Požega, as the visitors say, is a pretty town on the banks of the river Orljava, surrounded by beautiful nature, full of interesting things to see and do, even if it is not a big city. One might even say it is a small town for a great holiday.

The city is situated in between hills and valleys so it has a street layout that is untypical for the region of Slavonia, often seen as endless lowland of fields. Because of that and because of the baroque architecture in the city centre, tourists often say Požega reminds them of some towns they previously visited in Czechia and Austria.

It is also a place where you will very easily make new acquaintances with one of 26000 proud citizens of Požega. Ad a glass of world-renowned regional wines, a pint of locally produced beer, or a platter of the beloved food delicacies and you will soon become real friends.

In the next sections of this website, we will do our best to present and describe all that you should see and experience during your stay. We hope to raise your interest enough so that Požega becomes your next travel destination.

Name and surname

Although the area of today’s Požega was settled already 6000 years BC, the written history of the area goes back into the times of the old Roman Empire. In those times this area was known as the “Vallis Aurea” or the “Golden valley”. Surrounded by the Slavonian mountain ring of Papuk, Psunj, Požeška hill, Dilj hill, and Krndija, in the middle of the valley then lay the Roman city of Incerum. And the reason the Romans named the valley “Golden” one can best see at the end of summer or in early fall when the colour of the fields turns from green into golden, showing that the grain is ready for harvest and when the vineyards turn bright yellow with grapes ready to be picked and turned into the finest golden droplets by skilful winemakers.

Today’s name however descends from the period of first new settlers into the area, the old Croatian and other Slavic tribes. It seems that their two prime industries were agriculture and metal ores mining which as a result gave the city its name – Požega. According to the first assumption, the name Požega comes from the name for freshly burned overgrown land to turn it into fertile fields. The fertility came “after the fire” which in Croatian translates as “po požaru/po požegi”. That dangerous job was very appreciated by the old Slavs so the man who managed to do it properly would then carry the last name “Požega”, still very common today. The other assumption says that the city got its name after another very valued and dangerous job, that of extracting the ore from the stone. To get the ore detached from the stone, one had to heat the stone to very high temperatures and then cool it down quickly in a creek. And so from the Croatian term for that process – “žesti” first the creek and then the settlement next to it was named Požega.

The County of Požega was first mentioned in official documents in the times of the Croatian-Hungarian Kingdom (often only called the Hungarian Kingdom) in 1220 when king Andrew II of Hungary gave the county grounds to the Knights Templar. The first time the name of the city was first written in official documents was in 1227 when “Castrum de Posega” was given to the Hungarian Kalocsa bishopric. At that time Požega was the name for the fortified castle and a small settlement beneath the hill which is today known as the “Stari grad” park-forest promenade, located in the city centre. Some historical data show that the fortification was even older than the official documents and that it was built in the 11th century with its owners giving themselves the surname “of Požega”. The last member of that family named Peter of Požega lived in the 13th century.

The mysterious Middle Ages

During the Middle Ages, Požega was known as a very important and wealthy market town with many craftsmen. The city was considered to be a “Free and royal city” and its citizens had certain higher rights than those in other cities in the kingdom. Along with that, during the period of the Croatian-Hungarian Kingdom, Požega had the status of the official royal residence of the queen and was free of the state and county government. The city itself together with the nearby village of Kaptol was the co-centre of the Hungarian bishopric of the city of Pecs, the seat of the Archdeacon and the Chapter.

Not far from the royal and bishops palace, near the place where the Cathedral stands today, there was the court of the Templar Knights as Požega and Croatian region of Slavonia stood on the important route leading from Western Europe to the Holy Land. The Templars were and still are one of the most popular and most secretive knightly orders. Today they exist as a charity organization with their Croatian seat right here in Požega.

But however enchanting the middle ages might seem to us today, the last decades of it were very hard on the citizens of Požega. In the summer of 1536, the city was finally conquered by the army of the mighty Ottoman Empire and it stayed under their rule for the next 150 years.

Life was no Turkish delight

In the period of the Ottoman (Turkish) invaders, some of the former city sights were ruined, such as the majestic parish church of St. Paul which stood somewhere around today’s cathedral square, the royal residence, the Knight’s Templar’s and Knight’s of the Order of St. John’s monastery, while the fortified castle and city walls were heavily damaged and as the time passed by completely disappeared. On the other hand during the Ottoman rule, the Dominican (Jesuit’s) church of St. Lawrence and the Franciscan church of The Holy Spirit were partly preserved and served as mosques.

Ottomans did however bring a certain level of technological development during their rule. They built a water-pipe line from the Tekija spring (which still exists) to the main square where they built a public fountain and much like in all the cities they conquered they built a “Hamam” – spa with pools and saunas.

Despite the great social changes, Požega managed to keep its position as an important trading and manufacturing centre, and after it was proclaimed the administrative centre of the “Sandžak” (province) it effectively became the capital city of the “Turkish” region of Slavonia. But as wars usually come to an end so did the Ottoman rule in Croatia. After the liberation many city sights from the 16th and 17th centuries disappeared in the process of revenge.

The great victory

The first liberation of Požega from the Ottomans happened on October 10th 1687 but the Turks came back during the next winter. However, on March 12th 1866, on the day of St. Gregory, a dramatic change of powers happened. On that foggy morning the brave Christian soldiers led by the Franciscan monk Friar Luka Ibrišimović Sokol surprised the 3000 Ottoman soldiers and triumphed with a great victory.

In November 1690 the Ottomans once again tried to win back the city but two days before the day of St. Michael the Archangel, the patron saint of police and military, on September 27th 1691 the city was liberated once and for all.

To forever remember their liberator and the victorious battle that took place in the hill just above the city, it was named Sokolovac and the day of St. Gregory (March 12th) is today celebrated as the Day of the city of Požega. That day also known as “Grgurevo” (St. Gregory’s) citizens visit their vineyards and fire from the cannons in the memory of their beloved Friar Luka (Luke) and the brave hood of his soldiers against the Ottomans. To celebrate the event in the 19th century the statue of Friar Luka Ibrišimović Sokol was erected in the cathedral square.

The Athens of Slavonia

The newly liberated Požega once again became part of the Croatian Kingdom which since the 17th century became a crown land of the Habsburg (later Austro-Hungarian) Empire.

Those new political events gave the city and the whole region new possibilities. Croats returned and new settlers came too, especially Catholics from Bosnia and people from other “lands of the Crown”, Austrians, Bavarians and southern Germans, Czechs, Slovaks and many others.

Already in 1699, the Jesuits established the first Gymnasium in Slavonia (fifth in Croatia), and from 1763 to 1774 they formed the “Academia Posegana”, which made Požega along with Zagreb the centre of high education in Croatia. Thanks to the improvements in culture and education as well as significant scholars and writers such as the great 18th-century poet Antun Kanižlić, Požega was nicknamed “the Athens of Slavonia”. To find out more on the topic of famous people from Požega, click the menu: “City and Famous citizens”.

“Gesundheit” – Bless you!

Unfortunately, not long after the citizens were finally “breathing with their full lungs”, a new horror was upon them. In 1739 a total of 798 lives, almost half of Požega’s population was lost after the plague epidemics swept thru the city and much of Europe. To commemorate that event, and so it would never again repeat, the citizens of Požega erected a baroque statue dedicated to the Holy Trinity. The so-called “Plague column” remained the best-known symbol of Požega to this day.

But as the old saying goes “trouble never comes alone”, another horrific event struck the citizens of Požega in 1779. The large fire devoured most of the, at the time still wooden, houses and the city was later reconstructed in the baroque style for which Požega is well known in Croatia and abroad. It is interesting to know that the baroque rebuilding of the city was mostly done by travelling Italian architects.

Maybe for that reason, as well as because of the later new settlers, many citizens of Požega have Italian last names.

New ascent

In the 19th century, Požega achieved a new take-off in culture and economy. Many new manufactures opened thanks to the natural wealth, fertile land, vineyards around the city, lush forests and hills rich in various ores as well as the introduction of the railway.

Although World War One, the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Croatia’s joining with Slovenia and Serbia to form the Kingdom of Yugoslavia brought economic decline at first, in the first half of the 20th century the new chocolate factory opened under the name of “Stock” and soon after it merged with the world renewed “Nestle”.

After the 2nd World War, Croatia became a republic within the newly formed Socialist federative republic of Yugoslavia under a Communist regime. The mentioned factory was renamed “Zvečevo” and Požega became the capital of chocolate, known throughout the land.

For that reason, we recommend that you take a bar of chocolate as a souvenir from Požega. You can take your pick in the chocolate shop at the corner of Cehovska ulica Street and the main square.

The Homeland War

As faith would have it, those “sweet” years and even decades did not last, and bit by bit they became bitter for the citizens of Požega and Croatia. During the 1980’s Yugoslavia’s six federative republics experienced ever-rising dissatisfaction with the state of the economy and the overall political and social situation. 

In 1990 Croatia held its first democratic parliamentary elections. The constitution of Yugoslavia also gave the federal republics the right to independence for which Croatian citizens voted by a majority of 95% of the vote in the Referendum of 1991. Unfortunately, the leadership of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia did not care for the people’s votes so in late spring of 1991, with the help of the so-called People’s Army and the paramilitary forces, they started a military action, and by autumn that same year a full war against Croatia.

And so at the end of the 20th century, just like in the Middle Ages long ago, Požega was once again facing the instability of a war its citizens did not wish for. Even though it was a defensive war, since its goal was Croatian independence from Yugoslavia, it remained known as “the Homeland war”.

New times, new opportunities

The Croatian parliament (Sabor) in 1992 decided on the new territorial division of the country and so, for the third time in history, the County of Požega was established. Not long after, in 1997 Požega finally became the seat of its bishop and in 1998 by the decision of the Croatian Government, the College of Požega opened its doors to students helping the economical growth of the city as well as of the whole region of Slavonia.

Probably the most important event in recent history for both the city and country happened in 2013. In early summer that year, Croatia became a member state of the European Union. That event turned a new important page in Požega’s history.

 

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