Archaeological sites in the Ivanec area

The Ivanec area is marked in every archaelogical map in the world as one of the first habitations of the human species. Findings from the oldest periods of the ancient human history have been preserved in the Vindija cave, the Velika Pecina cave and the Sever's quarry near Vuglovec. The Ivanec region presents a very rich finding site of different objects from the ancient history.

Numerous objects from the ancient history have been found in this area. Stone axes from the Bronze Age were found in Ivanec, Prigorec, Staznjevec, Vuglovec, Sveti Rok, Kuljevcica and Bedenec. Some antique coins were found in Ivanecka Zeljeznica, and some bone remains and a bronze sickle were found next to the stone axe in Vuglovec.

Numerous findings of fossilized human, tools and extinct animals  remains prove the continuous life and evolution from the Stone Age to the pre-Slavic cultures. Stjepan Vukovic and Mirko Malez, people from Ivanec who dedicated their scientific work and their lives to conducting research in the Ivanec area, made a huge contribution to archaeology. Dr. Mirko Malez, a famous academician, briefly described the appearance of the man in this area:

Favourable climate, plant and animal life in northwest Croatia in the Pleistocene period allowed continuous settlement of this area from the oldest to the youngest Paleolithic and Mesolithic period. The Hrvatsko Zagorje region represented a natural ecumene for the Paleolithic hunters through the whole Pleistocene period not only in Croatia but in the whole Southeast Europe.  

The natives lived near the village of Punikve, east of Ivanec, in the open space when the weather was warmer. Mr Vukovic found primitive stone tools in this area: rough oval hand axle pins, spikes and splitters. These objects represent the oldest human handicrafts in general, and people used them for hitting, drilling and cutting in the dawn of civilization.  These tools are believed to have been made in the Old Stone Age which dates back to 500 000 years ago. Mr Stjepan Vukovic has called these tools the stone industry of the Punikve archaeological site, which by the period of its origination belongs to the lowest Stone Age cultures in Croatia and Europe.


Ivanec in the Middle Ages

More than six centuries ago, Ivanec arose under the northern slopes, on the slopes and first hills of the Ivancica mountain: We brother JOHN OF PALISNA, of the Order of St. John, THE PRIOR OF BELA, salute in our Saviour all the people who will hear this. We have learned that the enemy has taken the freedom and the decrees of the free IVANEC municipality and its people given to them by our priors. We here wish to reclaim the people their freedom and to establish those who live here now, as well as those who will come to live here, as free inhabitants. We have decided to give them freedom which we will faithfully maintain…We have decided to put our seal onto this decree. Given on Thursday before St. John the Baptist's day, 22 June in the year of our Lord 1396. (translated to Croatian by Metod Hrg)

Ivanec owes its name to the Chapel of St. John the Baptist, which was built in the 13th century by the Knights of Saint John (Knights Hospitaller) not far from the today's  St Mary Magdalene church. Its original name was the Municipality of St. John and the toponyms Ivanec and Ivancica, formerly known as Ocura,  appeared over time. The confirmation of the town's historical roots lies in the fact that today June 24, St. John the Baptist's day is marked as the municipality of Ivanec day.

Historians have confirmed the importance of the medieval Bela, the headquarters of the order Fratres hospitalis sancti Johannis Iherisolimamitani, that is St. John of Jerusalem. They owned a big estate from the Varazdin borders to Lepoglava on both sides of the Ivancica mountain. The estate was governed by from their town- Pusta Bela. It had a few smaller economic units in Cerje, Jurketinec and Ivanec. The village of Punikve was mentioned as an estate in 1304, and Cerje Tuzno in 1306. The Hospitallers rented them to their vassals under certain conditions and for a certain amount of years, who then in return defended the estate and made other favours to the Order.

The first decree in which Ivanec was mentioned was a manifold of the document that Albert de Nagymihaly, prior of Vrana and ban of Croatia and Dalmatia gave…to the caring and rational people, the judge, the pledgers and the susceptibles from the Municipality of St. John - Ivanec…on February 22, 1421 in Pakrac.

Ban was asked to copy and confirm the document to confirm the privilleges for the people at the time when the Hospitallers were disappearing from Croatia. This document, crucial to the Ivanec's historical identity, was kept for a long time in Budapest, and was first metioned by Ivan Kukuljevic Sakcinski in his paper about the Vrana priory as being brought out of the State archive, published in 1886.

An archivist Metod Hrg, born in Ivanec, found the document in the Croatian State Archive after the return of the Croatian archive materials from Hungary. In 1975 he published the translation and a legal- historical interpretation of the document in The Ivanec Calendar. Thanks to the discovery of the document we can be certain today that Ivanec existed even before 1396 in the shelter of the Hospitallers' estate. It confirms its historical development, its specificities and survival. After Pope Innocent VII abolished the order of St. John in 1405 and the Hospitallers left Croatia, the Bela estate comes under secular ownership in the early 15th century. Its first owner was Matko Talovac in 1439. From 1446 the estate was owned by Jano Vitovac and his sons.  The new owners stopped respecting the privilleges that the people of Ivanec used to have, turning them into mere peasants.


Ivanec in the secular ownership

In 1480 the Hungarian King Matija Korvin sold the Bela estate with Ivanec to Hungarian counts Ladislav, Tomo and Franjo Petheö de Gerse for 5600 ducats. This Hungarian family owned the whole Ivanec region for 250 years, until the middle of the 18th century. King Ferdinand issued a deed of donation to the Petheö family in 1564, confirming the original ownership and listing the following villages:  Ruskovec, Zavrsje, Lovrecan, Lukavec, Vitesinec, Gacice, Margecan, Seljanec, Ivanecki Vrhovec, Saturnjak, Punikve, Prigorec, Ivanec, Vuglovec i Staznjevec.

It is a little known fact that people from Ivanec raised a peasant revolt for the lack of acknowledgment of their privileges. The revolt lasted from the spring of 1568 to the end of the year 1569. After the negotiations and the mediation of the Croatian Parliament and the ban, the taxes were decreased and paid in money, which is probably why the peasants from the Ivanec region did not join the peasant revolt in Hrvatsko Zagorje which flared up four years later.

According to the official data that the Ivanec parish gathered in 1649, the estimated population of Ivanec was 350- 400, whereas Mackovec, Kaniski Vrhovec and Krasevec had around 200 inhabitants. According to the number of communal family houses 350 years ago, Vuglovec, Punikve and Prigorec had about 200 inhabitants. The chapel that Petheö de Gerse counts built (at the site of an old church) had a very valuable inventory of the liturgical dishes and chasuble. The chalices and trays were later brought to St. Magdalen's parish church, where they are  still kept. All that is left form the chapel are the baptistry and the portal at the entrance to the rectory with an inscription from the year 1861. The old town Ivanec was built by the Petheö de Gerse family in the middle of the 16th century; it already existed in 1558, when Frakcija Choron, the wife of Benedikt Petheö, was given the town ownership.

The counts Erdödy, the owners of Bela, Ivanec and Jurketinec from 1740, restored the castle which existed until 27 October 1943, when it burned in a war battle. The event marked the beginning of its deterioration. In 1959 the remains of the Ivanec history symbols were  destroyed. The preserved documentation shows the old town Ivanec in the glory of a circular palace comprised of four wings. The northern side, wits its three impressive towers, protected the west and the east side. The oldest tower had thick walls and three storeys which professor Szabo and doctor Andela Horvat consider to have been built in the Renaissance style. The west wing, probably as old as the main tower, was intended for habitation, whereas the south wing was built in the 18th century when it was in count Erdödy's possession. The Petheö family line ended in 1728 with the death of Ivan Petheö, the last male descendant. After the death of his wife Barbara Falussy in 1730, the Ivanec estate and Bela- in 1735 at the latest- were taken over by the royal fisk and given by the king to count Palffy. In 1740 count Ladislav Erdödy of Novi Marof bought all the estates for 80 000 forints. About two decades later (in 1763) the female descendants of the Petheö family litigated for the return of the heritage that had been taken away from them which lasted for 54 years. It ended in 1817 in their behalf. 15 families divided the Bela, Cerje and Ivanec among themselves. After this historical litigation Ivanec belonged to the baron Adam Peharnik Hotkovic, whose daughter Katarina inherited her father's wealth and married a lawyer by the name of Nikola Faller. Franjo Kukuljevic inherited Ivanecka Kaniza estate with forests and land (acres, meadows, vineyards), where he built a small manor house with facilities.

Ivanec in the possession of the Kukuljevic- Sakcinski family

In 1867 Ladislav Kukuljevic, the son of Franjo Kukuljevic, the heir of Ivanecka Kaniza and one of the wealthiest people of that time,  bought the Ivanec castle. Before he died he gave all his wealth and the castle to his nephew Bozidar, son of Ivan Kukuljevic Sakcinski, because he didn't have any children of his own. Kukuljevic left a big part of his wealth to his big family, his friends, to different education promoting societies, fire brigades, to the poor, to his former peasants, servants, employees and many others. He died in Ivanec in 1896. The new owner of the Ivanec castle, Bozidar Kukuljevic (1861- 1927) gave the castle its final appearance that we know from the postcards, and older people remember its greatness and beauty. He decorated the English garden (today's park), and he put stylistic furniture and paintings from his famous father Ivan's legacy into the residential spaces: the original Vjekoslav Karas paintings, the portraits of famous people from history and other artwork.

Unfortunately, not being good at maintaining the feudal possession and being fond of music, weighted by numerous family responsibilities, Bozidar eventually sold and pawned parts of his enormous estate. Because of the great financial difficulties his son Radovan Kukuljevic gave his three quarters of the estate to his brother-in-law doctor Josip Saban, his sister Ladislava's husband, in 1934. The old town Ivanec became the summer residence of the Saban family, which it continued to be until it suffered irreparable damage in World War II.


St. Mary Magdalene church in Ivanec

St. Mary Magdalene church in Ivanec was built by the Erdödy family between 1758 and 1760. Its present appearance was given to it in the early 19th century. The church was consecrated on 25 July 1803 by the bishop Maksimilijan Vrhovac. The baptistry that was taken from the Petheö  family chapel, is of special value. The church inventory- two chalices (17-18th century), a monstrance and a liturgical blessing cross (17th century), along with baroque candlesticks, reneissance water bowls and a silver tray.

The rectory- a manor house next to the church is an elongated baroque one-storey building. The yard stone portal has the year 1681 and the names of Gottal and Petheö families inscribed over the entrance. The Holy Spirit Chapel was first mentioned in 1638 and was built at the end of the 14th century. Because of its position at the top of a hill, at 564m, it dominates the area.

The chapel was built of stone. The sacristy and the tower are of a newer date, and the bells date back to the late 17th and the early 18th century. The Chapel of St. Donatus in Nazor street, next to the Ivanec roundabout, was built in 1784 and was restored in 1891 thanks to Ladislav Kukuljevic. The manor house next to the Pahinsko educational centre is a small country house built in the middle of  the 19th century. They were built by Nikola Faller, the father of the famous bandmaster Nikola Faller.