In the second half of the 17th century, at least 24 women accused of being witches passed through Dubrovnik prisons, of whom at least six died during their time in prison cells where the circumstances were harsh.
Most of these women were generally coming from the villages of Pelješac peninsula or Konavle region where they operated as healers, but not always successfully. When the person they were medicating with their herbs would die, then they would be blamed for using their evil magic.
In some cases, the women accused of practicing witchcraft faced their death sentence before they could even reach the jury and the trial. In Vitaljina, Konavle, a woman named Stana was killed by the three men from her village, because they believed she was an evil witch. One of them hit her in the head with a stone and then cut her throat with a dagger, the other one stuffed the scarf in her mouth to prevent her from yelling and the third one stepped on her to hold her down and finish her. She was disrobed and discarded in the nearby stream. That is how she was found on Christmas Eve, 1687.
That same year, another witch Mare Vickova was beaten and threatened by her villagers of Gornja Vrućica in order to reveal who were the other witches in the village. First, they dropped her into a deep pit with a rope and after that, they beat her. Their village chief was collected enough to stop them and to bring the case to the state justice.
In November of 1689, two more witches, again from Pelješac, were reported to the Janjina captain. These women, Vice Antićeva from Prizdrina and Kate Nikolina From Županje selo, were for a short time imprisoned in Ston on Pelješac where they both admitted being witches. Shortly after they were both brought to the criminal dungeon cells of Dubrovnik.
The first woman, Vice, if she told the truth, would be one of the worst criminals in the local history. She admitted that she had been a witch for twenty years already. During that period she ate her four sons. She was visited by some mystery man in black who was, in fact, the Devil. He had given her some kind of magical nugget or clod which she smeared on their hearts that, as she claimed, tasted like honey. She did spare her fifth son Jacob not to stay alone.
During these feasts, the Devil dined with her too. She added so much more to her testimony, for example, she would tun into a bird to fly. At the end, she claimed that she had a fight with her Devil because she refused to have sexual intercourse with him.
The other woman Kate, this time denied that she was a witch. She claimed that she falsely confessed in Ston, since a priest, who came to them in prison, promised them that if they confessed, they would be released. She had a faith that she would be liberated, so that is why she told a lie before. She consistently remained by her testimony. Despite her claims, she died in the beginning of the next year in the dungeons from the rough prison life.
Vice lived to be sentenced, although not to death but "only" to a shameful procession through the city, after which she was whipped on the pole of shame. She also got three hot-iron stamps on the face and forehead and, finally, the exile from the Republic.
The last prosecution against witches in Dubrovnik Republic territory was led in 1742. It followed the death of five young men who all died „mysteriously“ in the last half of the year in the village of Potomje. According to the charges and just like in all the previous cases led in the Republic of Dubrovnik, Anica Mihočević and two of her friends, have eaten their victims' hearts and they celebrated their sabbaths behind the hill of Jelenica. Subjected to the interrogation of the villagers, probably some violence and humiliation too, poor Anica first confessed in the village, naming several other women.
This process also continued in the City and if they had been brought to the court some 80 years before, they would end up on the gallows for certain. In more "advanced" times, this process wasn't tragic for the last witches of Dubrovnik, thanks to the State consultant, the Franciscan Sebastian Dolci who advised the judges against sentencing these women based on the hearsay. The investigation and the inquisition lasted for more than one year and after all, it was concluded that the accusations of one woman against another were not legitimate, so the other women avoided the verdict, while Anica was found guilty and she was sentenced in 1743 to humiliation to the pillory of shame. With her punishment, the series of infamous witch trials ended for Dubrovnik, although the phobia of witches and their black magic still lived for a while in the villages around the area.
Sources for the text Witch trials in Dubrovnik, part I and part II:
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Lonza, Nela: Posljednje vještice pred dubrovačkim sudom (1742.-1743.), u: Ljudi 18. stoljeća na hrvatskom prostoru, ur. Lovorka Čoralić i dr. Zagreb: Hrvatski institut za povijest, 2016: 671-677.
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