Cultural and historical points of interest

St Nicholas’ Parish Church

The Krapina parish is the oldest of all under the archdeacon of Zagorje. It is presumed that Krapina became a parish as early as 1193 when Kalan, the bishop of Pécs, issued the order that Dominic, the bishop of Zagreb, and his successors be given one tenth of all the income which had been collected up to that point in Krapina by the Croatian duke. St Nicholas’ Parish Church was first mentioned in the charter of the Zagreb bishop Augustin Kažotić on 6 July 1311 (and later in 1334, 1501 and 1574). It is not known exactly when the old parish church in the gothic style was built because it was unfortunately destroyed. A new parish church was built in its place between 1901 and 1903, incorporating a small part of the old church - the sacristy with a gothic ceiling which is located below the tower. The entrance to the sacristy still holds the late-gothic jamb with a flat arch. One of the founding stones carries the inscription “Ich Jorg Crewcz”, which is thought to be the name of the architect. A number of gold objects of artistic value dating from between the 17th and 19th centuries which were once part of the collection at the old church are still preserved - the cross, chalices from the late gothic, early baroque, baroque and rococo periods, baroque reliquaries, pyx and thurible. In the new church, which was inspired by the old gothic church and designed by the architect Josip Vrancaš, the most valuable item is the organ built by the famous organ builder F. Heferer, dating from 1903. There was once also a graveyard surrounding the parish church. This is the church where the life of people from Krapina begins and ends; it is the place where the sacraments of baptism, matrimony and holy orders are celebrated and masses for the dead and other rituals are held.

Franciscan Monastery and St Catherine’s Church

The Franciscan monastery is a dominant structure in Krapina’s urban space. Similarly dominant is the influence of the Franciscans who have been active in Krapina from 17 April 1641 when the monastery was founded, thanks to Ana Marija Keglević-Erdödy and her brother Franjo Keglević.

At the location where St Catherine’s Church and the Franciscan monastery now stand used to be St Catherine’s Chapel (first mentioned in 1547) and an orphanage for poor parishioners. The new church was built and consecrated on 24 July 1657, and the Franciscan monastery was built right next to it.
As time went by, both the church and the monastery slowly dilapidated, but they were continuously rebuilt thanks to the persistence of the members of the religious community and the friars. The basic characteristic of the Franciscan way of life is simplicity, as can be seen both in their life outside of the monastery and in their religious life. The very way the church and the monastery were built reflects simplicity, which is almost a monument with its system of values (Premrl). The style the Krapina monastery was built in belongs to the early Baroque period of that area; a transitional style period between gothic, renaissance and baroque. The inside of the church contains early baroque as well as late baroque altars. The life of the friars has made a permanent mark on the history and contemporary life of Krapina.
Apart from their spiritual engagement, the friars played an important role as pharmacists and carers of the ill. Franciscans received gifts from commoners as well from the noblemen of Zagorje, and the church’s collection of items bears witness to that fact. The monastery contains a rare collection of church art and a library founded in 1650, consisting of many rare books, the most significant of which are three incunabula. The first one is the Holy Bible printed in Basel in 1498; the second incunabula is De exemplis et similituninibus rerum by Ivan de Sancto Geminiano printed in Venice in 1499, and the third is one of the few copies of St Thomas Aquinas’ Quaestiones de duodecim quodlibet printed in Ulm in 1475. Apart from the incunabula, the library contains many other religious books.
The Franciscans have remained a permanent source of spiritual engagement over the past 350 years. One of the most important figures of the monastery was Father Dominik Antolković who discovered the remains of the Krapina Neanderthal and informed Professor Gorjanović Kramberger about it. In the late 17th century and in the 18th century, the Franciscan monastery founded a university which offered courses in philosophy, moral theology, rhetoric and a novitiate, which greatly influenced the Revival Period in Krapina as well the period’s key figure, Ljudevit Gaj.
Krapina owes much to the Franciscan friars whose pastoral, social, educational and cultural activities have formed the town to be what it is today.
The Franciscan Monastery and St Catherine’s Church are a spiritual sanctuary and haven. Even before you enter the church itself, serenity can be felt among the tall pine trees which surround the statue of Virgin Mary, which dates from the 18th century. On the feast day of St Anthony the Abbot, patron saint of the fields and cattle, members of the parish bring offerings such as eggs, sausages, cereals, cheese and milk. On Pentecost they bring blessed water back home from the church, and on Candlemass Day they bring home a blessed candle which is lit in the event of a death taking place; on 13 October children wearing lily and rose flower decorations receive the blessing of St Anthony of Padua, while 25 November is the feast day of St Catherine.

For the past several years, St Catherine’s Church has been the chosen venue for concerts by famous singers and musicians who express their artistic needs by performing religious music, which is a fresh addition to the cultural events that take place in this area.

Church of Our Lady of Jerusalem at Trški Vrh

The most famous church in Krapina is the Church of Our Lady of Jerusalem at Trški Vrh. Built between 1750 and 1761, it is one of the most beautiful baroque churches in this part of Croatia. Although baroque as1 a period in art encompasses the time when feudalism was at its peak, the Church of Our Lady of Jerusalem was built by the pious townspeople and villagers as their votive church. The church was built in order to safeguard a statue of Mary brought from Jerusalem. Even before the church was built, the statue of the Virgin Mary helped many people in times of hardship so the people believed it had miraculous powers. Those miracles were the source of their faith, prayers and gratitude and the reason why they built the church with such persistence. Since 13 August 1761 when the church was consecrated, it has been a gathering point and votive church for pilgrims and remains so even today.

The very serenity and the beauty of the inside of the church are inspiring with its elaborately decorated altars from the Zagreb workshop of Anton Merz, its artistic paintings by Anton Lerchinger of Rogatec, and its organ by artisan Anton Römer of Graz. The church is surrounded by an octagonal wall and a small tower containing a chapel was built on each corner. The chapels are the Chapel of Our Lady of Lourdes, Chapel of St Emerich, Chapel of St Isidore the Peasant and the Chapel of St John and St Paul, the Martyrs. Next to the wall that surrounds the church stands the Chapel of Resurrection, the final of the fourteen stops of the Cross.
In 1898, the parish priest Stjepan Vukovinski had the wall rebuilt. The sides of the wall were once decorated with frescos representing the miracles of Our Lady of Jerusalem. The old frescos were restored by the painter Lovro Sirnik of Trški Vrh.
The wall is used for processions, but it is also a place for individual prayer and the spiritual fulfilling of vows, and it is believed that the Virgin Mary will offer help to all who believe in her.

Following Trsat and Marija Bistrica, Krapina is the most important Croatian pilgrimage site. Each summer, pilgrims arrive between May, June and October.
1. Pentecost: May or June
2. Blessing of automobiles: June
3. Feast day of St Margaret: July
4. Transfiguration of Jesus: early August
5. Feast day of St Bartholomew: late August
6. Nativity of the Virgin Mary: September
7. Thanksgiving Feast: last Sunday in October

Dr Ljudevit Gaj

"If you destroy the language of a people, you have destroyed the people itself.” (Fran Kurelac)

The identity of any human being is attested in their speech; the spiritual unity of a people is attested in their language. To found, form and establish a language of a people is a Promethean task. Doctor Ljudevit Gaj created the grounds for, awakened and liberated the Croatian language 150 years ago. Up to then, the literary language of the Croatian people had been Latin, German, Hungarian or the dialect spoken in a particular area. The Illyrian movement was officially supposed to resist the process of hungarization, however, the true goal of the movement was to establish Croatia as a nation based on European civil ideas and the ides of the Enlightenment. Citizens during this time aspired to the founding of national states, to the celebration of national cultures, but also to respecting the identity of the individual. The spirit of the Enlightenment and Romanticism filled the Illyrians with an awe-inspiring spiritual strength and optimism, and Gaj himself was as if “chosen from God”– inspired by the belief in bringing to life the ideal he propagated.

Ljudevit Gaj was born in Krapina on 8 July 1809. From a very young age he listened to the beauties of the language of the people. His mother, who was well-educated, supported him in his learning so he was at first tutored privately at his home in Krapina, later attending the Latin Gymnasium in Varaždin and Karlovac, and studying philosophy in Vienna and Graz as well as law in Pécs. However, Krapina continued to be his permanent inspiration. Inspired by the story of Čeh, Leh and Meh, he wrote Brevis descriptio loci Krapinae in Latin as a 15-year-old boy. It was published in 1826 in Karlovac in German, entitled Die Schlösser bei Krapina. Due to Gaj Krapina became one of the retreats of the members of the Illyrian movement. The Romanticist spirit and especially the beauty of the nature surrounding Krapina was inspiring for many members of the movement – Gaj, Vraz, Rakovac, Vukotinović, Kukuljević – and it filled them with admiration for the beauty of their Croatian homeland. Here, like in many other places where the Illyrian spirit could be felt, they could join Dr Gaj in exclaiming: “Croatia will not fall while we’re alive...”

The entire region of Zagorje enthusiastically accepted Gaj’s ideas: castles, mansions and parish houses were meeting places for the members of the Illyrian movement.
Gaj was a thinker in the Enlightenment vain in the most literal meaning of the word. He was the bearer of a new light – the awareness of the Croatian national and cultural identity. In line with his efforts, libraries and reading rooms were opened in many towns, books were printed and theatre plays performed. During the period of the Illyrian movement, Krapina lived a full life. In 1845 a reading club was founded and was home to a society named “Domorodni dom” (National home), chaired by Nestor Kiepach. An amateur theatre society was also active during the period, and their first performance was on 29 August 1841 on the temporary stage at the Josip Lellis’ factory, which was renovated for that occasion. Two pieces were performed in front of the full auditorium: “Horvatska vernost” (Croatian Fidelity) and “Broj 777” (Number 777), the prologue of which was written by Ivan Mažuranić. In 1847 the first Croatian opera “Ljubav i zloba” (Love and Malice) by Vatroslav Lisinski was performed in Krapina by the amateur theatre group and a choral society. Today, the house in which Ljudevit Gaj was born, which still stands in Ljudevit Gaj Street, houses a Memorial Museum. Most of the exhibits are connected to Dr Gaj and his personal life.

Historical centre of the town of Krapina

The historical centre of the town has been preserved until this day. It encompasses Gaj Street, Ljudevit Gaj Square, Magistrate’s Street and the Croatian Cultural Revival Promenade. This area is an important contribution to the ambience of this small town, having preserved urban and architectural elements of historical significance. Many of the Classicist facades have been renovated and decorated with flowers, and some of them also feature details from the Secession/Modernist period.

Today, Krapina remains a market town. The main streets are filled with shops, boutiques, restaurants and cafes luring the passersby with their tempting products.
The centre of the town is its square bearing the name of one of the leading figures of the Croatian National Revival, Dr Ljudevit Gaj. The townsfolk of Krapina built him a monument as early as 1891, created by the sculptor Ivan Rendić. Gaj Square, the place where the main streets of the town meet, is the centre of Krapina and represents the very essence of the town – if you do not live in the centre, coming to the square means coming to Krapina. Krapina is a town which reflects a certain intimacy and closeness where everything is close by, near and connected.

Town Gallery – the Majcen House

One of the most famous houses in Krapina is the late 19th century house of the Majcen family, who were well-known lawyers. Many reputable names visited the family on a frequent basis, including the likes of J. J. Strossmayer and A. Starčević. Dr Vlatko Maček was a legal clerk with Dr Josip Majcen in 1912. The twentieth century and its wars meant the end of many reputable families. After the family went bankrupt during World War II, the Majcens became poor. Their only two direct successors, Zdenka and Nada, gave the house to the Town and wanted it to be turned into a gallery.

The gallery was opened on the occasion of the 800th anniversary of the foundation of the town with the exhibition of the famous painter Edo Kovačević. During the past year, since its opening, the Gallery has hosted several exhibitions and it also houses the collection of paintings from the Kajkavian Song Festival (naive painters of the Kajkavian-speaking area) and the former Hušnjakovo Gallery (contemporary Croatian art).