Field research of the Institute


Klenovec Humski-mediaeval fortified town Vrbovec

Settlement, town, county: Klenovec Humski, Hum na Sutli, Krapina-Zagorje

Site type: mediaeval fortified town

Period: prehistory, Late Middle Ages

Type of excavation: systematic

Institution: Institute of Archaeology

Excavation manager: Prof Željko Tomičić (1987, 1994, 2001-2004) and Dr Tatjana Tkalčec (2004-today)

Mediaeval Vrbovec was indirectly mentioned in historical written sources already in 1267, and directly as castrum Vrbouch in 1354. In spite of references in historical sources, for instance, it is known that it was owned by King Sigismund, then by the Counts of Cilli, King Matthias Corvinus and ban Jan Vitovec, little is known about the functioning of the town and about its infrastructure, although this fortified town was at one point the centre of the entire archdeaconry of Vrbovec. The valuable archaeological finds painted a comprehensive picture of the fortification that lay almost forgotten for centuries. The life in the fortified town began already in the 12th century. The Romanesque town erected towards the end of the 12th century or the beginning of the 13th century consisted of a perimeter wall, a palace in the north with economic structures at the ground level, a defense tower in the south, a courtyard with a cistern and, probably, accessory timber structures in the south-eastern and eastern parts of the courtyard; there was also a small trapezoidal eastern room within the core of the town, annexed in the later phases of existence of the mediaeval town, that is, in the latter half of the 15th century. The rooms at ground level were used for economic purposes (kitchen and storages), while the floor(s) were used as the living quarters of the lord, with bedrooms and representative rooms for living, heated with richly-decorated tile stoves. The assemblage of finds suggests that for eating and drinking the nobles used luxuriously decorated knives, glass and ceramic cups and jugs. Outside the town core, adjacent to the north-eastern part of the perimeter wall, an elongated structure was annexed in the earliest phases, which was probably a defended entrance into the core of the town. The recent investigations in 2012 showed that we may expect similar annexed rooms on the slopes of the site, adjacent to the perimeter wall of the town.

By employing archaeological methods, we gained insight into major building transformations of the fortified town during the rule of the Counts of Cilli. We also found out that life in Vrbovec lasted longer than previously thought. Although a mediaeval document from 1463 mentions the destroyed town of Vrbovec (abolitum castrum Wrbowcz), which is further substantiated by a 1497 document (montem Werbowcz desertum, in quo castrum olim Werbowcz extasse dicitur), the archaeological investigations showed that life resumed in the first half of the 16th century, when a mighty wooden tower was erected on the ruins of the mediaeval fortified town. The finds of luxurious objects allow the conclusion that the tower was not only used as a guardhouse, but also accommodated wealthy nobles. Based on this knowledge, we can associate certain historical documents about conflicts between the Kotvić and Rattkay families with this site.




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