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Krk's Frankopan Counts and Vrbnik

Did you know that this mighty aristocratic family built its first castle Gradec near Vrbnik above the Vrbnik Field? Today the stone remains preserve the memory of the famous Krk's noblemen with inextricable connections to Vrbnik. In it the first count of Krk Dujam I, who received administration over the island from the Venetians in 1118, held his seat. The Frankopan Counts of Krk ruled the island as Venetian vassals until 1480 when they would lose it forever as their feudal property during the time of Ivan VII. They would however continue to rule over mainland estates as important actors in Croatian history, up until the Zrinski-Frankopan Conspiracy in 1671, which unluckily ended the glory, power and reputation of the noble houses of the Frankopans and Zrinskis with the execution of Petar Zrinski and Fran Krsto Frankopan, after whom the local elementary school was named.

The era of Frankopan administration on the island was a time of economic and cultural thriving for the entire island of Krk, as well as a time of the gradual acquisition of new estates on the mainland by the Frankopans and the strengthening of their reputation and power among the nobility. It was a time of extensive building (castles, forts), the organisation of settlements, the improvement of the economy, they helped in erecting churches and monasteries, encouraged the use of the Croatian language and the Glagolitic script as well as Old Slavic ecclesiastical worship. Vrbnik itself will at this time would experience its peak as an administrative, cultural and religious centre; as a community with an independent administration which in 1388 created the Vrbnik Statute in the Croatian language and Glagolitic script, the second such document in Croatia; as the centre of Glagolitic script with the largest number of valuable and rare Glagolitic books and stone inscriptions preserved to this day.

In the town of Vrbnik and its surroundings, it is very easy to find traces of the Frankopan rule. It is assumed that their second castle once used to be next to the Church of Saint Maurus, and in the very heart of the town on the square Placa Vrbničkog statuta the Counts' Palace was once situated. In Glavača Street still today there is Baćin dvor, named after Count Bartol VII Baćin of Krk, and in the street Pod keštel (Under the Castle) the city walls have been preserved. You can see how Ivan VII Frankopan, his wife Elizabeta, and their children Nikola and Katarina looked in the Gothic Chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Rosary, located inside the parish church. Many churches were built at this time: the Church of St Nicholas on Gradec, the Chapel of St Maurus, Saint George’s, Saint Luke’s, Saint John’s, Saint Peter’s (today's Church of Our Lady of Health or, locally known as Gospoja), All Saints’, Chapel of Holy Sunday, Saints Cosmas and Damian and parts of the parish church. They also helped build an orphanage and a hospice and aided the charitable activities of the kapari, one of the oldest mediaeval brotherhoods in Croatia.

The Frankopan Counts of Krk left a significant mark on our history, entrusted us with a valuable heritage, and were good masters of their estates which is backed up by the traditional songs of their subjects that were passed from generation to generation, like this one sung at the wedding of one of the Frankopans:

"In Vrbnik above the sea,

A happy day has arrived,

The bells chime, people cheer,

Long may the Frankopans live!”