Lepoglava History

Lepoglava was first mentioned in 1399. A year later Herman II, Count of Celje, founded the monastery of hermits of St. Paul. Not long after, Paulines arrived in Lepoglava, and remained here until 1768. In 1582 Paulines founded the first public grammar school in Croatia, while in 1656 they started offering studies in philosophy and theology. Status of the first Croatian university has been awarded to them in 1674, and it is assumed that approximately 75 doctorate dissertations were obtained in Lepoglava.

With the arrival of Paulines, Lepoglava became the cradle of science, arts and history. In 1786, when Paulines were banished from Lepoglava, all cultural and scientific activities died out.  The monastery was turned into a prison in 1854, and remained as such until 2001, when it was returned to the diocese of Varaždin.

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The History of Pauline Monks and Nuns in Lepoglava

The Pauline is a Catholic Order that was initially hermetic which became monastic. They built monasteries and churches, opened universities and promoted science and art amongst the people who lived near them.

During the Middle Ages the Pauline order was active in France, Portugal, Austria, Croatia and Hungary. The Paulines advised the Croatian nobility, created culture and promoted art for more than 500 years. They are also known the ‘White Friars’.

The Pauline order was abolished in 1786 by King Joseph II, and their property was assumed in part by the Austrian Treasury, in part by the Budim Chamber and in part by the Turks. In terms of scale this was the largest looting of Croatian cultural heritage recorded in history. The Pauline Monastery in Lepoglava is by no means the oldest in Croatia, but it is certainly one of the most important, and for years it was at the mercy of the nobility who sought salvation and drew its spiritual strength from it.

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The gymnasium school and university in Lepoglava

In 1503 a seminary for Pauline novices and the lay-youth was opened in Lepoglava, marking the opening of the first gymnasium in Continental Croatia, although it ceased to operate after the Battle of Mohács in 1526. Higher education began in 1656 when philosophy was first taught. Shortly after Pope Clement X recognised (and Emperor Leopold confirmed) the school as being able to confer university degrees, namely doctorates in theology and philosophy. It is believed that around 75 doctoral theses were defended here, which has rightly earnt Lepoglava the title of the first Croatian university.

A huge library was assembled thanks to philosophy and theology, and at one point the monastery had the largest and richest library in Croatia. The most significant work produced by the Lepoglava Paulines is the large ‘Gazophylacium’ Latin-Croatian and Croatian-Latin dictionary produced by Ivan Belostenec, which represents a treasure trove for dictionaries and a valuable resource for anyone studying the Croatian language.

Pauline Art

The Pauline order has a long and significant tradition of painting. The Pauline masters worked in other monasteries apart from their central monastery in Lepoglava. Pauline painting reached its peak in the 18th Century under the auspices Ivan Krstitelj Ranger.

The Pauline order paid a great deal of attention to the decoration of their church interiors, and even today those altars and pulpits Saved from oblivion testify to this.

The Lepoglava Pauline Monks who became Bishops of Zagreb

Four Priors of the Pauline Monastery in Lepoglava would go on to become Bishops of Zagreb – Vuk Gyula, Šimun Bratulić, Martin Borković and Mirko (Emerik) Esterhazy.

Famous Paulines

Ivan Krstitelj Ranger – the most respected of all Croatian Paulines was born in 1700 in Gotsen in Tyrol, and he joined the Pauline as a layman in 1734. He received his first instruction in painting in his homeland, but he obviously had opportunities to study the works produced in the first decades of the 18th Century in Northern Italy and Southern Germany. Nothing is known of his schooling, but there is no doubt that his formation as a painter was influenced by his compatriot Gaspar Waldmann. His work can be traced through to the frescoes of Lepoglava’s church and monastery and a number of churches and chapels in the area surrounding Lepoglava and in other parts of Croatian Zagorje. Ranger’s largest iconographic programme is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. He died in 1753 in Lepoglava and is buried in the church there.

Ranger’s churches and chapels in the Lepoglava area:

  • The Monastery and Church of Saint Mary in Lepoglava
  • The Chapel of Saint John – Gorica
  • The Chapel of Saint George – Purga
  • The Chapel of our Lady of the Snows – Žarovnica
  • The Parish Church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Višnjica

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Ivan Belostenec (1593 to 1675) is one of the most renowned Croatian Paulines of the 17th Century. He was also one of the first members of the Pauline order who studied at Jesuit schools to train as professors for Pauline schools. Upon completing his initial studies at the Pauline school in Lepoglava, he went on to study philosophy in Vienna and theology in Rome. Once he had completed his studies he was elected to positions of authority in the order: he was made the Prior of Lepoglava and Svetice, and he resided in Istria as a Father – Visitor, administrator and vicar, and the Provincialis of the Istrian Province. In 1663 he retired to Lepoglava where he would prepare his life’s work: the ‘Gazophylacium’ Latin-Croatian dictionary. The first of Ivan Belostenec’s works to be printed was his ‘Boghomila’, a collection of 113 verses – as many verses as years lived by Saint Paul of Thebes. Belostenc’s most important work is a large two-volume dictionary which was printed posthumously in Zagreb in 1740. In the ‘Gazophylacium’ Belostenec collected a treasure trove of three Croatian dialects and proposed a script that would mark a significant improvement on the Latin script previously used within Croatia.

Kamenica and Višnjica history

Kamenica history:


The archaeological findings and the remains of mountain fortifications in the immediate vicinity of Kamenica bear witness to its continuous habitation from pre-history to the present day.

There is a written reference to Kamenica connected to the hard Town of Kamenica (kamen means ‘stone’ in Croatian), which was previous known as Gradiški, and was located near to a settlement of the same name, in the direction of Ravna gora. During the second half of the 13th Century it was built by an unknown Zagorje nobleman as a fortified residence to accommodate soldiers and servants and to provide a seat for the associated estate. It was a small, hard Town (castrum) constructed at its core on a trapezoidal plan atop a steeply conical elevation, which consisted of a fortified brick Palas with a smaller courtyard, fortified wooden ramparts (palisades) and a fortified suburb built on a circular plan around the core by a combination of wooden ramparts and earth embankments.

The first mention of Kamenica appears in 1311, and between 1399 and 1405 the Kamnica Fortress came into the procession of Herman II of Celje who in turn gifted it to King Sigismund of Luxembourg. The Celje Counts owned the Kamenica Fortress until 1456, and the Fortress itself was destroyed in a battle for the Celje succession. In 1459, according to the charter of King Matija Korvin, the destroyed Kamenica Fortress was bequeathed to Jan Vitovec, whose family retained ownership until 1488. During their ownership Kamenica was abandoned and became the property of first John Corvinus and then the Gyulay Family until 1568. Following the death John Corvinus his widow Beatrice de Frangepan gifted Kamenica to the Lepoglava Pauline Order, who were unable to accept this bequest as the King had not signed the charter.

After Trakošćan and Kamenica were bestowed upon Juraj II Drašković the Pauline Order initiated legal proceedings that would last around 130 years. In 1730 the Ban’s counsel finally granted Kamenica to the Drašković Family, and their estates were amalgamated with their neighbouring Trakošćan Estate to form the Trakošćan-Kamenica Manor, with an official seat in Trakošćan and the actual residence in Klenovnik Castle. On the basis of a high decree issued by Emperor Francis I, Kamenica, as a Parish, was granted the right to open a municipal school in December 1830, and this school was duly founded by Varaždin County.

Višnjica history:


The earliest evidence of human habitation in Višnjica dates from the Paleolithic Stone Age, and the first written record is in the Charter issued by the Hungarian-Croatian King Bela IV in 1244, in which the King bestowed the area of Lobor, Velika, Klenovnik and Zlogonj (what is today the Višnjica Settlement) on Mihajlo, the then Prefect of Varaždin, for his successful defence of the area around Varaždin and Ptuj during the Tatar invasion. The first known recorded mention of the name Višnjica is to be found in the Bishop’s Statutes Confirmation of 1417. The Villages of Višnjica Donja, Višnjica Gornja and Bednjica are mentioned as part of the Trakoščan area. In 1483 there is a record that mentions tithes being paid to the Zagreb Kaptol. This record mentions ‘Emerik, the Priest in Višnjica’.

Whilst investigating the north-western part of Croatian Zagorje, archaeologists came across the pre-historic Velika Pećina cave in Višnjica. The cave reveals thousands of years of use through its archaeological finds, which provides evidence that the place has been inhabited by humans for more of less 80,000 years. This encompasses a period in which humans moved there to hunt now extinct animal to the Early Middle ages, when they began to use potter’s wheels. Findings, such as stone and bone artifacts, the bones of now extinct animals and ceramics prove that this has been an area in which people have met and created a spiritual and cultural culture since ancient times.

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