The hill-fortress-castle of Trsat just outside Rijeka is a recreation area, historical monument and pilgrimage site all at once. Perched high on a hill overlooking all of Rijeka, this 13th-century hill-fortress enjoys a strategically crucial position. There has been a look-out tower at Trsat from the pre-historical epoch and the Romans decided to fortify it although no Roman ruins remain today.
It was the Frankopan dynasty based in Krk who fortified and enlarged the castle as it gave them a vantage point to protect their holdings. Trsat belonged to the Frankopans from the 13th through the 15th century and it then fell under Hapsburg rule. After the castle was damaged by an earthquake in 1750, Austrian field-marshal Laval Nugent bought the ruins and restored it.
Today Trsat castle is an R & R destination for locals who enjoy the sweeping views of the Kvarner gulf from the top of the hill. Near the church is Frankopan Square which teems with cafes that teem with people--especially in the summer when Rijekans head to the hills.There are cafes, art galleries and occasional concerts.
The Church of Our Lady of Trsat is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Croatia, attracting some 300,000 visitors a year. According to legend, angels transferred the Nazareth Tabernacle of the Holy Family to Trsat on May 10, 1291. It remained there until December 10, 1294 when, according to legend, angels transferred it to Loreto, Italy.
The place that allegedly housed the Nazareth Tabernacle, became a shrine The first church was built at the end of the 13th century but most of the present-day shrine dates from the 15th century. At that time, count Martin Frankopan constructed a new church and monastery and brought in the Franciscan monks. It was enlarged and re-constructed several times since resulting in an appealing mishmash of styles.
A huge baroque cloister can be entered from either inside or outside the church. There's a refectory on the ground floor of the monastery with magnificent paintings adorning the walls and ceiling. Don't miss the treasury.
Treasures of the monastery include a 16th-century statue of the Virgin Mary, a 14th-century painting of the Madonna, a 15th-century Gothic statue of Our Lady of Slunj above the altar and various reliquaries and religious objects.
The Franciscan Monastery at Trsat is now an important cultural centre that attracts pilgrims from around the world. Naturally, the 10 May is the most important pilgrimage but there are many others. The most impressive is on 15 August when Trsat is closed to traffic and pilgrims flock to the site.
The most impressive way to approach Trsat castle is via the Petar Kruzic Stairway. The 538 stairs lead from Rijeka to the top of the hill and are adorned with chapels dedicated to the saints. Begun by Captain Petar Kruzic in 1531, the stairway was later expanded and became known as "Pilgrim's Way".
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