Sphinx of Zadar

How many of you know that Zadar was once ruled by the Egyptians? Nobody, that great because it’s not true. But, Zadar does have a Sphinx of its own. This Sphinx was not built by the Ancient Egyptians but a local artist by the name of Giovanni Smirich. The motivation for building the Sphinx is the same motivation that inspired the Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan, to build the Taj Mahal, that one thing that can drive us all crazy, LOVE.

Giovanni’s story is an interesting one and goes like this:

Giovanni, an Artist, and Historian, met his wife Attilia Spineda de Cataneis in Venice. They packed up their lives and moved to Zadar where they had a prosperous life, and she gave birth to 5 children.

In 1901, Giovanni built Villa Attilia just outside the Zadar Old Town in the Bay of Maestral (an easy walk from the Old Town). While living in Zadar, Giovanni was part of the Zadar nobility and worked on the restoration of many of Zadar’s monuments, so he knew a thing or two about what it would take to build a longstanding piece to be enjoyed by many generations.

Giovanni and his wife were into the occult and as such, their house reflected those beliefs. Together they built a garden cave and some other interesting features. In 1918, tragedy struck and very sadly, Attilia passed away. As such, her husband ordered the erection of a Sphinx on the property in memory of his loving wife. It’s both a sad and yet beautiful story.

Giovanni’s Sphinx is somewhat unique when compared to its relatives in Eygpt. Firstly it’s made of concrete, but its features are slightly different. It has fingers and once had an eagle relief on it chest – long gone to thieves we assume.

There is a fascinating mystery surrounding the Sphinx. Firstly, there are some hieroglyphic inscriptions on the Sphinx, which have not been deciphered – many have guessed over the years as to what the message says, but we will never know.  A local legend says there is treasure buried beneath the Sphinx – no one has yet found anything, so perhaps one day we will know the truth.

Most importantly of all local legends is that it is believed that, the Sphinx grants love wishes for those looking for love. Is that you?

You’ll find the Sphinx easily if you just take a short stroll from Zadar Old Town and head to Brodarica where all the beautiful old villas from the Belle Epoque Period line the seashore. You can miss the giant Sphinx in the garden of Villa Attilia in the Bay of Maestral.