A GOOD PLACE TO SETTLE DOWN
I never moved from my home town. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, but it’s nothing unusual in Slovenia. I was born in Celje, which is one of the largest cities. The city was built by the river Savinja and grew very fast after WWII. Today, the population of Celje is over 37,600. There are many interesting places and buildings to see in the center of town as well as in the surroundings.
Residents like me tend to be somewhat cocky about the history of Celje, since major events in our long history have left marks all over the city. Our city emblem is on the national flag, three yellow stars on blue, and an iconic symbol of the city.
The history of the city goes way back to the Hallstatt era in the eighth century. In Celtic times the settlement was known as Keleia. Findings from that period suggest that Celts coined what is called Noric money in the region.
In 15 BC, when occupied by the Roman Empire, Celje was named Civitas Celeia. In AD 45 during the reign of the Roman emperor Claudius it received municipal rights and was given the name Claudia Celeia. It was densely populated and secured with walls and towers. It started to flourish, had many great buildings, and an extensive system of streets and highways were built. As a result of all the construction, Claudia Celeia became known as little Troy.
In the 5th and 6th centuries the Romans fled when Slavic peoples invaded and settled in our part of the world during a period of great migration.
LOVE, PASSION AND INTRIGUES
The greatest period in Celje’s history begins when the Counts of Celje arrive on the scene during the Medieval period. It was a time of knights, noble families, castles, and battles to gain territory and power. But like any other time, love was a force that changed even the greatest of plans.
A very ambitious family called the Nobel family of Zovnek inherited Celje’s castle from the Count of Vovberk in 14th century. When Herman the 2nd took over, the family made important alliances and connections, becoming one of the most important and influential Slovene families. Herman had great plans to acquire as much land and power as possible and did not hesitate to sacrifice his children to achieve that end.
His son Frideric was forced to marry Elizabeth Frankopan, a member of Hungarian nobility from Croatia. She was a very cold and unlovable woman and their marriage wasn’t happy. They did, however, manage to have a son. Friderik was a passionate man, and always looking for adventure. He spent many nights with young and vibrant local girls. As a result, the story goes, he also had many illegitimate descendants (and the rumors are that we, the people of Celje, are the result).
Friderik is also supposed to be the one guilty of two stars vanishing from the city coat of arms. Boys from the nearby village of Teharje caught him chasing after girls as usual one night and captured him. He had to promise to give Teharje two stars to let him go. So, two of the original five stars from the emblem of his family went to Teharje. But this didn’t stop him from searching for what he could not find at home. Finally he met a girl who took his heart.
A simple girl from the lower nobility, Veronika did not know who he was at the start. After she found out it was too late. By that time their hearts were burning for each other. They spent passionate moments together and Frideric began to think about how to get out of his empty marriage. He finally decided there was no other way but to murder his hated wife. So he did. But his father Herman found out and to say the least was not pleased. He built a tower beside the castle, named Frideric’s tower, and imprisoned him inside. He then accused Veronika of witchcraft. She was brought to trial but was acquitted. Herman was furious. She stood in the way of his plans, and he sent his knights after her. They captured and drowned her. They say Veronika’s ghost still wanders around. I don’t know if that’s true. I’ve never seen it.
Frideric’s tower still stands. It was recently renovated and is open for visitors. Old walls hide the very truth but will never let us know.
Herman also had a daughter. Coming next.