The Mimbellis used to be one of the most important and certainly the richest family in Orebić. Great is the story of their rise and fall and one that is so connected to Pelješac but also to Dalmatia in general. .. They are gone now. Their sad ending is the story of forbidden love and stubbornness. Only shadows remain…
Off to Orebić
My good friend Igor invited me to join him for a visit to an old Captain’s home in charming Orebić. This has always been one of my favorite towns in all of Dalmatia so I was happy to accompany him. The reason for our our trip was a special visit to the well known Mimbelli house. The former residence of a local captain’s family as Igor was to look for some papers….
Igor is the author of the best selling monograph FORGOTTEN DALMATIA and is always in search of old papers and memorabilia. Especially postcards. That is how we met.
While he was looking for valuable documents and making sure they don’t end up thrown away, I was exploring the house and learning its history with Ivica, the current owner.
The Captains of Orebić
Orebić was well known for its seafaring history. It was home of the largest fleet of tall ships on this side of the Adriatic. Local tall ships were usually trading with wheat from Black Sea ports to Livorno, Marseille, Barcelona… All the way to England.
Pelješac Maritime Society, at its peak, had 90 ships with over 250 captains and officers sailing all over the world. At the same time, Orebić had a population of only 500 people. Great shipowners were Orebić, Mimbeli and Fisković, Župa and several other families not only from Orebić.
But the fast growing steamship fleet and Turkish-Russian war all contributed to the decline of Orebić Maritime Society..
Most of the old captains’ families are now gone and their houses are either sold or donated to local institutions.
The Mimbeli house
The house was built by the Mimbeli family back in 1700s. And it perfectly shows their wealth and importance. Room after room filled with fantastic furniture, hand painted walls and ceilings, antiques from all over the world… The house is now just a shadow of its former beauty with most of the valuables already gone. The last heir sold the house to local journalist Matko Župa and that is how Ivica inherited it. Matko Župa was not only the journalist but also a very important local person and one of the last members of another captain’s family of the glory days of Orebić.
Matko Župa, was born in Orebić in 1919. He spent some time after school in Dubrovnik, where he became actively involved in Red Cross activities. When he returned to Orebić, he became involved with the opening of the Maritime Museum, where he worked as a curator for many years. He was active in all spheres of his hometown social life, including local tourist board, Red Cross, Hunting Society, Folklore Group “Poloneza,” which he founded and run, the reading room “Napredak,” the football club… He was a passionate collector, especially a philatelist and numismatist, who contributed to marine journals as well as the daily news. For his cultural, scientific, and social activities, he received numerous awards, charters, and plaques, including the Lifetime Achievement Award for merits in tourism from the Tourist Board of the Republic of Croatia.
So, besides the treasures of the Mimbellis, the house was also housing collections of Mr. Župa!
And it is mostly all gone now…
The Current Situation
Somehow, I could not touch anything. Just being there was like desecrating something very special. The feeling of respect was overwhelming and I simply enjoyed this unique space listening to all the stories Ivica was telling us. The rise and the final fall of the Mimbelis can be easily made into a movie.
Room after room of hand painted walls and ceilings, fantastic antique furniture, the very feeling of the old times… makes this house very special!
Today, despite being quite impressive, the house is just an empty shell. No one lives here after Mr. Župa passed away.
The Rise and Fall of the Mimbellis
The Mimbellis were the richest of Orebić Captains after the first of them came to Orebić from Livorno in 1700s. He married rich and the family was quite smart in their business strategy that they kept growing in wealth. After the collapse of the maritime trade with tall ships, Orebić was facing hard times so Mimbellis moved to Trieste. But they had properties all over the Mediterranean as they were investing wisely.
Baldo Mimbelli was the son of Antonio Mimbelli, one of five Mimbelli brothers who worked and resided in Russia. On his ships, he traded grain and transported it all over the world. Father Antonio brought a Russian governess and her daughter, home to teach and raise his children one day. Baldo, his son, was helplessly in love by the governess’s daughter. But, because he was a nobleman and she was simply a governess’ daughter, it was a forbidden love. Baldo was forbidden by his parents to act on his emotions and merry the Russian girl. Baldo promised his parents that he would never love again and that the Mimbelli would perish. That is exactly what happened.
Birthdate: July 01, 1848
Birthplace: Mariupol’, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine
Death: May 18, 1922 (73)
Trieste, Trieste, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy
Baldo was a single man who never married. He led a solitary existence in Trieste, only returning to Orebić on occasion.
The Monument to Unfulfilled love
He commissioned a memorial to be built in the family mausoleum in Orebić near the end of his life. Ivan Rendi, a well-known Croatian sculptor, was commissioned to create it for him.
The monument portrays a love story that transcends societal barriers and perhaps life itself. It’s a marble statue of a girl sleeping while clutching a water jug. The water was spilled, as was the life of the great Mimbelli family. But the girl, the love, has stood the test of time, soaring proudly above the Peljeac channel, greeting everyone who pass by, telling us that genuine love never dies.
Baldo requested that he and his parents be buried in the family mausoleum in Orebić on his deathbed. They were transferred to Orebić in lead sarcophagi when they died in Italy and they were brought to the Monastery on the hill by the people of Orebić. They dragged the sarcophagi for three days and three nights through the forest to the Franciscan monastery’s hill, where they still lie today.
Orebić Today and the Shadows of the Mimbellis
Baldo trusted the residents of Orebić, as well as their descendants from all over the world, to look after the monument and mausoleum. That was the man’s final request, the greatest benefactor this town has ever known. But, that is not the case. The large sum of money that was supposed to be used for that, disappeared long time ago. The house is also for sale. Soon, only the name will remain
We left Ivica at the house that has been for sale for several years now… The beauty of this house is simply overwhelming. Hopefully, the next owner will have a passion for history.
Here is the video I made in the house. But I keep wondering what happened to the
But I keep wondering what happened to the Russian beauty?
Travel in Croatia with us for more stories and interesting places off the beaten path.
Thank you for sharing this interesting story about the Mimbelli family Alan! This is a part of Croatian history I know nothing about, but find really fascinating. I haven’t been to Orebic either but will have to include it when I can next get back to Croatia. Cheers!
Orebić is really a gem. I am sure you will enjoy it!
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