Zelinagrad, Kladeščica, Budinjak

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Monday, July 6, 2009

We took along Dr. Branka Migotti, a top expert on Late Antique. You will immediately see why. Our first stop was Zelinagrad. Of course, we were there so many times. If I had so many thousands of dollars as the glasses of wine we have drunk there with our friends from the Museum I would a very rich man. The issue was, and still is, the large blocks along the outer central wall in the foundations layer. They are best seen on the eastern side but they seem to be present all around the central fortified Palace core. The problem with Zelinagrad is that the Ministry of Culture has suspended the support for further investigations, as, allegedly, the Museum has not done enough on preserving and presenting the excavated parts. This simply means that no work is being undertaken, and the vegetation is coming back, the stones are falling off, and so one of the best investigated and presented old castles in Croatia seems to be going where it was, i.e., to pot. We carefully examined all that’s there. Ms. Migotti is not inclined to see any of the layers as possibly late Antique (my assertion was made partially on the grounds of the well known late Antique fortification at Kozelin some six km to the northwest), although as we went around the palace core and examined the curious spoliae especially in the western wall, she seemed as puzzled as we are. Namely, there are finely polished pieces of stone which could date from anything from Roman to Romanesque, within the wall which could not be later than 13th. ct.! So the issue, in fact, continues to baffle us all.

Mr. Houška has pointed out irregularities at the northern end of the palace, which he suspects to be foundations of an earlier turnburg. I share his suspicions. That building could be the source of the spoliae (on the way to Zelinagrad we passed through Biškupec Zelinski, nowadays in fact a part of Sv. Ivan Zelina, an old Bishop of Zagreb possession from ca. 1200, the hill on the right above the road is not without potentials).

Further on into the mountain to ca. 400m and the Kladeščica gap, to SS. Kuzma and Damjan, the mysterious complex consisting of a large rounded building built from partly dressed stone, and an allegedly aisleless longitudinal church with a rectangular sanctuary, of which only the traces of the indentations where once foundation stones used to lay exist. The place is otherwise constantly vandalized by motor-bikers and need immediate protection. Ms. Migotti was very impressed and urged us to carry out a thorough exploration, something I have been advocating for years. So the Museum may write an application to the Ministry with the University of Rijeka as partner. Similar mysterious complexes stand at Igrišće and Mihalj on the Kalnik, and circles of a similar kind but smaller are at Trema, and at Pogano St. Peter on the Western Papuk. I have several times cautiously expressed the idea that these may be Slavonic pagan sacred circles, some of them accompanied by a hall. Now that I was at Kladeščica again I am less sanguine about the idea as far as SS. Cosmas and Damian are concerned. Still, as they are special patron saints of Emperor Justinian (cf. Poreč), I still maintain that we may have here a witness from distant past. Worth thorough exploring.

By a back road through the mountain Mr. Houška took us by the village of Guštovići, and showed us, from a distance, the alleged site of the chapel of SS. Apsotles (a very rare patrocinium in Croatia, in fact I can’t think of any other, again with a Justinianic flavor). We agreed to wait for winter when vegetation is down and the try to solve another mystery which has never even been tackled. Mr. Houška may know somebody who knows the location of the ruin). Next through Gornje Psarjevo (by the Romanesque chapel of St. Juraj), through Nespeš, by Velika Gora, to Bunjak (probably Budinjak, a very important name of Slavic past) – all wonderful old villages, 13th ct. etc., but certainly those sites on steep hills with wonderful vineyards (and views of the Prigorje, the Medvednica, Moslavina, the Bilogora and the Papuk – some of the them certainly ancient landscape markers). Above Bunjak we briefly explored a hill with, again, wonderful view (one can see the tower of St. John in Zelina), where somebody allegedly saw traces of an old fort. It will have to wait for winter when vegetation is down. This was certainly an ancient landscape spot (one can see Lipa-Rog, Koželin, Gornja Glavnica, and the rest already mentioned).

Thence we descended into the valley and climbed the first beam east of the Zelina river to a spot marked as “Gradišče”. Indeed, in the forest there is an elongated elevation protected on the east by a precipice, on the west by what looks like a ditch. The site has been listed for a while but never visited. No we have been there, too.

Finally between the two beams that separate the Zelina from the Lonja Valley we went to Curkovec, the place associated with the first recorded župan of Zagreb, Gurk (1222). The valley ends at Curkovec which still has some wonderful old wooden homes (some even repaired, some in disrepair, and a steep elevation where Gurk must have had a fortified home when he wanted to escape from his administrative duties into the idyll of the pre-Tartar Croatia.

Remarkably it did not rain until late afternoon. And at Kladeščica we found a ton of wonderful bolete mushrooms.


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