Vjekoslav Zugaj
After the Turks had been expelled, the conflict was transferred to the River Sava and the fortification became useless and was soon abandoned. The Croatian refugees were unfortunately unable to return home so that the area around Bijela Stijena, except the village itself, is populated today by orthodox Serbs who came into this area from neighbouring Bosnia and settled there several decades later. Construction material from the fortress was dispersed and often used for building houses and farm buildings.

Apart from this fortification and others built in the hinterland of Stara Gradiška, historical sources have records of the existence of several Catholic monasteries and churches that were built and developed before the Turkish invasion. During the middle ages the parishes pertaining to the area of Stara Gradiška were under the Zagreb diocese and the district of Since, which together with the neighbouring Gvešće later comprised the archdeaconry of Čazma. The district of Since, named after the medieval fortification Zenišće near Jasenovac, spread as far as Bijela Stijena and Dragalić and was the furthest eastern border of the Zagreb diocese in the middle ages. The archdeaconry of Since was only establ.ished in the eighteenth century, after the liberation of Slavonia from the Turks, when internal church administrative boundaries were set. (9)

Estates of the Knights Templars

Among other church estates, there are records of a Templars Abbey Abbatia B.D. Marie de Bela Stina, dating back to 1311. The arrival of Templars, known as medieval crusaders. in this area is connected to the death of the Hungarian/Croatian King - Bela III in 1192. After his death, Croatia and Slavonia were ruled by his younger son Andrija, who donated the estate of Lješnica to this chivalric order, excluding it from the district of Požega.

Andrija's enfeoffment of the estate of Lješnica "Lesnissa terra Besitz Templarier", as well as the estate of Raša some time later, was confirmed by King Ladislav IV when he came to the throne." (10)

The Templars' estates were later taken over, and even extended, by members of the religious order Ivanovci, who in exchange for the land of the Čičan preceptory, in addition to those mentioned above, in 1328 also controlled some new lands such as Starča and Trnava ("Thornown possesio ad Cruciferi sancti Johannis").

The role of the Knights Templars and the holy order Ivanovci, some time later, was twofold in this area. They had to guarantee the security of the routes to the Holy Land but they were also used by their rulers to protect their interior policy since a religiously undefined movement, the Bogomils, was developing in Bosnia in those days. Since the estates of the Knights Templars ended on the left bank of the River Sava, their presence was required as a balance to the Bogomilian movement. The origin, which is still disputed, of large stone blocks found in low-lying villages a few kilometres from Stara Gradiška might oe ascribed to the Bogomils. According to Dr. Andjela Horvat, who visited and nade records of the finds in the villages Vrbovljani, Čovac and Gredani in 1959, they could be fragments of standing tombstones very rarely found on the ight bank of the River Sava. Oral tradition has preserved the name of this area as "Mramorsko polje" meaning Marble Field.

Material remains of the Templars' estate can be seen by the railway track, ,ail way between the modern villages Gornji Bogičevci and Dragalići. Their authenticity is proved by the reports of church visitors who mention this site as the centre of the estate and a refuge for pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land. The ruins are protected by the visible remains of a ditch that probably used to be filled with water. The inside is covered with fallen stone remains and veaetation which is destroying the remains of the building. The Brook Draževac used to pass along the remains of this fortified estate until 1982 when its water course was regulated. This area is still called Varošine, which additionally implies the long-term continuity of this low-lying fortification. Both inside and outside this fortification, with its ellipsoidal ground-plan, numerous fragments of medieval ceramics have been found, but systematic research of this area has not yet, however, been carried out." (11)

The other part of this estate was situated on the hill close to the presentday village Cage. Even though there are no reliable records stating the time when this fortification was abandoned, the last records of the estate in historical sources go back to 1514. The ground-plan of this fortification can only be partly seen since its entire surface is covered with earth and vegetation. Local people say that until recently (a visit to the area in 1984) the remains of a wall were visible and known as "Kula" (tower). The remains of dressed stone blocks found at the foot of this fortification, which dominates its surroundings, confirm the authenticity of oral tradition preserved by people living in this area.(12) The field Lješnica, which was so called even in those days, lies in the immediate vicinity of this fortification, which might also have been a sacred building. Some historical sources have records of the settlement Cage as far back as 1400 under the name of "Zcazcha - domus s. Hohannis de Torna, prioratus Auranne". Close to these remains there was a necropolis, of which several trapezoidal stone blocks with a double cross engraved on their front have been preserved to the present day

The other medieval structures have not yet been investigated by field research, but they have partly been recorded by the Qeographical toponymy of that area. As an example, Benkovac was named after the church St. Barbara. In Dubovac, near Okučani, there was the church of the Blessed Virgin Mary and although at present its remains cannot be seen; church visitors made records of it and described it in 1694.


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