dr Berislav Horvatić
Mrgari - Flower-shaped Dry Stone Sheepfolds on the Island of Krk in the Northern Adriatic
Mrgari are complex dry stone sheepfolds, flower-shaped in ground plan, used for sorting out the sheep of various owners. These giant dry stone flowers, tens of meters in diameter, ornate the common grazings (rough pasture) of only three settlements (Baška, Jurandvor, Batomalj) on the southernmost tip of the island of Krk in the Northern Adriatic, still maintaining the traditional custom of communal sheep grazing. The largest of them can accommodate as many as 1500 sheep, collected from the barren plateaus they wander for the summer half of the year in a semi-wild state. The flock is herded into the central enclosure (sala) and then sorted out into the surrounding peripheral folds (mrgarić) through lunkies (škulja) or gaps (laz).
Being built predominantly in single dry walling (boulder dyke), they are rather fragile and require regular maintenance by their builders, owners and users - local shepherds. This also brings about changes in their shape, even in the ground plans, as the shepherds see fit and according to their momentary needs. Flowers of stone, but not petrified!
Mrgari are unique, rare and beautiful, and their fragile beauty certainly deserves protection and preservation, but not conservation! Since conservation would mean abandonment, and these giant flowers wilt and perish if not looked after. They can survive only if they remain in active use, which also means accepting their constant changing.
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