Varaždin is a city in northwestern Croatia located along the banks of the Drava River, the historical, cultural, educational, economic, sports and tourist center of Varaždin County, the oldest county in Croatia. It is located at the intersection of four large, historical regions: Styria, Zagorje, Međimurje and Podravina. In historical sources, it is found in other languages in the following forms: German: Warasdin, Hungarian: Varasd, Latin: Varasdinum.
The best preserved Neanderthal remains in the world, about 30,000
years old, were found in the Vindija cave in Donja Voća, near
According to archeological findings, the area of the city was inhabited in Roman times, as evidenced by the names of two existing streets today - Via Militum and Via Petovia (today's streets Braće Radić and Optujska).
The history of Varaždin is closely connected with the history of the medieval Varaždin County. There are assumptions that before the 12th century there was a tribal parish of Varaždin. According to preserved sources, it is clear that in the developed and late Middle Ages there were Varaždin, Zagorje, Krapina and Hrašćina counties, on whose territory Varaždin County expanded over time. Around 1350, with the reorganization of the counties, a large Varaždin County was created, which, among others, included some neighboring counties. From the middle of the 14th century, Varaždin County was divided into smaller districts, which mostly coincided with the old counties.
Varaždin was first mentioned in 1181. Croatian-Hungarian King Bela III. In 1194, he entrusted his son Emerik (Mirko) with the Croatian administration, excluding his younger son Andrija from the system of government. He destined Andrew to go to the Crusades, and Emeric to become king. At that time, it was customary for the older son to be the king, and the younger duke (the ruler of the Croatian area from the royal house). Part of the destiny of the Croatian-Hungarian kingdom at the beginning of the 13th century is connected with Varaždin. The historian Rudolf Horvat wrote that Duke Andrew hoped to establish a special ruling line in Croatia, but his brother, King Emeric (Mirko), around 1203 .. had his son Ladislav III crowned Croatian king.
The era of Turkish conquests
After that, Varaždin developed as a typical medieval privileged city, and soon became the most populous city in today's area of continental Croatia (then the Kingdom of Slavonia). Varaždin was not only the seat of Varaždin County but also often the place where parliamentary sessions were held. Varaždin quickly became a trade center because it was located at the crossroads of important medieval roads that connected Hungary with the Adriatic Sea, but also the Kingdom of Slavonia with neighboring Vojvodina and Styria. Along with trade, crafts began to develop rapidly. Prosperity lasted until the Varaždin area and Varaždin itself were threatened by the Ottomans. It seems that one of the largest Ottoman incursions into the Varaždin area was in 1532. Sultan Suleiman I in the summer of 1532 set out to occupy the Habsburg capital Vienna. On the way to Kisega, Nikola Jurišić successfully opposed him. After the failure at Kiseg, Suleiman I abandoned the intention of conquering Vienna and returned to the Ottoman Empire.
The Ottomans gradually occupied Croatian territory, and in parallel with their progress, some Croatian nobles gave their border fortifications to the king during the 16th century. In the middle of the 16th century, a system of border guards and fortifications was created with crews financed by the king, which stretched from the rivers Mura and Drava to the Adriatic Sea. We call this system the Military Frontier or Border. Along with the king, the border fortifications from the 1930s were financed mainly by the classes of the provinces of Styria, Carniola and Carinthia, but also by the Croatian Parliament. Between the Drava and the Sava, the Slavonian Krajina was founded, which was later named Varaždin Generalate after its seat in Varaždin. It consisted of three captaincies: Koprivnica, Križevci and Ivanić. Thus, Varaždin became an important military stronghold.
To protect the population from Ottoman attacks, an alarm system was used, which was established in 1603 according to the decisions of the Croatian Parliament. The arrival of the enemy had to be announced by the firing of cannons, and everyone with weapons in their hands had to rush to the side from where the shooting was heard. Due to the freezing of the Drava, residents from nearby places had to break the ice so that the Ottoman and Tatar Turks could not cross to the Croatian side. In April 1603, the Tatars broke into this area where they enslaved and burned all the villages between Koprivnica and Vinica.
The peace at the confluence of the river Žitve and the Danube in
1606, concluded for twenty years between the Ottoman and Viennese
court, prohibited all chats and incursions into cross-border areas.
All bandit and volunteer units were to be disbanded, and neither
side would attack the border fortifications, nor should it protect
outlaws who did not abide by the agreement reached by that peace.
The old fortifications were allowed to be repaired by both sides,
but they could not build new ones. After the signed peace document,
the delimitation of the countries according to the situation on the
ground was carried out. According to the delimitation document,
Croatia acquired for the first time an internationally recognized
border with the Ottoman Empire. This border ran along the Drava
River to Vizvar on the Hungarian side, east of Đurđevac and further
south towards the Sava. This peace was a precondition for the
recovery and reconstruction of the wider area of today's
northwestern Croatia, and it was especially successfully used by the
people of Varaždin for their development.
The rise of Varaždin in the 17th and 18th centuries
After the signing of the peace, the king awarded Ban Tom Erdödy for services in the war and defense of the Kingdom of Croatia. In 1607, he gave him the Varaždin fortress, estates around Varaždin and appointed him hereditary prefect of Varaždin.
Varaždin was also the church seat, ie the center of the Varaždin Archdeaconry of the Zagreb Diocese. The oldest list of parishes of the Varaždin Archdeaconry in the early modern period is from 1638. The following parishes are then mentioned (the parish priests at the time are listed in brackets): Križ in Križovljan (pastor Nikola Belančić), Sv. Petar in Petrijanec (Juraj Tičić), Sv. Nikola in Varaždin (Ivan Šantok), the Blessed Virgin Mary in Biškupac (Matija Kos), Sv. Bartholomew in Žabnik - later Bartolovac (Stjepan Sekirnjak), Sv. Martin in Varaždinske Toplice (Martin Lovrečki), Sv. Ilija Obrez (Mihael Senkovic), Sv. Margaret in Bela - later Margečan (Fr. Simon Apolonis), Bl. Mary Magdalene in Ivanec (Pavao Kramarić), Sv. Vid in Vidovac (Petar Cvetković) and Sv. Marko in Vinica (Petar Jembreković).
Although the Croatian Parliament sought to reduce barriers to trade, part of which were tolls, new ones were established. On March 25, 1655, the city of Varaždin received the king's charter for raising tolls in Kneginec or on the river Plitvice. At the request of Counts Emeric and Juraj Erdödy, on August 11, 1655, the Croatian Parliament prevented the raising of this toll. At the end of the 17th century, the city municipality of Varaždin managed to raise a toll booth on the Stone Bridge, and the Counts of Erdödy again, but this time unsuccessfully, tried to prevent its raising.
Ivan Zakmardi founded a seminary in Varaždin in 1660, and in order to ensure his survival, he left him various properties in his will of July 17, 1664. Among the properties is the vineyard near Sv. Ilija, and in addition to the Varaždin seminary, there was a quinquest in Seketin near Gornji Kneginec. In the same 17th century, a Jesuit and Franciscan monastery were built, which are clear indicators of the economic and social development of Varaždin.
When the Croatian Parliament, at its session in Varaždin in December 1663, determined the general recruitment of the Croatian army, the preconditions for a counterattack against the Turks were created. At the beginning of 1664, Nikola Zrinski's forces set out from Novi Zrin (fortifications built in 1661 on the Mura River near Legrad, demolished in 1664) and conquered all Ottoman fortifications along the left bank of the Drava and reached Osijek. There they burned a large bridge. Nikola Zrinski received a golden fleece from the Spanish king as a reward for this act, while the French king Louis XIV. donated money.
In the spring of 1664, the Ottoman army counterattacked. Near Novi Zrin was the Habsburg commander-in-chief, Raimondo Montecuccoli, who calmly watched the one-month siege and fall of the fort in June. He waited for the Ottoman forces to exhaust and move towards Vienna. In the end, Montecuccoli defeated the Ottomans at the Battle of Szentgotthárd and Mogersdorf on the border of present-day Hungary, Slovenia and Austria. After that battle in August 1664, the Ottomans and the Habsburgs signed a secret Vasvár peace (named after the place Vasvár where the negotiations took place). Peace was signed for twenty years, the Ottomans retained the territories they occupied, and the king on top of that had to pay large war reparations. This peace enabled the stable development of Varaždin and protection from the Ottomans. However, the same peace was one of the reasons for the Zrinsko-Frankopan conspiracy, which ended with the execution of Petar Zrinski and Fran Krsto Frankopan in Wiener Neustadt on April 30, 1671.
After the end of the war, which lasted from 1683 to 1699, large
parts of Croatian territory were liberated from the Ottoman rule.
The following were liberated: Lika, Krbava, part of Kordun,
Banovina, Moslavina, Slavonia, Baranja and western Srijem. This was
confirmed by the fact that the Habsburg Monarchy, the Venetian
Republic and the Ottoman Empire signed peace in Srijemski Karlovci
in 1699. This peace is important for Varaždin because the Ottoman
dangers for the locals disappeared forever, all the more so because
throughout almost the entire 16th and 17th centuries there were
continuous incursions of smaller Ottoman looting groups that
threatened the security of property and population.
Over time, the Varaždin city municipality acquired numerous properties and real estates, some of which it leased. Residents of Varaždinske Toplice were often tenants of some Varaždin real estate. Publicist and chronicler Branko Svoboda wrote about it: "In Varaždinbreg, they are fattening pigs in the forests. There were cases when town senators and officials leased town land. auctions at which the town lands were leased. The town gentlemen who carried out such arrangements would be honored after the auctions were held together with the bidders, of course, at the expense of the town pub and the town mayor. " Varaždin city municipality had large forest complexes on Varaždinbreg. The forests were beech and oak, but there was a mixture of elm, maple, and conifer. There were soft trees in the meadows - poplar, lamb, alder, etc. There was a lot of game in the woods.
Maria Theresa sought to strengthen absolute power and a unified state. Therefore, it sought to narrow the power of the Croatian and Hungarian nobility. In 1767, the Queen founded the first modern Croatian government, the Croatian Royal Council, whose center was in Varaždin, and after the great Varaždin fire in 1776, it was moved to Zagreb. Varaždin was the capital of Croatia from 1767 to 1776, and numerous palaces and public buildings were built in it, which have been preserved to this day and give it the characteristics of a baroque city.
Development in the 19th century
When the plan for the construction of a railway network for the Austrian Empire was adopted in 1854, the construction of the Velika Kaniža-Maribor railway, ie the Kotoriba-Čakovec-Središće section, is mentioned. The people of Varaždin took the action so that Varaždin would also be covered by a pendant on the Vienna-Trieste railway. They proposed the line: Kaniža-Kotoriba-Prelog-Varaždin-Zavrežje (Saurić) -Ankenstein-Maribor, and they were supported by the Chamber of Commerce in Zagreb and the Chamber of Commerce of Croatia and Slavonia.
The people of Varaždin persistently fought for the construction of the Zagorje railway that would connect Varaždin with Zagreb. This process began in 1861 and took a quarter of a century to realize. The decision to build the Zagorje railway was made after the peasant riots in 1883. The Grand Prefect of Varaždin and the Government Commissioner Ognjeslav Utješenović Ostrožinski seriously advocated the construction of a railway between Varaždin and Zaprešić. In 1884, the Hungarian-Croatian Parliament passed a resolution on the construction of the "Čakovec-Zagreb (Zagorje) Railway of Local Interest". The conditions of construction and exploitation had to be met according to the Hungarian law on vicinal railways. The construction of the railway lasted from 1885 to 1886. Part of the railway was opened in September and the rest in December 1886.
The people of Varaždin opposed the construction of the railway from Varaždinske Toplice via Ludbreg to Koprivnica, and advocated a route via Jalžabet and Ludbreg to Koprivnica. But that railway was not Varaždin's priority. The people of Varaždin tried to encourage the construction of the railway from Golubovac to Krapina, because this would make Varaždin the main railway hub of northwestern Croatia. In the explanation of these directions, they pointed out that the realization of these projects would create a unique transversal that would connect Podravina via Varaždin with Trieste, then the most important Austro-Hungarian port. The railway contributed to the modernization of the economy of Varaždin and its surroundings.
Of course, as everywhere, and partly in Varaždin, there were
supporters of the "Hungarian" party, who believed that Croatia's
future lay in close ties with Hungary. There were also right-wingers
who thought that Croatia's perspective was in an independent and
sovereign state. Later, some supporters of the Croatian-Serbian
coalition appeared who sought a solution in gathering the South
Slavs within the Austro-Hungarian monarchy and creating a state of
South Slavs together with Serbia, Montenegro and Bulgaria. There
were other political groups. However, the peak of political life, at
the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, came with
the organization of the Croatian People's Peasant Party led by the
Radić brothers at the beginning of the 20th century, when the
peasantry, It is especially important to point out the connection
between Varaždin and the activities of Antun Radić, who lived and
worked in this city for a while.
Varaždin enters the 20th century with a developed social and economic life. The stagnation of economic functions occurred after the First World War. After the Second World War, there were further processes of modernization and accelerated industrialization, but also the establishment of the first higher education institutions. During the Homeland War in Varaždin was a strong stronghold of the so-called. JNA, and all barracks were taken by decisive actions by the Croatian Army in 1991 after the liberation from Yugoslavia, thus enabling the armament of the units they defended and finally by decisive military-police actions Bljesak and Oluja liberated the temporarily occupied territories of the Republic of Croatia. At a time when it was not pleasant to be a Bosniak or a Croat in Bosnia, Varaždin was the city that hosted the most Muslim refugees. In the free and sovereign Republic of Croatia, Varaždin became the seat of Varaždin County (since 1993) and the Diocese of Varaždin (since 1997). The year 2003 was especially important for Varaždin, when the opening of a modern highway from the Hungarian border to Zagreb (and further towards Rijeka and Split) created a precondition for further economic strengthening of Varaždin and its confirmation as the main center of northwestern Croatia.
The biggest attraction of Varaždin is the fortress called Stari grad. It is located on the northwestern edge of the city center, and today it houses the Varaždin City Museum. The fortress was first mentioned in the 12th century and is believed to have been the seat of Varaždin County at the time. At the end of the 14th century, it became the property of the Counts of Celje, who rebuilt it in the Gothic style. The central quadrangular building originates from that time, around which wooden palisades were originally located. The fortress was most affected in the 16th century, when it was rebuilt into a modern Renaissance fortification. For the property of Ivan Ungnad, shortly before 1544, the construction of walls with circular towers began, and around them earthen ramparts and a ditch filled with water. Thus this building became a characteristic type of fort called "wasserburg". The remodeling was done by Domenico dell'Allio, a builder of Italian descent who operated in Styria. Towards the end of the century, the Varaždin Fortress permanently came into the hands of the Hungarian-Croatian Erdödy family, who would perform minor Baroque adaptations on it.
Churches and monasteries
There were several Catholic church orders in Varaždin: Capuchins, Ursulines, Jesuits and Franciscans.
Church architecture was present in medieval Varaždin, but today it is mostly not preserved. Stone fragments found in today's parish church of St. Nicholas. In the Middle Ages, the parish church was the main sacral building in Varaždin, and the square on which the main town square is located. The church was rebuilt in the 15th century in the Gothic style, and the bell tower has been preserved from that time.
Varaždin experienced a great construction boom in the Baroque era, with the arrival of church orders in the city. The Jesuit church (1642-46) was first built, as a typical early Baroque hall church with "wandtpfeilers", internal chapels separated by walls. In 1650, the Franciscan Church of St. John the Baptist, the work of the builder Peter Rabba of Graz. Both churches are richly equipped with inventory, wall paintings and stucco. The construction of the new Franciscan monastery (1626-32) was led by the "Master Stephan" from Gradac, while Jacob Schmerleib from Leibnitz built the Jesuit monastery (1679-91). In the 17th century, most Styrian builders worked in Varaždin.
Particularly significant achievements in Baroque architecture
will be made in the 18th century, regularly by local masters, but of
foreign origin. At the very beginning of the century, a Capuchin
monastery with a church was built. Of simple architectural design,
this complex will be very similar to Capuchin monasteries erected in
other parts of Croatia. With the financial help of Empress Maria
Theresa, the Ursuline monastery was built (1715-1749), within which
a girls' dormitory also operates. Next to it is the Ursuline Church
(1722-29), one of the earliest Baroque churches in Croatia with a
characteristic gabled bell tower on the façade. The new parish
church of St. Nikola was built in the middle of the 18th century
according to the project of the local builder Šimun Ignac Wagner.
In the great fire of 1776, many sacral buildings were destroyed, and in the following years they were restored and extended to a greater extent. Church of St. Florian (1777) and the church of St. Vida (1778-1782) was restored by the local builder Ivan Adam Poch, giving them their present appearance in the late Baroque style.  When the Jesuit order was abolished in 1773, their church was inherited by the Paulines who built a new representative façade with a volute gable. The construction of baroque churches and monasteries will significantly contribute to the urban image of Varaždin, which as such will remain preserved to this day.
In the 19th century, churches were built in the historicist style, and among them stands out the Orthodox Church of St. George from 1884.
In the historic center of Varaždin there are a number of noble palaces from the Baroque era. The palaces were built from the second half of the 17th century until the beginning of the 19th century, and were built by Croatian or domesticated noble families of foreign origin. The palace of Counts Drašković is located on the main town square, whose existence in this place was recorded in the 16th century, while today's building dates from the 18th century. Next to it once stretched the Czindery Palace, and on the other side of the square the Bishop's Palace, but both were demolished in the late 19th century. The central building of the square is the town hall, which was built in the 15th century, but was renovated in 1791-93. got its present appearance.  On the Franciscan Square there is the famous Patačić Palace, which is two-storey and has a corner bay window and, despite its small size, a very luxurious facade with rock motifs. A rich social life took place in it because Count Franjo Patačić and his wife Katarina organized dances and theater performances there. In the palace, wall paintings have been preserved in several rooms to this day. The wall paintings are also preserved in the neighboring palace of Varaždin County, which was one of the largest baroque palaces ever built in Croatia. There, in the central hall, the illusionist architecture of the marble pillars bearing the coffered ceiling is painted. The palace was built by local builder Jakov Erber.
On the same square, on the north side, is the Wasserman-Kreuz Palace (1785-86) and the Herzer Palace (1791-95), both in the style of late Baroque classicism. It is interesting that the Herzer Palace was not built by nobles but by the city postman Franjo Herzer, who enriched himself with money obtained in the lottery. But he soon went bankrupt and his palace was taken away. Nearby is the palace built by the Zagreb Kaptol in the 1960s, and it stands out with its rich facade adorned with the motif of God's eye on the gable. On Stančić Square, in front of the former entrance to the Old Town, there is the Prašinski-Sermage Palace (17th century), characterized by a colorful facade with black and red medallions and a magnificent stone staircase at the back. The palace of the Petković family (1767) is located on Trg slobode, and at some point a very rich entrance portal with the family coat of arms was removed.
Outside the city walls, and today on the edge of the city center, several palaces of a very ambitious architectural solution were built. The Erdödy Palace on Capuchin Square, with its Rococo façade, and the Keglević Palace (1774-75), north of the city walls, date from the 1960s, the work of the builder Jakov Erber. Near the northern edge of the city center, a Pauline residence was built in 1760, an interesting architectural object, almost with a central floor plan, which has preserved Rococo stucco in the interior. On the south side of the city center, in Zagrebačka Street, is the Patačić-Puttar Palace, which was created by merging several town houses, and got its present appearance at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries. In its interior, valuable carpentry has been preserved to this day - decorative wall coverings and doors made of inlaid wood, a rare example of a top woodcarving craft in palaces on Croatian soil. The original interiors of Varaždin's palaces have not been preserved, except for individual elements of the interior design.
Of the older buildings in Varaždin, there are the remains of the
former city walls - two towers, Lisak's tower in Gajeva Street and
Lančana kuča on Stančić Square. There is also the Renaissance house
Ritz with arcades on the ground floor, located on the corner of
Franjevački and King Tomislav Square, and Zakmardi's seminary from
the end of the 17th century in Habdelićeva Street.
A number of town villas date from the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, the earliest of which is the classicist villa Mueller in Cesarčeva Street, while a large number of Art Nouveau houses are located in Kolodvorska Street. The most significant building of the historicist period is the Croatian National Theater, designed by Viennese architects Fellner and Helmer, famous theater builders in Central Europe.
In the urban area of Varaždin, there are several examples of public sculpture, from the baroque statue of St. Ivan Nepomuk in front of the Old Town, to the modern Meštrović statue of Gregory of Nin in front of the Franciscan church. In the courtyard of the Varaždin County Palace is a bust of Empress Elizabeth, the popular Sissi, which was originally located in the city park behind the Croatian National Theater.
A very beautiful combination of sculpture and horticulture offers the ambience of the city cemetery, created according to the project of Hermann Haller in the 19th century, which is considered one of the most beautiful in Croatia.