Medieval Ljubljana – 3in1
Ljubljana, which originated in the Middle Ages is the foundation of the modern city. After the Huns, led by Attila, ravaged Roman Emona in 452, the latter began to slowly decay. After 100 years, the Ljubljana Basin was without a compact settlement. With the arrival of the Slavs at the end of the 6th century, the area was repopulated. On the left bank, there were fishermen, in Pžanj the inhabitants who worked iron, next to the church of St. Peter and under the castle hill in today’s upper square there were a few houses. Archaeological finds in this area date back to the 8th and 11th centuries. The Spanheim family acquired land in the area in the 11th century. Ljubljana was first mentioned in the 12th century in records from Aquileia as Leibach and Luwigana.
The basis is a pre-urban settlement below the castle and on the opposite bank next to the court, where craftsmen are mainly needed to maintain the feudal lordship (blacksmiths, tanners, wheelwrights, boatmen, …). The first compact settlement was on today’s Stari trg (Old Square) and the center was on today’s Levstik Square next to the church of St. Jacob, protected between the river and the hill. The settlement expands to the north, to the City, which was first walled up. The Old Bridge (today Tromostovje) was the main route across the river. The Shoemaker’s Bridge connected Novi trg (New Square) and the port on the other bank. In the 13th century, money was minted at the castle, the seal of Ljubljana appeared for the first time and the base of the city was already formed. In the 14th century, the inner city council was formed. In the middle of the 15th century, Ljubljana became the seat of the land of Carniola under the Habsburgs. At that time, the diocese of Ljubljana was also formed. And it reached around 5,000 inhabitants.
Between the 12th and 13th centuries, three walled units and a castle on a hill were formed:
- Stari trg – On the south side was a wall with the Painted Gate along the Vožarski pot (Rope path). Behind the walls was a defensive moat and the marshy Prule. To the east was the castle hill (the walls to Šance). The west was bounded by the Ljubljanica (the tower was on Grudnov nabrežje 17). To the north is the Old Square Gate, which led to the City (Stari trg 4). Probably the beginnings were around the church of St. Jacob. The last ones were Hrenova and Rožna streets and Vožarski pot outside the walls.
- Novi trg – To the west, it leaned against the walls of Emona (Emonska and Vegova streets), where the German Gate is on the site of today’s Roman Street. To the north is the Fišterska Gate on Gosposka street near the building of today’s university. In the south, the walls run along today’s Zois street. To the east is the Ljubljanica with the Shoemaker’s Bridge and the port in the southern part (Breg). There are also defensive poles in the Ljubljanica. Initially, only two buildings dominated the court in the northwest and the command of the German Knights (Križanke) in the northeast. In the 14th century, a Jewish ghetto with a synagogue was built next to the court (Jewish street and path).
- Mesto (City square) – The first part of the city to be walled up. The beginnings were in the Fish Square. In the south, it borders the Old Square (Na Tranči was the first town hall) and the castle. There was also a “diver” with whom they soaked fraudulent bakers in the Ljubljanica. To the west and north are the Ljubljanica with the Shoemaker’s / New and the Old Bridge with the Špital Gate. Here was the town almshouse, followed by the Cathedral of St. Nikolaja and the Town Hall at today’s location from the 15th century. To the east, the walls run from the castle parallel to the cable car and the student street towards the Ljubljanica next to the Franciscan monastery. The cloister door is located at the exit from Krek Square, additionally secured with a defensive moat. Outside the walls, there was a truce, settlement on today’s Trubarjeva and Poljanska roads.
- Ljubljana Castle – Castle Hill had its first fortifications as early as 3200 years ago. In the Middle Ages, however, it is first mentioned in the 12th century. Today’s shape of a pentagon (5 towers, where the entrance tower was also a pentagon with a lift gate) and the chapel of St. Yuri was built in the 15th century. It was the main defensive building to which three arms of the defensive wall led. The castle defied Turkish invasions, peasant uprisings as well as earthquakes. The lords resided at the castle before they moved to the court inside the New Square.
which had 2 bridges and 6 gates:
- Upper or New Bridge is joining all three parts – the squares in medieval Ljubljana. It was a wooden bridge, due to its width it allowed trade on the bridge. There were butchers on the corners, which is why it was called the Butcher’s Bridge. Later, butchers move lower down the river for hygienic reasons. Shoemakers were housed there and that is why the name Shoemaker’s Bridge persists today. The bridge burned in 1664 and another wooden bridge was erected. Shortly afterward, it is replaced by a cast-iron bridge named after Mayor Hradetcki. The last renovation was undertaken by Plečnik in the 1930s and we got today’s stone bridge.
- Lower or Old Bridge is the oldest bridge in medieval Ljubljana, first mentioned in 1280. It was an important part of the connection between Dolenjska and Štajerska / Gorenjska. Today it connects Stritatjeva ulica and Prešernov trg. It was named Špitalski most after a building nearby. In 1842 it was replaced by the stone Franco Bridge (architect Picco). In 1932, Tromostovje, Plečnik’s alterations with two additional bridges, was opened.
- Klošter / Abby / Franciscans Gate – from Krekov Square led to the east towards Poljanska road
- Hospital Gate – led from Stritar street, over the Old Bridge to today’s Prešeren Square and on to the suburbs
- Cort Gate – led from Gosposka street to the north suburbs along Wolfova street
- Old Square Gate – connecting Old and City Square (Stari trg 4)
- Cross / German / Roman Gate – leads west across Gradišče (remains of Emona) towards Aquileia
- Colorful / Upper / Bihač Gare – they were on Upper Square, at house number 39 and led across Prule towards Dolenjska
Today, there are few tangible remains of medieval Ljubljana. The best-preserved is the tower on Krekov Square 4, which has recently been restored and some remains of the walls can be seen from the funicular. Most of the houses were rebuilt with newer materials after the 1515 earthquake (stone and brick instead of wood). Today, the oldest house in Ljubljana is on Fish Square 2 and dates from 1528. There are also individual building elements and foundations in a few houses and churches from the Middle Ages. However, the dimensions of three-walled squares remained almost entirely the same in Old Ljubljana. Even today, street names remind us of their function in those times and the castle still reigns on its hill.
On your next walk through these three squares, think about how these three units made up one unit more than 500 years ago.