the oldest Slovenian city
years on the crossroads between east and west
|A beautiful historical
township of 32 000 inhabitants, Ptuj is the oldest Slovenian
city and proudly conscious of its rich 2000 year history.
With its pre-Roman, Roman and Slavic history, and its mediaeval
heritage, it has earned the status of a Museum Town. Its
living traditions - wine-growing, festivals and several
annual fairs - have made it into a lively, culturally rich
and thriving place.
Today Ptuj, surrounded by
vineyards and spreading charmingly on the wide powerfully
flowing river Drava makes the most of its long and extraordinary
history, captured in its buildings and monuments. It is
a magnificent location. The Castle on the hill above,
Dominican and Minorite monasteries, and the Drava River
below, describe a triangle which embraces the town and
which gave it the characteristic triangular silhouette
it still boasts today and which is unique in Europe.
The greatest showpiece of
Ptuj is its Castle, a great stronghold, a mighty seat
of power and wealth, reconstructed during 18th and 19th
centuries into the magnificent castle that we know today.
view of the medieval core of Ptuj
figure, a unique feature of Ptuj`s Carneval.
Orpheus Monument, one of Ptuj's outstanding records
of its Roman past, also served as pillory for
dishonest merchants during the Middle Ages.
As a place of human settlement
the Castle Hill has a history that goes far beyond the
military fortifications of the Romans. Archeological findings
have revealed that the Castle Hill was settled as early
as the end of the Stone Age or in the beginning of Copper
Age (around 2100-1750BC). Romans established a fortified
outpost on the Hill during the 1st century AD, with a
small fortress and a basilica. The fortification became
a flourishing city, the first Roman staging post, expanding
the Roman empire, along the so-called Roman Road and linking
the east and the west. It became a city at the time of
emperor Trajan, named in his honour, Colonia Ulpia Traiana
Poetovio; the first record of it dated 69 AD.
After more than 4 centuries
Romans left, giving way to the turbulence inside the empire
and fierce attacks by Germanic tribes, Huns and Hungarians.
The evidence of strong and established Slovenian population
in the 6th century is provided by the historian Paul Diakon
who referred in his record of 595 AD to Carantania; Provincia
Sclaborum (Carantania, province of Slavs), indicating
an established and administered civil state or province.
The excavations on the Tournament Field on the western
flat castle ground delivered further evidence. Over 400
old-Slavic graves (8th - 11th century) were uncovered,
containing a rich collection of old-Slavic objects and
possibly remains of an old-Slavic shrine.
During the Middle Ages Ptuj became one of the most important
commercial centres of Europe on the par with London and
Paris of our time. It obtained town rights as early as
977AD. Home to the wealthiest citizens of Europe of the
time, it accumulated wealth and influence that came from
trade between Pannonia and the Italian Peninsula, just
as it did at the time of Romans.
In 1376 it was granted a
statute, one of the few cities of Europe to have one,
and became a market town. Conferred upon a town by the
feudal Lord, the market was a privilege, as well as a
sign of town's independence. The existing rules regarding
trading had to be considered by all craftsmen and merchants,
who came to Ptuj to sell their wares. For a period from
one to four weeks, special additional rules were in force
and certain exceptional privileges granted. A "market
judge" was appointed to decide about controversial cases.
Ptuj continued to flourish until the beginning of Turkish
incursions during the 16th century. The Ptuj Castle regained
its key position as one of the line of fortified and strongly
held castles fortresses guarding Europe against Turkish
invasions, which lasted well into the 17th century. However
the trade routes were destroyed during this period, which
brought immense suffering to the Slovenian population,
and Ptuj itself never regained its former status as trading
Ptuj is fascinating place to
visit. It is a unique place, a jewel of a historical town,
where buildings, pavements, walls and ancient monuments
bear witness to a rich and proud past. There are traces
of the past everywhere. The frontages of the houses contain
stones hewn in Roman times, in the soil of the town archeologists
are constantly discovering stone, ceramic and metal traces
of Roman age. Best of all, in the town centre stands the
tombstone of the Roman mayor Marcus Valerius Vero from the
2nd century. The five metres tall monument is called the
Orpheus Monument due to the mythical scenes ingraved in
bas relief upon it. Unique records of the Roman period unearthed
in the area, are the Mithraic shrines
dedicated to the soldiers' god Mithra.
However, the Ptuj area has more to offer than monuments
of the past millenia. It has the living tradition of wine-growing
which goes back much further than Roman period. The areas
around Ptuj, Haloze and Slovenske gorice are reknown for
their vineyards and wine-growing tradition which continues
to produce some of the best wines of Slovenia. The viticulture
did develop under Romans and flourished, leading to another
well established tradition, reaching back eight centuries
- the cellaring.
The Minorite monks have kept records of cellars under
the town-houses of Ptuj, going back 8 centuries. They
were used for fermentation and storing of wine. Today
many such cellars still exist and can be visited. The
Minorite Monastery, built in the 13th century, was dedicated
to teaching and functioned in Ptuj for 7 centuries.
The monastery contains a rich 5000 volume library of
important manuscripts, including a 10th century codex
and a original copy of the New Testament (1561 AD),
translated into Slovenian by Primoz Trubar. This is
one of the most valuable documents of the Slovenian
Ptuj with surrounding villages also boasts a unique
spring carnival kurentovanje (interior link), when streets
are filled with the ancient Kurent figures, traditionally
harbingers of spring, chasing away winter demons. The
festival is unique in Slovenia, dating to pagan times
- Kurent is a kind of Slovenian Dyonisus - and attracts
many visitors to enjoy the frightening Kurent figures,
running about the town and villages with deafening noise
in their 50 kilos costumes.
of the beautiful rooms in the Ptuj 's castle, exhibiting
Ptuj is also reknown for its concerts and festivals, fairs
and markets, which attract merchants and visitors from
afar. This strong tradition has originated in the Middle
Ages, when Ptuj was an important and trading centre. Visitors
are still attracted to Ptuj fairs and festivities, flocking
from all over Slovenia and neighbouring countries to enjoy
themselves and taste the local produce, especially the
wines of Haloze and Slovenske gorice.
The Castle of Ptuj: http://www.ptuj.si/ang/index_slo.htm
Wines of Slovenia: http://www.matkurja.com/projects/wine
Aleksandra Ceferin, Thezaurus(2002)