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Black Queen – Do You Know Who She Was?

Black Queen is a nickname for beautiful Barbara of Celje who was born in 1392 into a powerful family, the Counts of Celje. Her family owned Varaždin, a significant part of Croatian Zagorje, and Međimurje. Her parents were Croatian ban Herman II. of Celje and Countess Anna von Schaunberg. As a child, she was promised to the Croatian-Hungarian King Sigismund. Barbara married him at just 13 years old in 1405 in Krapina. In the same year, she became the Hungarian and Croatian queen. She was also crowned Queen of Germany in 1414 and held the title of Czech Queen from 1420. In 1433, she became the German-Roman Empress. 

Black Queen

Barbara got a lot of land in Croatia and Slavonia when she got married, so she became super rich when she was still really young. She did important things for the government when Sigismund was away from the Hungarian-Croatian kingdom for many years. She lived in Medvedgrad for a long time and did things like making decisions in Čakovec, staying in Đakovo, and sorting out legal and church stuff in Križevci. People still have 270 official papers that she signed.  

Why Does the Legacy of the Black Queen Endure?

She was smart, sharp, and free-spirited, knowing languages like Latin, Croatian, Hungarian, French, and Czech. In her time, she was maybe the most powerful woman in Europe. Besides being skilled in politics, she supported new ideas from the Renaissance and humanism, things that the Middle Ages found scary. 

She didn’t just stop there—she dabbled in alchemy too. In the basement of her castle in Samobor, she experimented with turning copper into silver and gold. People later wrote about her alchemical adventures, recognizing her as a valuable part of Croatia’s alchemical history. Johann von Laaz tried to downplay her skills, but people didn’t take him seriously because he was seen as a thief and a fraud.  

Black Queen

Barbara Celjska faced criticism for her beauty and the fact that she wore black. Maybe that’s why she got the nickname “Black Queen.” Her involvement in politics, alchemy, and her intriguing appearance made her a target for rumors. People saw her as a wicked witch, a ruthless and evil figure. The legends about the Black Queen mixed real events, medieval morals, and the way people saw the world at that time, creating a captivating character that people still talk about six years after her death. 

It’s important to note that she was one of the first powerful women, and in her time, that caused quite a scandal. Today, though, we see her as an idol, breaking barriers for women in power.  

Legends of Barbara Celjska

In the northwest of Croatia and Slavonia, especially in places like Medvedgrad and Mali Kalnik, there are many stories about Barbara Celjska. Even in later written stories, her image as the Black Queen became fixed. 


People talk about the Black Queen as if she’s a stereotype from the past. They describe her as a medieval figure who was aggressive, cruel, and into mysterious things. People believed she was mean and stuck-up without questioning it.


The stories say she looked scary, dressed all in black with a trained raven on her arm. They paint her as a cruel and vengeful person who enjoyed hurting others, even throwing lovers off towers to their deaths. In the legends, only the Black Queen of Lika is seen as good – she supposedly saved Plitvice from a big drought and created the place. But in other places like Samobor, Medvedgrad, and Kalnik, people tell stories of the Black Queen being cruel, unpredictable, and evil, as if she’s under a curse.  

Unveiling Rumors Motivated by Power and Fear

She didn’t just have a bad reputation; people spread stories about her that went beyond myths. Enea Silvio Piccolomini, who later became Pope Pius II, tried to make her look bad in front of everyone, but it was mainly for his own benefit. They accused her of living a “wild” life and being a heretic. These accusations were passed on without question. Early Croatian history writers like Kukuljević Sakcinski and Tkalčić focused only on her morals, ignoring her skills and education. 

Black Queen

The Celje family’s bad political reputation came after they were replaced by the Hunjadi (Corvinus) in managing Croatia and Hungary. Only in recent European history studies have people started to see the real Barbara and the Celje family. 

In both the mythical and historical stories about Barbara of Celje, the biggest criticism was that she didn’t act the way people expected women to in the Middle Ages. Whether in legends or real life, she became the perfect figure to record collective memories, fears, and – ignorance. The image of Barbara Celjska as the Black Queen became a symbol of going against what powerful men in feudal times and the patriarchy wanted. The rumors about her were often motivated by the fear of her influence, a narrative that is only now being unraveled by modern historians. 

Explore the Legends of the Black Queen in Croatia and Zagreb


Step into the intriguing world of Barbara Celjska, the Black Queen, and let Croatia and Zagreb unveil her mysterious tale. Explore the history, hear the legends, and discover the secrets waiting to be uncovered. Come to Croatia, especially Zagreb, to feel the magic of the Black Queen’s story. Dive into the beautiful landscapes and vibrant culture that shaped her legacy. Plan a trip to unravel the mysteries of the past and experience the enchantment of Croatia. Your journey into history and adventure begins here – #VisitCroatia and #ExploreZagreb! 

Your CTC Team

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