Ilok – Palace of the Dukes of Ilok / Church of St. Peter the Apostle

Settlement, town, county: Ilok, Vukovar-Syrmia County

Site type: stratified settlement and cemetery

Period: prehistory, Antiquity, Middle Ages, Modern period

Type of excavation: salvage

Institution: Institute of Archaeology

Excavation manager: Prof Željko Tomičić (2001-2008)

The salvage archaeological and conservation investigations of the Palace of the Dukes of Ilok (the Odescalchi Palace) were carried out with the aim to restore the architectural complex of the Upper Town of Ilok within the framework of the project Investigation, restoration and revitalization of the cultural heritage Ilok-Vukovar-Vučedol. Based on the results of previous salvage excavations and chance finds it is known that the loess plateau of the right bank of the Danube was inhabited continually through all the periods of prehistory. Ancient historical sources place the fortification and settlement of Cuccium in Ilok. The town experienced its heyday from the mid-15th century, when it became an important political, ecclesiastical and economic centre during the rule of Nicholas of Ilok and his son Lawrence.

The excavations at the Palace of the Dukes of Ilok corroborated the continuing traces of prehistoric settlements, from the Late and Early Iron Ages, through the entire Bronze Age, the late phase of the Copper Age, until the Late Stone Age. There were also abundant traces of habitation during Late Antiquity, as well as the remains of a necropolis. The graves yielded weapons, costume items, jewellery, toilet accessories and funerary gifts. One of the most important finds is a sword in a scabbard (gladius) of the Mainz type, with a preserved belt (cingulum). Pots with food and drink, as well as lamps, were deposited in the graves. Seeds of cereals and fruits were found in the vessels, most commonly grapevine cultivated on the slopes of Mount Fruška gora. The graves date from the first half of the 1st century and probably contained the burials of members of the local aristocracy.

The investigations defined the entire north wing, measuring 47.50 x 17.70 m, as well as the entrance structure of the two-floor palace of the Ilok Dukes, erected in the mid-15th century by Nicholas of Ilok. The level of the floor shows that these were cellars entered from the courtyard through the stairs. The layer of burning distinguished on the floors points to the destruction of the court by fire during the siege of the town of Ilok by King Vladislaus II Jagiellon in the winter of 1494, or during the Ottoman conquest in 1526. The fills of the foundation trenches of the perimeter walls yielded coins of Ladislaus IV (1440-1457), which are important for dating the construction of the palace.

The excavations also yielded fragments of polychrome stove tiles from workshops in Regensburg and Tyrol, which most likely come from the chivalric hall on the upper floor. The finds that may be associated with the Turkish domination bear witness to life around the palace, which—according to the sources—was in a bad state, especially the north wing, which was entirely deconstructed at the end of the 17th century. The youngest structures bear testimony to the renovations carried out by the members of the Odescalchi family over the course of more than two centuries.

The second zone of investigations focused on the church of St. Peter the Apostle, which was documented in the test excavations carried out in the 1950s. The church has a spacious three-part nave with a brick floor, within which were discovered six pairs of massive columns and an altar mensa. A polygonal apse closed the eastern part, while the western façade was fronted by a bell-tower. Massive stone buttresses were discovered on the perimeter walls of the church, while the spaces between them are occupied by inhumation burials from the Late Middle Ages and the Modern period.

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Gallery

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