In a range of only a couple of miles, the visitors can experience the history of Kalnik, ever since the Copper and Bronze Age, throughout the Roman Empire and the turbulent Middle Ages all the way to the World War II.
On just a few square kilometers, visitors can experience the spirit of history from the Copper Age, the Bronze Age, the age of the Roman Empire, the turbulent Middle Ages, to the Second World War.
On the Kalnik area there are several archaeological sites from the ancient history to the late Middle Ages. The oldest archaeological site is located on the Stari grad Veliki Kalnik complex, where the remains of Lasinja culture have been found. That culture, which belongs to the Enolit period, the Copper Age, 14th st. BC, densely inhabited the entire Kalnik area. Among the important findings, it is worthy to mention the archaeological site Igrišće, which belongs to the Urnfield culture (the earlier Bronze Age). It was found on Poučna staza (instructive trail).
The first written traces of Kalnik reach to the Middle Ages, when the king Bela IV mentions it as a royal town, ”castrum nostrum Kemluk” because of its important role in the defense from the Tatars.
The Middle Ages are a period of the biggest uprising of Kalnik, which was the center of the county at the time. As the old documents state, the name Veliki Kalnik at first denoted the area of the Veliki Kalnik county, while the medieval town (castrum, fortress) is mentioned under that name in 1243 and 1264 as a royal property. Since the 14th century, below the castrum, the medieval subordium named Brezovica is being developed, from which the village Kalnik has developed later on.
In the series of interesting facts from the rich history of Veliki Kalnik, we can not fail to mention the legend of the plum farmers of Kalnik, which tells us that the Tatars tried to force the defenders of Kalnik to surrender by surrounding and starving them, but the brave peasants secretly fed them with plums and in that way made the conquerors give up further conquest.
It is also interesting that, in the town dungeons, the Bulgarian king Strahimir Aleksandrović was being held hostage by King Ludwig I from 1365 to 1369. Strahimir’s numerous entourage came with him to Kalnik. However, when king Strahimir was returning to Vidin after the established peace and his release, some of the Bulgarians didn’t want to come with him because they got married and made their homes below Kalnik hill. In a charter from 1609, a judge from Brezovica Stjepan Bugarin is mentioned. This last name remained in the area of Kalnik and Kamešnica until today.
In the late 14th century, Hungaro-Croatian king Sigismund (Žigmund) and his wife Barbara of Celje resided in Veliki Kalnik. She was mean and known among the folk under the name ”The Black Queen”. The Turks never conquered Veliki Kalnik, although they invaded it in the late 16th and 17th century, and in 1565, in the nearby Obrež, they suffered one of their significant defeats. Many later owners of Veliki Kalnik made alterations and built annexes on the rocks, so that it has architectonic elements in Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque style. In the 17th century, families Drašković and Orehovečki owned the fortress and the estate, later the families Ožegović, Patačić and, in the end, Ožegović. After the end of the Turk danger and the new security and economic organization in the 18th century, the fortress Veliki Kalnik loses its function and importance and the life moves to the village Kalnik and further in the tame foothil region of Kalnik.
Today’s remains date from numerous periods, and the high square tower is the remains that especially stands out. It got its final shape in the 16th century, with pillow-like corner stones, beautifully hewn in the windows, and a spiral staircase inside the fortress. In the eastern part of the old town, foundations of a chapel are preserved. In the 17th century, a Baroque court-yard has been added on. Today, a staircase leads to the top of the fortress, and from the top of the highest tower there is a beautiful view on the foothill landscape. During good weather, the tops of Psunj, Papuk, Zrinska gora and Petrova gora can be seen from the hill.
Church of St. Brcko
Church of St. Brcko is mentioned as a parish church in 1501, but the building itself is probably older, although there is no written evidence.
Next to the church stands a monumental campanile tower, which was a shelter from conquerors and robbers in the Middle Ages. What makes it specific is a high entrance that could be accessed only by ladders, and the narrow windows, so-called arrow slits.
Valuable 14th century gothic frescoes from the earliest phase of the construction have been preserved in the church. The frescoes depict the death of the martyr St Peter of Verona. They were a donation from King Ludwig I. This shows the importance of the former free royal town Brezovice, as well as the cultural church patrons, masters of the Great Kalnik.
The church was reconstructed in 1518, when it got its late-gothic structure, unchanged until today. In that phase of the reconstruction, the entire sanctuary was painted with rustic wall paintings (frescoes), which are probably the work of a local artist from the early 16th century.
The frescoes from that period depict: Christ in glory, the sun and the moon, symbols of the Evangelist Apostles and angels on the ceiling; and on the walls, divided in three zones: saints, apostles, the head of Christ, three-headed Holy Trinity and two feudal donors (probably Tomo Bakač Erdödy and the builder of the sanctuary Baltazar Alapić or his son Ivan).
There used to be late-baroque furniture in the church, as well as the 15th century gothic wooden carving ”The birth of Christ”, which was brought to the parish church in Križevci, where it has been until today. With its architecture, Church of St. Brcko has an important place in the Croatian sacral art, especially by revealing the complex style changes of the late Middle Ages.
Chapel of St.Andrew
Chapel of St. Andrew in Kamešnica is an example of a valuable gothic chapel with baroque changes. The chapel is one of the rare ones in the north-western Croatia which has preserved its original gothic outside shape, while the gothic details were devastated in the Baroque.
The first written mention of the chapel dates from 1377, when it was blessed by the Skradin’s Archbishop Michael. It’s a one-nave building with a rectangular sanctuary.
The chapel entrance in the middle of the nave – a spiked stone portal, reminds of the gothic 15th century. There is a rustic rosette on the main front, above which rises a small rudimental campanile shaped as a distaff.
Traces of pointed gothic windows are also visible in the chapel. These windows used to reach much lower to the ground, but they were probably partially bricked up in the Baroque. The chapel’s roof was originally covered with wooden shingles, which are assumed to be the only possible cover, considering the steepness of the roof. The chapel got back its original wooden shingles and distaff-shaped campanile in 2008.
In the documents from 1380, a manorial citadel on a location near the chapel is mentioned, but today there are no significant remains of it, except some scattered stone material around the chapel.