Dr. Juraj Belaj, scientific advisor
Juraj Belaj was born in 1968 in Ptuj, Slovenia. He received his education in Zagreb, where he graduated from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences of the University of Zagreb in 1997 with a degree in Archaeology and Information Sciences. He received his Master's degree in 2001 (“Archaeological inheritance of military orders in North-Western continental Croatia“) and his PhD (“Archaeological verification of the presence of the Knights Templar and the Knights of St. John in the area of Ivanščica“) in 2005 from the Department of Archaeology at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb.
He joined the Institute of Archaeology in Zagreb in 1997 and in 2013 he was appointed to the academic title of research associate. Since 1997 he has continuously been taking part in scientific research projects dealing with Croatia's mediaeval archaeological heritage: “Mediaeval Archaeological Heritage of Continental Croatia” (1997-2002), “Mediaeval Archaeological Heritage of Croatia” (5th-16th century) (2002-2006), and “Mediaeval Archaeological Heritage of Croatia” (5th-17th century) (2007-20012) (all the projects were led by Prof. Željko Tomičić). In 2013, he led the project of the Ministry of Science, Education and Sport “Mediaeval Archaeological Heritage of Croatia” (5th-17th century)”. He participated in several archaeological investigations: Zbelava, Slivnica (Slovenia), Hoče (Slovenia), Nijemci, Zvonimirovo, Hajndl (Slovenia), Ilok. He managed multiannual investigations in Ivanec (old town with the chapel of St. John the Baptist), on Prozorje near Dugo Selo (St. Martin's church) and in Gora (the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary), and at the Gradišće fortification near Margečan (trial excavations).
Since 2012, he has been teaching the course “Croatian Archaeological Heritage” at the Croatology Department of the Centre for Croatian Studies, University of Zagreb. He is the author of two exhibitions on archaeological investigations in Ivanec (in 2003 and 2008), He is a member of the following professional associations: European Association of Archaeologists, Société Internationale d´Ethnologie et de Folklore, Croatian Archaeological Society and the Croatian Hagiography Society “Hagiotheca”. He is a member of the editorial board of the scientific journal “Contributions of the Institute of Archaeology in Zagreb” and a member of the council of the journal “Historia Varasdiensis. Časopis za varaždinsku povjesnicu”. He is a member of the organisational board of the international scientific conference “Cemeteries and funeral customs in the mediaeval and early modern period in northern Croatia” (Institute of Archaeology, 2014).
His research interests mostly revolve around mediaeval topics: from issues dealing with the arrival of the Slavs and Croats and their early organisation of the newly occupied lands, Christianisation and issues dealing with the presence and influence of military orders in this part of Europe, to the interpretation of certain modern age finds. Lately, his interests have mainly focussed on the sacral interpretation of space: he has been researching and trying to interpret the principles that governed the manner in which Slavs, after arriving to these parts and before Christianisation, designed their sacred space.