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Hrvatski dvorci


Đurđevac was always the name of a village, castle and parish. A document issued by King Bela IV of Hungary-Croatia from 1267 mentions the village of St George, and this is the oldest mention of Đurđevac. The village and parish church of St George were also mentioned in 1334 on the list of parishes of the Zagreb Bishopric. Đurđevac was named after St George who became the patron saint of the village and the parish church (chapel) in the thirteenth century. The Croatian names Juraj (Gjuro, Đuro) and Jurjevec gave the village its name of Đurđevac. In old documents it appears in various linguistic forms: Latin Sanctus Georgius, German St. Georg, Hungarian Szenth-Györgh, Szenth Györghwára, Séntvárin.
Today Đurđevac is a small town in the Podravina plain, about 25 km from Koprivnica and Bjelovar, half way between the winding river Drava in the north and the low Bilogora Mountain in the south. The village and castle (Stari grad) always faced one another, but kept their distance. The village is older, it was always small, during the strongest Turkish onslaughts in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries it even died out. It was connected to the castle by a bridge 326 steps long across a marsh that for centuries saved both castle and village from enemies. When the marsh was dried out in the first half of the nineteenth century, a road replaced the bridge. Today the town has spread close to the castle but has not engulfed it; it is still surrounded by lowland meadows and wheat fields. Đurđevac developed more quickly in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when the Đurđevac Regiment was quartered in Stari grad. The regiment was disbanded in 1871 when the Military Frontier was abolished.
Historians differ as to the time when today’s Stari grad was built. According to some this happened in the first half of the fourteenth century, according to others in the second half. Some think that it was begun after 1478 and finished in 1488, as evidenced by a stone plaque with the arms and name of Sigismund Ernušt, Bishop of Pecs and owner of the Đurđevac estate. The confusion arises from historical records about the existence of an older castle which may have stood on the site of today’s Stari grad. Newer archaeological research is helping to solve these problems, but since it has not yet finished no final solution has been reached. It is certain that Stari grad was built as a feudal castle, the seat of a feudal estate, and not as a fortress before the development of the village. The stone slab mentioned above with the carved year 1488 (the first Renaissance sculpture in north Croatia), certainly dates from the time when Stari grad got its final appearance, which has not changed much since.
During its rather long life Đurđevac Castle has changed many owners and users, and gone through several historical and architectural changes. In the first period, from its construction to 1546, Stari grad was the seat of a feudal estate. From 1546 until the liberation of Slavonia from Ottoman rule, after the Karlovac Treaty of 1699, Stari grad was a Military Frontier garrison and played a crucial role in defending the border. When the frontier with the Ottoman Empire was established on the river Sava, Đurđevac lost its military importance but the army continued to use Stari grad until the Military Frontier was abolished in 1871. This ended the second period in the history of Đurđevac Castle and began the third, which still lasts and in which Stari grad fulfils civilian purposes.
From the fourteenth to the mid-sixteenth century the Đurđevac feudal estate changed many owners and was the largest in Križevci County. Historical records go back to the first half of the fourteenth century when King Charles I Robert (reigned 1301-1342) granted Đurđevac to Ban Mikac (Mihaljević). Mikac was master of Đurđevac until his death (in 1326 or 1342) and the estate was held by his heirs until 1397 when King Sgismund (king of Hungary-Croatia from 1387) took the land away from Stjepan Prodavić, grandson of Ban Mikac, and in 1401 granted it to Detrik Bebek of Pelšec, Palatine of Hungary. After 19 years Đurđevac reverted to King Sigismund, and in 1426 it went back to the descendants of Ban Mikac. By order of King Sigismund, Count Herman of Celje, Ban of Croatia, seized the estate from Nikola Prodavić and in 1435 the king mortgaged it to the brothers Matko and Petar Talovac, who got confirmation of ownership in court in 1438. After the death of Ban Matko Talovac in 1445, the Duke of Celje conquered the castle in Đurđevac with the help of Ivan Vitovac. This provoked John Hunyadi (the Sibinjanin Janko of folk songs) to conquer Đurđevac in 1446 and give it to Ivan Sekelj, Ban of Slavonia. Soon the Duke of Celje took the Đurđevac estate back again. When Ulrik II of Celje, the last member of the family, was killed in 1456, his wife Katarina inherited the estate and in 1461 sold it to Ivan Vitovac known as “pan Jan”. In 1465 Đurđevac was the property of King Matthias Corvinus, son of John Hunyadi, who in 1477 signed a charter in Buda granting the estate to the family Ernušt of Čakovec (de Chaktorya). Đurđevac remained theirs until 1541, until the death of Gašpar, the last male member of the family. Đurđevac and the other Ernušt lands (three towns, three castles and 109 villages in Križevci County) were then taken over by Petar Keglević, Ban of Croatia and the father of Gašpar’s wife Ana. He held the Ernušt lands until 1546, when Ban Nikola Zrinski Sigetski, by order of Emperor Ferdinand I, seized him in Čakovec. The emperor commanded Baron Luka Sekelj, captain of the royal army that had begun to create a system of defence against the Turks in Croatia, to take over the castle in Đurđevac, and those in Koprivnica and Virje. This ended the history of Stari grad in Đurđevac as the seat of a feudal estate.
For a century and a half Stari grad played an important role in the defence of Croatia and the Austrian Monarchy from the Turks. When the Turks conquered Virovitica in 1552, Đurđevac became the last point of defence on the frontier with the Ottoman Empire. This led to the flight of the population and the Đurđevac region was depopulated, but Stari grad managed to hold its own against Turkish attacks and was never captured. The fiercest fighting against the Turks near Đurđevac took place from 1552 to 1586.
In 1546 the king himself took over care for Đurđevac castle. The Croatian nobility supplied labour for renewing and maintaining it. Several times the Croatian Sabor ruled that Stari grad must be renovated: 1562, 1584, 1586, 1587 and 1590.
During the last hundred years, after the army moved out at the end of the nineteenth century, Đurđevac castle was put to many different uses. From 1892 to 1909 the Sisters of Charity took it over and opened a girls’ school there. After them, for about twenty years, Stari grad served as army barracks. Between the two world wars various societies used it for meetings and performances and local craftsmen for workshops, and in 1928 it became an elementary school. After the Second World War, until 1967, Stari grad was the seat of the cooperative of cabinet makers and basket weavers, and then it became offices, a People’s University, the premises of various societies and of Đurđevac Radio. Before 1984 the most urgent repairs were carried out several times (1937, 1960/61, 1997-1979) because the building was damaged, and systematic work on its restoration and revitalization then began. A renewal project was drawn up on the basis of archaeological and conservation research, of which most has been realized.

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