Vjekoslav Zugaj


In 1691, when Slavonia was liberated from the Turks, the restoration of Catholic parishes began along with the building of churches and monasteries. There are records of the presence of a Catholic population in Gradiška even at the time of Turkish rule. During pastoral visits by Father Tomo Ivković ( 1630) and Father Marijan Marović (1665), 200 Catholic families were living in the Gradiška area. They mostly lived on the right side of the River Sava where there was an old Catholic church and rectory, both made of timber.

According to the records of the military chaplain and parish priest, Luka Ilic Oriovčanin, the Catholics that emigrated from the area of the Bosnian town Visoko, settled around the fortification in the area intended for civilians. A few Franciscans held church services at that time. Today, it is impossible to determine the location of the church. The Turkish authorities were not willing to approve the renovation of old, ruined, medieval chuI-ches. Due to restrictive regulations it was also very difficult to build new Catholic churches even though, as a rule, they were made of timber and only equipped with the most essential church inventory.

In 1688, the provincial of that time, Mihajlo Radnić, invited Croats and Franciscans from Visoko to come to Gradiška and settle there. Thus, the migration of Croats from Bosnia started. They left their settlements and their monastery and moved to the right bank of the River Sava and later also to the left, the Slavonian, side. This was the time when the liberation of Slavonia began, characterised by military raids that were preceded by frequent migrations of the population. Although it was accompanied by many incidents, including the murder of the guardian of Visoko while he was bringing over the monastery books and portable church inventory, this migration still seems to have been tacitly approved by the Turkish authorities.(39) Apart from feeling unequal and unprotected, the Croats from Visoko were probably encouraged to move by the news brought by the Franciscan Marko Marić. At that time the Turks withdrew from the Slavonian part of Gradiška fearing a direct fight with the Croatian/Austrian army under the command of Ljudevit Badenski. Their withdrawal was a sign to numerous Moslems to leave the part of the settlement situated on the Slavonian side of the River Sava. Due to these new circumstances, they left their estates quickly and withdrew to a safer area in the cen tral part of Bosnia. In the early eighteen century, peace was restored and the River Sava merely separated the two settlements. At that time, building work began on the Franciscan residence, following a donation by the commander of Gradiška, Count Ivan de Makar, and in 1705 it was proclaimed a monastery. The monastery had one wing with eleven cells or dormitories. A wooden church was built close to the monastery. Due to the lack of space inside the fortification, the monastery had no courtyard and a extensive garden was cultivated by the Franciscans outside the fortification walls. They also held church services in Orubica, Gorice and Kraljeva Velika. This small parish together with the monastery was then part of the Zagreb diocese.

In the first half of the eiahteen century, apart from the settlements mentioned, the parish of Stara Gradiška also included the surrounding villages which were mostly populated by Croats. From 1730 Bogičevci and Mačkovac were also part of this parish as was the village of Dragalićfrom 1744. This expansion followed the pastoral visit of 1730, and these villages were donated by the Cerkno residence because of poverty of the Stara Gradiška monastery. It should be noted that the number of parish subsidiaries was not permanent and were subject to change for internal church reasons. Josip Butorac in his work "The Archdeaconry of Since, Croatia sacra I" recorded that in 1758 the parish of Stara Gradiška involved the following villages: Novigrad, Gornje Predgradje and Donje Predgradje with only 150 houses and 984 Catholics. The old timber Franciscan monastery can be seen on charts of the village dating from 1715 and 1725. This sacred building was pulled down as a result of the radical urban modernisation of that time. It was replaced by a substantial building built between 1765 and 1769. The new monastery had 20 dormitories; a large dining-room, a kitchen and a cellar.

There is evidence in the Chronicle of Stara Gradiška parish that the building of the monastery was partly financed by Franciscans from other monasteries. When the monastery was finished, the building of sv. Mihovil (St. Michael) church began. The same historical source states that the church was completed in 1776 but the dimensions of the newly built church are not given in the metric system. It was 4 fathoms long, 6 fathoms wide and 4 fathoms high. The church was vaulted and connected to the monastery. The physical work and transport of the building material was carried out by the parishioners themselves. The main altar was given its final appearance by work carried out in 1782. The oriainal altar, smaller in size, was pulled down and replaced by the new one supported by two columns and ornamented with a painting of sv. Mihovil (St. Michael) by an unknown artist. The Gospel and Epistle stands were made of wood decorated by carvings and the statues of sv. Franjo (St. Francis) and sv. Antun (St. Antony) were painted white. The loft, with a small organ, was elevated on two built arcades and situated under the church vault.(40) Having built the monastery and sv. Mihovil (St. Michael) church, this small parish community fulfilled all the conditions required for harmonious and peaceful development. In 1787, however, this monastery was abruptly abolished. Josip II proclaimed its extinction by an imperial order probably due to church rivalry and strategic reasons according to which Stara Gradiška represented a significant element of defence. There are records in the church chronicles that Josip II visited the church, while still a heir to the throne, during his visit to Stara Gradiška in 1768. The Franciscan chronicler states that he attended the solemn, low mass and then received the guardian Father Kapistran Kneifel who took the opportunity to hand him a petition for the restoration of the church and the monastery, but only succeeded in postponing the decision, since twelve years later the monastery in Stara Gradiška was abolished and the Franciscans moved to Cerknik. After the extinction of this community, up to 1794, church activities were performed by three Franciscans: the military chaplain, Filip Szabo, the manager of the (diminished) parish, Father Toma Vršić, and the chaplain, Father Paškval Wermann.


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