Treasure Chest

Knights' sanctuary and a mountaineering town

Knights' sanctuary and a mountaineering town


On the northern slopes, among the velvety hills that surround Mt. Ivančica, Roman remains were found more than six centuries ago, and over time the settlement that we know today as Ivanec was formed.

How Ivanec got its name

The name Ivanec comes from the chapel dedicated to Saint John the Baptist (John=Ivan, t/n), which the believers built long ago in the 13th century, not far from today's Parish Church of St. Mary Magdalene. The original name of the settlement was "Općina Svetog Ivana", and over time the toponyms Ivanec and Ivančica developed, which previously bore the name Očura. Even today, Ivanec proudly emphasizes its roots from the past. Thus, every June 24, on the feast day of Saint John the Baptist, the "Day of the Town of Ivanec" is celebrated.

Knights Hospitaller and Pusta Bela

Historians have long documented the importance of medieval Bela, the headquarters of the order "Fratres hospitalis sancti Johannis Iherisolimamitani", or better known as the "Order of Saint John of Jerusalem". The community named "Ivanovci" grew out of this order. A large estate that stretched from the borders of the city of Varaždin to Lepoglava on both sides of Mt. Ivančica was managed from Pusta Bela, located at the entrance to Belski dol. Apart from Bela, the Hospitallers (Ivanovci) had properties in Cerje, Jurketinec and Ivanec. Punikve was already mentioned in 1304, and Cerje Tužno in 1306. Under certain conditions, the Hospitallers rented these estates to deserving individuals who defended the Bela estate.

First mention of Ivanec

The first mention of Ivanec dates back to 1421 and was recorded in a document that was distributed to the residents of the municipality of Sveti Ivan on February 22, 1421, in Pakrac. In that document, the ban of Croatia and Dalmatia, Albert de Nagmihal, met the request of people from Ivanec for the confirmation of their privileges from 1396. This document, crucial for the historical identity of Ivanec, was hidden in Budapest until it was discovered by Ivan Kukuljević Sakcinski, who first mentioned it in 1886.

Thanks to the efforts of Metod Hrg, an archivist from Ivanec, the document was found in the Croatian State Archives after the archival materials were returned from Hungary. Ivanec was thus confirmed as a settlement present before 1396 as part of the Hospitallers’ estate in Bela. After the Knights Hospitaller left Croatia in 1405, Ivanec changed different owners. The first recorded owner after the Knights Hospitaller was Matko Talovac in 1439, and later Jano Vitovac and his sons from 1446. Unfortunately, the new owners did not respect the previous privileges of the people from Ivanec and the surrounding area, which resulted in their degrading status as ordinary serfs.

Knights Hospitaller – historical unit

"Today you are protected by knights, when you hear the rustle of leaves, know that a knight is guarding you."

The Knights Hospitaller are a unique historical unit and tourist attraction in Ivanec that gathers individuals with common interests dedicated to the preservation of historical heritage and performing various social and cultural activities. The Knights Hospitaller are the only organized historical unit in Croatia, but also in the wider region, which continues the tradition of that knightly order.

The town of Ivanec was mentioned for the first time in 1396, and it is connected to the knightly order of the Knights Hospitaller, known as the Knights of Malta, who had possessions in this area until the order was abolished in Croatia in the 17th century.

Today's members of the Association continue this tradition and proudly wear uniforms and weapons from the Middle Ages faithfully reconstructed according to historical sources.

Members have access to two types of medieval uniforms replicas, spanning the period from the 11th to the 15th century. They are one of the rare organizations in Croatia and beyond, that nurtures the tradition of the knightly order of the Knights Hospitaller of Malta, with the inspiration of Saint John the Baptist as its patron.

As a gesture of gratitude and security, they charge a "toll" in the form of a ceramic seal of the knights, guaranteeing travelers a safe passage under their protection, along with the famous verse by Boris Jagetić Daraboš: "Today you are protected by knights, when you hear the rustling of leaves, know that a knight is guarding you."