Echoes of History: The Enigmatic Ruins of Novigrad na Dobri and Their Timeless Tale

The town, once walked by Croatian nobles, counts, knights, aristocrats, and where Joseph II of Habsburg slept, is a must-see!

Located near Karlovac, in the municipality of Netretić, amidst a picturesque landscape of forested and green hills above the river Dobra, stand the ruins of the once significant old town of Novigrad.

Its exact construction date is uncertain, allegedly around 1193. By the 15th century, it came under the possession of the Frankopan princes of Krk, remaining theirs until their downfall in the “Zrinski-Frankopan Conspiracy” of 1671, with Novigrad being one of the conspiracy’s centers.

The fortress suffered severe damage after the Turkish invasion in 1543. Though burned down, it was soon rebuilt.

Under the Frankopan family, the old town was expanded to create comfortable living spaces, with attention to residential comfort growing from the 14th to the 15th century. The castle gained a wooden gallery with a chapel on the upper floor of the western tower, staircases, a courtyard with a well, and a beautiful atrium.

After the Frankopans’ demise, the town was plundered and enslaved by Baron Sauer of the Karlovac Military Frontier, under the command of General J. Herbstein, remaining in his ownership until 1689. Herbstein bequeathed it to the Knights of Malta, who then sold it in 1746 to Baron Stjepan Patačić, who transformed it into a baroque noble castle. During this period, the Austrian Emperor Joseph II visited while en route to the sea.

In 1809, with the arrival of the French in Croatia, the castle was bought by French Major Mirko pl. Haraminčić, followed by the Croatian state treasury, and then the landowner Turk from Karlovac, who restored it in the late 19th century. From 1919, it was owned by Baron Zdenko Turković, and from 1939 by the Banovina of Croatia.

As ownership changed through history, so did the architecture, evolving from a defensive stronghold to a lavish baroque castle, but its defensive role never diminished due to its strategic location.

The castle’s layout is an elongated pentagon with unequal sides and a pointed tip to the northeast.

Towers are located at all peaks, four semi-circular and smaller in dimension, while the fifth on the steepest cliff is also the largest. The main and only entrance is on the southern wall with a drawbridge and later, a built-up ramp.

During World War II, on January 4, 1944, the town was demolished and burnt by partisans, with only the St. Lawrence chapel on the upper floor of the western tower reportedly surviving the fire. Since then, the town has steadily deteriorated, with valuable stone materials being removed and overgrowth of weeds, leading to the loss of its dominant position in the landscape.

Before restoration

With the establishment of the new Croatian government and state in the 1990s, initiatives for the ruins’ restoration emerged. In 1994, largely due to the efforts of Josip Jakovčić, the first prefect of Karlovac County, Miroslav Preglej, Marina Šojat, Vladimir Peršin – Mrkvica, and Karlovac County, first steps were taken to save this glorious town from ruin and oblivion.

Subsequently, in 1999, spurred by our association – the “Frankopan” Society of Friends of Novigrad na Dobri (where I found all these informations: check their website by clicking here) and funded by the Ministry of Culture with supervision from the Conservation Department in Karlovac, the construction restoration of the southern left tower began. The tower was fully reconstructed with a built lookout. The aim is to preserve at least the existing state systematically and to conserve and restore the most valuable parts of the town.

Old Town Novigrad Today

The Old Town of Novigrad na Dobri represents one of the most significant cultural heritage buildings in the municipality of Netretić and Karlovac County. It will undoubtedly become a tourist gem of this part of continental Croatia. Alongside its idyllic nature, Novigrad has also been a site where history has written many pages, the effects of which are still felt.

The Old Town of Novigrad na Dobri, a protected cultural asset, is listed in the Register of Cultural Goods of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia.

Today, it’s certain that this old town still hides many undiscovered secrets and attractions, offering an irresistible call to all the curious to visit this untouched part of Croatia and discover the beauty and charm of Novigrad na Dobri.

You can find more informations about this place on the website of the “Frankopan” Society of Friends of Novigrad na Dobri. I’m happy that there are organizations like that one who exist to preserve treasures like this one. Thumbs up!

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