches are, after all, women who do not like wearing cowshoes on their feet.