The oldest settlements of Virovitica area were located nearby the Bilogora hill. There resided the oldest Paleolithic people who were hunters or food collectors and they have been living in the area of hills, forests and Drava River. During the winter they went west to their caves and waited for winter to be over. Older Paleolithic inhabitants disappeared quite fast and were replaced by younger Neolithic. That newer population was involved in agriculture and lived in small housing half in the ground.
Virovitica receives the Bull act
In the year 1234, Slavonian herceg Koloman, who was a son of king Andrija II and a brother of Bela IV issued Bull to the City of Virovitica. That document gave the City of Virovitica the status of medieval city at the time when similar rights many of our places in Slavonia did not have including the City of Zagreb.
So in the first half of 13th century Virovitica was not only “magna villa-great place”, but it also had exquisite position and importance in the wider area of Slavonija. This is proved by the fact that the kings from Arpadović family very often resided in Virovitica during the 13th century and also had their season castle there. Also, Koloman II had a large amount of properties here.
In November 26, 1242 King Bela IV issues famous Golden Bull in Virovitica by which the City of Zagreb gained status of the free royal city! Queen Marija, the wife of Bela IV was often in the City of Virovitica and in the year 1248 became the owner and protector of the City.
How did Virovitica get its name?
Croatian natives used to pronounce name of the city as Verevče. That expression of Virovitica came from the river creek that was going down the Bilogora hill and passed by the city. Today that river creek is called Ođenica.
On the great map of Slavonia by Lazius from 1556 the city was marked as Werewcze and the name Virovitica (Virouiticza) was mentioned for the first time in Vramčev’s chronics while later in most of the history documents it has been known as Werowiticza, Werouitiza or Verovitiza.
Virovitica in the middle age
There is not much information about how Virovitica in the middle age looked like. The whole city was probably surrounded by soil and wooden castles. After the burglary of Mongols earth pits were dug and the water from the Verevče creek was let into it. In the center of the city there was a church of st. Kuzma and Damjan, and inside there were two monasteries. Franciscans were brought to Virovitica by Queen Maria between 1250 and 1270, and Dominicans were later accepted by queen Elisabeth. County of Virovitica (comitatus de Wereuche) was mentioned in 1275 in the document of queen Elisabeth. The area of Virovitica County in the middle age was often changed and therefore it is hard to determine its development phases.
On July 30, 1552 Požega’s “sandžak beg” Ulama surrounded Virovitica with powerful army. The city was supposed to be defended by 50 Harames but since the army was so powerful, the City capitulated without the fight. In that way in 1552, Virovitica was governed by Ottomans. At the end of the 16th century, Ottomans started to populate area with their followers. Many medieval villages suddenly disappeared and were never renewed. Instead of them, new ones appeared that exist until today.
The rest of catholic inhabitants were left without religion heads because the relationship between Catholic Church and Ottoman government was totally broken. For more than 120 years mostly Ottomans were living in Virovitica. They reconstructed older city buildings for their own needs and the rest were disrupted.
So by the end of the 16 century Virovitica gained the look of Ottoman “casaba”. The end of Ottoman governance in Virovitica begins on July 13, 1648 when the army of general Lesli surrounded Virovitica. In the negotiation process, Ottomans got the guarantee that they will in exchange of giving up the city have free entrance into Bosnia. At that time there were 300 Janissary and 1000 Ottomans with wives and children. When they headed towards Bosnia, “krajiška” army killed them near Brestovac. Shortly after the liberation of Virovitica from Ottomans, Sopje, Voćin and Slatina also became free. Until the year 1687, whole west Slavonia was in the arms of krajiška military and from that time, new age begins.
Development of Virovitica was very slow during the first half of 18th century. To intensify the process of economy development, king Karlo VI started to sell the land to foreigners. During the government of Marija Terezija, Virovitica’s seigniority came into the possession of feud Marko Pejačević and later it was inherited by count Josip Pejačević. Pejačević dried the Rogovac swamp, planted fruit yards, let fish into the fishponds, and grow wine yards. Antun Pejačević who was Josip’s son, lived in Virovitica and built new castle in 1804 that was later finished by his son, who was also called Antun.
Until then the whole Pejačević family lived in Virovitica constantly, and only after that they moved away, living mostly in Vienna. In 1841 the Castle was sold to the family Schaumburg-Lippe that reconstructed the castle and added the first floor. It was the time when the castle got its look that it has today. Also, a park was grown around the castle.
As part of the project “5 to 12 for the Castle” Pejačević Castle was renovated in 2019, the city park was restored, new trees, shrubs and ornamental plants were planted, the promenades in the park were arranged, as well as the promenade in front of Peter Preradović High School, which is decorated with a new, modern fountains. There are also newly designed wooden bridges, each with its own story related to Virovitica (Bridge of Love, Music Bridge, Gymnasium Bridge, Bridge Portal, Mirror Bridge). The castle is now home to the City Museum of Virovitica with a new permanent exhibit called “The Wooden Age”, and it houses the Tourist Information Center with a souvenir shop.