Mysterious fortress Gradisce
Gradišče Hill, also known as Cukovec, is located northwest of the village of Margečan and south of the village of Gačice. Administratively, it belongs to the local self-government of Ivanec in Varaždn County.
On the top of the hill there are remains of the Gradišče fortress. It is remarkably large and about 152m long with average width of 28m. The walls are up to two metres thick and there is also a bergfried, whose most threatened part is 11 x 11m large. This fortress has not been mentioned in written sources and its medieval name is also unknown. Under the leadership of Juraj Belaj, Ph. D., Institute of Archaeology, a ten-day-long trial trenching research of the fortress was conducted in the early autumn of 2004. At the end of the research an approximate ground plan was made. Movable material found in trenches has not helped to date the period of construction and establishment of the fortress, only about ten fragments of medieval pottery were found. The majority of the material dates back to the upland settlement established in the period of the older phase of the Urnfield Culture (1300 – 1100 BC) during the late Bronze Age. Nevertheless, the fortress is not only placed inside the borders of Bela preceptory, i.e. commandery of the Knights Hospitaller (Knights Hospitaller of St John of Jerusalem, the Hospitallers), but some other indicators confirm as well that the Knights Hospitaller must have built this fortress with pronounced economic features: the outline of the fortress alone, i.e. its longitude, presence of particular construction elements, massive walls and the fact it has not been mentioned in historical sources. The fortress on Gradišče could have been a sort of a fortified stopping place for crusaders and pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land, whereas, if necessary, it could have been used as a place of safety by local people.
It is definitely necessary to continue archaeological research as only new findings can help date the fortress precisely.
Site type: late medieval fortress
Period: late Bronze Age (Urnfield Culture), late Medieval Period
Research type: archaeological trial trenching excavation
Research beneficiary: Institute of Archaeology
Research leader and text: Juraj Belaj, Ph.D., (2004)
To the southwest, not far away from the Gradišče site, there are numerous large irregular compact rocks, among which a large massive rock with a stone shaped as a chair, the so called “Devil's Chair”, stands out. There is a folk belief that this stone chair has supernatural healing power. According to folk tales, the spruce tree growing above the chair is always the same size.
From the site there is a lovely view of the road system, the Church of the Holy Spirit in Prigorec, Lepoglava, and Ravna Gora. The River Bednja winds at the foot of the hill. The place was perfect for observation and passage control in the past, and today it is a beautiful lookout.
The hill itself is interesting being rich in conifers growing literally out of rocks, and the almost invisible transition from broadleaf into the conifer forest is especially fascinating. Regarding the diversity of plant and forest vegetation, it is indeed rare to see such a combination of coastal and continental features in the northwest part of Croatia. Here, in a way, one can find a mystique landscape combination or synergy of one microsite.
Authors of texts and photos: Juraj Belaj, Ph.D., (Institute of Archaeology) and Boris Jagetić Daraboš