The first mention of the city Varaždin
The first mention of the city Varaždin in historical sources, the oldest information about Varaždin, the name of the city mentioned here under the name Guarestin, its inhabitants and Guaresdienses, the names of Varaždin counties Beleé and Motmir, can be found in the document of King Bela III. issued in 1181 by which it adjudicates in the conflict over the possession of Varaždinske Toplice between the Zagreb Chapter and the Varaždin County Prefect Beleé.
What the city looked like at the time and how people lived here is hard to say. The town originated as a settlement of craftsmen and merchants along the medieval castrum at the crossroads of ancient Roman roads, on the stretch of today’s streets Optujska, Končareva, Vrazova, Zagrebačka, Braće Radića, Franjevački trg and Kukuljevićeva streets.
The Charter of 1209
Whilst in detention in the region of Varaždin, Andrew II, pretender to the Croatian – Hungarian throne, was aided by locals. When he assumed power, Varaždin was honoured for its hospitality. The Charter of 1209 granted them the rights of a free royal city. Varaždin therefore became the first city in continental Croatia whose citizens could choose their own ‘Rihtar’ (Judge) and were not obliged to pay taxes. The Charter is now kept in the Historical Archives.
Varaždin as the capital
From 1756 Varaždin was the seat of the ‘Ban’ Franjo Nadasdy, who brought together the political, economic and cultural elite of the Croatian Kingdom. Queen Maria Theresa in 1767 subsequently founded the Croatian Royal Council with its headquarters in Varaždin and expressly determined that Varaždin became the capital of the Croatian Kingdom, Slavonia and Dalmatia. In a very short time the image of Varaždin changed and day on day, craftsmen and merchants were drawn to Varazdin.
The Fire of 1776.
Varaždin lost its Capital status due to tobacco. Or to be more specific, on the 25th April 1776 when the fire broke out on the City’s thatched roofs, it was due to the negligence of a local boy whose discarded tobacco burnt hay and set fire to homesteads. The fire soon spread to houses outside the city walls, and the city was engulfed as the wind carried the flames. Concealed in the basement of a merchants house was gunpowder, which exploded and caused even more panic among the citizens. It was not until the third day that the fire was extinguished. The inferno decimated almost 80% of Varaždin’s houses and buildings. The city was abandoned by the ‘Ban’, the Royal Council, the Parliament and The Aristocracy, and many citizens and craftsmen left.
The Museum of Croatian Firefighting
In 1864, whilst extinguishing a fire in the Jesuit College, the firefighters came up with the idea to establish a fire department, even though such entity did not exist in the whole of South Eastern Europe. The Brigade was founded in May 1864 and remains the oldest volunteer fire department in this part of Europe. At one point, the Brigade had as many as 200 members. Be sure to visit the Museum of Croatian Firefighting.
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