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Gradec & Kaptol – Stories You Should Be Aware Off While Walking the Streets of Zagreb

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Yes, you’ve heard it right – Zagreb is the city of witches. But, it’s only a funny story. What really happened is a story to tell.

Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, has lately seen a prominent rise in popularity as a tourist destination. As a matter of fact, Zagreb is the fastest growing destination in Croatia thanks to numerous events happening in its public spaces throughout a year and its rich cultural heritage.

Zagreb the Capital of Croatia
Zagreb the Capital of Croatia

But Zagreb was in fact built on the centuries-long conflict between two historical towns –
Gradec and Kaptol.

It’s a common thing in Croatia. We are known to be a nation of proud people. We can easily get upset. And when we’re upset we get really stubborn. And a simple fight between neighbours can take on forever.

So goes the story of Gradec and Kaptol, two towns built on two neighbouring hills, separated one from another for not more than a couple of dozens of meters. But, no matter how close, the history of their rivalry is a long and bloody one.

First, there was Kaptol, the town situated on the eastern hill. Kaptol was under the jurisdiction of the Catholic church. After the conquest of the Tatarian army, the town of Gradec was built of the western hill. As opposed to Kaptol, Gradec was a free royal town, given its royal charter by Béla IV of Hungary in 1242.
Zagreb from the Sky
Zagreb from the Sky

Ever since Gradec was built, two towns were fighting for a number of reasons. In political turmoil of those days, Kaptol and Gradec were regularly on opposing sides. But the cause of quarrel was always the same – the desire to profit on the neighbours’ account, either by acquiring land possessions or by the acquittal or the release of various tolls and dues, regardless of the justification and legality of such initiatives.

What they really fought over was a privilege to use water from the stream of Medveščak, stream that was separating two hills and was flowing in a place of today’s Tkalčićeva Street. Both towns were using water from the stream for their mills and both towns claimed their right to it.

There aren’t many official records on actual events, the earliest dating from the year 1375. Much more is preserved through stories and novels. Especially novels of Marija Jurić Zagorka, the first female journalist in Croatia and the author of several first-class thriller novels about Zagreb.
The Statue of Marija Jurić Zagorka
The Statue of Marija Jurić Zagorka
The first known incident, although it’s quite sure Kaptol and Gradec also argued before, happened in 1375. Setting fires, rapes, open battles, gunfire, robberies, murders – all vividly described in records. Series of incidents finally led to open war in 1391 when bishop Ivan deicided to bomb Gradec with cannonballs. They bombed Gradec only to spoil the Christmas Eve for its citizens.

The meanest series of events took place at the end of the 14th century. In 1396 Kaptol started a campaign against residents of Gradec over some wine and wheat distribution agreements. 22 male Kaptolians broke into Gradec and devastated several men and women. Gradec responded violently breaking back into Kaptol and devastating their treasures. Then Kaptol was on the move again. They crashed mills owned by Gradec and attacked several villages in Gradec county with arrows on fire. Finally, Bishop Ivan excommunicated Gradec. In medieval age, it meant a curse. And the death of a cursed could not lie in the same grave as did the “righteous”. So they excavated the bodies publicly.

Your CTC Team, I.K.

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