Northern Zagorje

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May 28, 2008

Thanks to the courtesy of the Preservation of Monuments Office in Varaždin, and its young associates, Ms. Ivana Peškan and Ms. Vesna Pascuttini Juraga, we were able to visit on April 15 and 18 some very important sites in the Varaždin area. Some observations follow:

Kneginec Gornji (St. Magadalene), a fine gothic church within a very nice setting on a hill where there used to be a castle where Andrew II was imprisoned by Emerik in 1201. The sanctuary displays an anomaly, there are numerous spoliae in the tower, and some bricks that may be Romanesque. A Romanesque relief is built into the southern wall (a face within a roundel), and there is also a trace of a large opening I cannot account for (nobody has been able to so far).

Hrastovljan. A very much brebuilt church, mostly baroque with a 19th ct. (?) tower. One can easily extract Gothic sections, apparently a sanctuary as wide as a nave, thus rather late. A fort has been recorded at the site so we wonder if the church may not be a thoroughly rebuilt fortification.

Križovljan (Holy Cross). The crusader church I have already written about is being restored, so we had an opportunity to inspect the famous 7 heads relief from the scaffold – it is surprising high relief (ca. 4 cm) and good detail. In the interior 16th ct. frescoes of good quality were found. Interior is quite impressive, fine proportions especially the original, Romanesque section (nave). The portal must have been redone several times as some parts of it are wood mimicking stone! The church itself is Romanesque with an added Gothic sanctuary of the same width as the nave (an indication of the 16th ct.) but it must have been rebuilt several times after repeated damage, as indicated by pall-mall spoliae in the southern wall. The huge Roman blocks of the northern wall can be nicely seen now.

Rukljevina (near Varaždinske Topice). This was a real treat. A small Romanesque church with a large northern 19th ct. chapel, on a narrow ridge within a saucer like hollow, perfectly hidden from the main road Ludbreg – V. Toplice, and most likely an old road between the same places. It has a rounded apse, well-oriented. In the church there is a number of fragments of high quality, strikingly enough of what appears to have been a larger medieval church. There is a cemetery both to the north and the south of the church on the narrow plateau which falls precipitously some 15 meters and makes the place impregnable. There are traces of another step next to the bottom, the first line of defense with a palisade. The edge of the plateau on the west is full of carved stones which keep drifting downhill (remains of a wall?). The hill was made steeper artificially and may have been a complex situation containing a castle and a church. Nothing seems to be known about it, and it has no mention in literature. Both Vjeko and I were tremendously impressed. Ranks thorough investigation and a monograph.

Beletinec. An apparently Gothic church with a rectangular sanctuary, very much rebuilt. The sanctuary houses traces of quality wall-paintings, and also elements indicating the presence of an earlier buildings (openings, wall niche, possibly entrance on the N. side). This was confirmed when we visited the attic where we found the top of a Romanesque round headed window in the southern wall. Mr. Balog’s contention that the sanctuary carried a tower cannot be substantiated.

On our second trip we started from Križovljan Radovečki, inspected the new church (fine 16th ct. building with nice late Ren. detail. Then we drove up the hill above the parish house where once, on a narrow plateau overlooking a very steep slope, stood the old church. A higher plateau above the church may have contained a settlement. The church was small and almost certainly Romanesque.

Then we proceeded to Lovrečan Radovečki (St. Lawrence) miraculously placed building (on the very border of the Holy Roman Empire). The church displays a simple portal with a Romanesque profile on the southern side, otherwise it was many times rebuilt and extended toward the west. The original section might be Carolingian. The main feature, though, is the massive eastern tower slightly right of the church axis. It contains an inaccessible crypt (should be accessed and explored), lots of spoils in the upper stories which are 19th ct. This is also a fascinating monument which ranks a thorough investigation, as its tower may be an example of the rare funerary tower (“pokopališni stolp” as our Slovene colleagues would have it); and the eastern end of the nave is promising too.

Then we went to Donja Voča, where we first visited the church of St. Peter which is being restored (we had been there briefly once before). Another complex situation where a Romanesque church (spoliae, quoins) may have been rebuilt several times. Then we visited St. Martin at the bottom of the hill which is also being restored in its present-day form it is a late Gothic (wide) building rebuilt in Baroque. There are two horsemen in the sanctuary, St. Martin and St. George fine 16th ct. paintings.

Finally we just briefly visited Vukovoj, the site only, as we did not have time to look for keys in Klenovnik. The site is impressive and one can easily imagine Juraj shepherding Veles’ wolves. Breathtaking view of Ivanščica and the Bednja valley. We intend to come back.

Few days later we were back in Ivanec negotiating my mother’s memorial day with local authorities. Jura Belaj showed us his digs of a monstrously fat tower (of a korturmkirche?) and the rest of the presumably Crusader complex. Then we drove up to the top of the Ivanščica, and yes, the view in every direction is phenomenal, and one can see that Perun had his seat there. The most fascinating view is of Sv. Duh in Prigorec and the wooded rounded hill the little church sits on (we were there last year, the area is so small that church barely fits, it has anomalies and windows which look Romanesque although the sanctuary is polygonal. This is a good bet for an early Skavic sanctuary, as V. Belaj had already noticed). The wooded hill looks so perfect that it could not have been more perfect if manufactured!

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