Even the most famous legend from Banja Luka is related to Kastel Fortress. The legend concerns a beautiful girl called Safikada, who has become a symbol of unconditional love and faithfulness.
The story of Safikada, like many other legends and tales, has several versions. There are also many versions related to her ancestry: one claims that Safikada was a granddaughter of the famous Ottoman statesman and military commander Ferhad Pasha Sokolović (1530-1590), while others suggests she was Kahrimanović’s daughter or that she belonged to one of the later noble families in the city.
The timeframe of the legend is wide: from XVI to XIX century. According to one version, Safikada fell in love with a soldier from the Ottoman army, which would correspond to late XVI, XVII or XVIII century, while other sources state that she was in love with a soldier from the hostile Austro—Hungarian army, which corresponds to the late XIX century.
However, the gist of the ill-fated love story is always the same: beautiful Safikada committed suicide because the love between her and a soldier stationed in Kastel Fortress in Banja Luka had never been realised.
Safikada lived in a house surrounded by a tall wall. Since she came from a wealthy family, she wasn’t allowed to go for a walk unescorted and in those days families used to choose husbands for their young girls. Safikada somehow managed to meet a soldier and fall in love with at first sight.
Their love was mutual, but had to be kept a secret. One day, Safikada’s loved one was transferred to a battlefield far away and she soon received news of his death.
Being unable to deal with the pain, Safikada put on a wedding dress, went to the fortress and stood in front of a gun that would fire each day exactly at noon. She was standing there as the fuse was burning and said, “I shall be faithful to you” and killed herself. (There is no historic evidence that there was a gun which would fire at noon, which makes this part of the story controversial).
According to another version, Safikada was killed by an Austrian soldier, since she disobeyed his warning not to enter the fortress. A third version suggests that she committed suicide by drowning in the Vrbas River, in front of Kastel Fortress.
However, reality is sometimes deeply connected with legends. On the route between the Ferhadija Mosque and Kastel Fortress there is a simple sarcophagus, which is believed to be Safikada’s coffin. The archaeological research organised by archaeologist Boris Graljuk in 1987, established that judging by the structure and processing of the stone, use of crampoons and the monumentality of the tombstone, the grave dated back to the end of XVI century, which is the period of Ferhad Pasha Sokolović’s reign, which means we can’t exclude a possibility that the tombstone is really connected with his family – his granddaughter, for example.
Today, Safikada’s grave is a popular place where different generations of people from Banja Luka light candles with a wish to find happiness in love.
In honour of this legend, Muharem Insanić composed an opera, “Safikada”, based on a libretto written by Stanko Podgorelec, which premiered in 2011 at the National Theatre in Banja Luke, as the first opera staged by this institution.