The Tržan Castle and the town of Modruša

Vjekoslav Klaić
Source: Knezovi krčki Frankapani

English translation: Anamarija Brusić

Photo by Dragan Rendulić

The most prominent place in the parish of Modruša was, as we have already mentioned, the Modruš Castle, which was also called the Tržan Castle (lat. castrum Thersan). Today the castle ruins can still be seen on a steep hill 680 metres above sea level along the Josephina road. The road leads from the village of Munjava near Karlovac above an 888-metre tall mountain pass that separates Velika and Mala Kapela to the village of Jezerane near Senj. From the ruins, which offer a wonderful view of Oštarije, Plaški, Carevopolje, and Ogulin, it is clear that the Tržan Castle was facing south, and it had a quadrangular tower on its eastern side and a redoubt on its western side. There also used to be a chapel, but neither history nor tradition knows about its name. The castle itself had to be spacious and comfortable, for the proud Carrara, the wife of Count Stjepan II Frankopan and the mother of unfortunate Elizabeta who was married to the adventurous Count of Celje, Frederich II, didn’t shorten her stay between 1372 and 1390. At the foot of the hill, on which the Tržan castle stands, lay the town of Modruša. In 1343, it was called the square (lat. in foro Modrus), in 1449 the village (lat. oppidum), and in 1461 the city (lat. in civitate Modrussa). The ruins of the former village can still be seen today near the parish village of Gornji Modruš. The village was also surrounded by walls and towers and was often the home of the Frankopan counts. In particular, the village reached its peak when, by the order of Pope Pius II, it became the see of the Diocese of Corbavia, which from that moment was called the Diocese of Modruš. The bishops together with the chapter resided there for thirty-three years (1460-1493), and these were Nikola of Kotor, Antun of Zadar and Kristofor of Dubrovnik. While it was the seat of the bishops and their chapter, the town of Modruša flourished, so much that it competed with the best Croatian towns. According to a 1463 charter and other data, here is the description of the town. It was surrounded by walls and towers, and the two walls that extended uphill connected the village of Modruša with the Tržan Castle on the hill. Two gates led from the town: one on the east, and another on the west. Stjepan II Frankopan together with his son Bernardin ruled over the castle and the town, while their spiritual leader was the aforementioned Bishop Nikola of Kotor, a particular confidant of the Roman Pope. On the north side of the town walls stood the bishop’s palace or “the diocese”, and next to it was the Cathedral of St Mary (formerly known as the Church of St Mark). Next to the church stood an almost well-preserved bell tower that was there even in the century prior. The tower, of course, had no bell. The remains of vaults and tombstones with carved coats of arms prove that there used to be tombs there. In addition to the cathedral, there were more churches, such as the Church of the Holy Trinity, which, today, is the parish church (there is a simple carved figure in it, and there is something similar to a coat of arms under the bell tower in the chapel). Opposite the Church of the Holy Trinity, there is the Church of the Holy Spirit, the ruins of which are located on a hill. Along the walls on the west side, near the doors, was the Church of St Stjepan and not far from it was the Church of St Jelena. The Franciscan monastery with the Church of St Antun is also mentioned. The monastery was established in 1378 by Count Stjepan I Frankopan, but it cannot be determined whether it was located in the town itself or outside of it. There also used to be a “placa” (eng. square) in the town; the inhabitants were called “purgari modruški” (eng. citizens of Modruš), and they each had a “dvor” (eng. “manor”) (such as “dvor Žudijev”). The castle was supposedly ruled by viscounts on behalf of the Frankopan counts. And the counts themselves had their own houses in the town. “Purgari”, on the other hand, performed “simple and complex tasks” for the counts, and at the same time day had to pay “dacia” (eng. taxes). To the south of the Tržan Castle and the town of Modruša, almost right next to the mountain pass where the road over Gvozd ran, the famous Pauline Fathers’ Monastery of St Nikola together with the church rose on the top of a 623-metre hill. This monastery was an endowment of the Counts of Krk, and it was founded around 1390 by Prince Ivan V (Anž) Frankopan during his stay in Modruša with his wife Ana and son Nikola. From its founder and heirs, the monastery received a lot of lands and estates not only on the Croatian mainland but also on the island of Krk. In Croatian records this monastery is called “Sv. Mikule na Gvozdi” (eng. the Monastery of St Mikula on the hill of Gvozd). As it was rich and spacious, up to 80 monks lived there. All of them were Croatian and they served as the Glagolitic monks.

Discovering The Frankopan Heritage

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