History of Zelina
Zelina rightfully called beauty of the foothill region, lies on and around the hill, on top of which stands a beautiful parish church of St. John the Baptist. The first written record of Zelina dates back to the 12th century. In 1185 the Croatian-Hungarian king Bela III. issued a document confirming the right on Zelina estate to the canons of Zagreb. In 1200 the church of St. John the Baptist is already mentioned.
The first traces of life were found on location above the village of Donje Orešje where archaeologist found artefacts from the Bronze Age (10th – 9th c. BC). From the ancient Roman times dates the road (magna via) traces of which were found in Zelina. This road used to connect Sisak (Siscia) and Ptuj (Petovia). It is also believed that above the village of Komin there used to be an ancient Roman settlement of Pyrri because a rich find was located there with tombs, pieces of jewellery and money. Around 95 kg of late Roman coins were found.
Zelina had very turbulent past. It was exposed to many invaders – from the Tatars to the Turks. In their search of king Bela IV. the Tatars devastated the whole region in the 13th century. When in 1328 ban (Vice-Roy) Mikac Mihaljević conferred privileges upon Zelina inviting all ‘free people who want to live in a free village of our King’ the rise of Zelina as free market-place began. Vice-Roy’s invitation was stimulating: whoever settled in Zelina was exempt from paying taxes for three years. Craftsmen, of course, could not resist this fine offer and this is how Zelina developed as strong trade centre.
Influential noble families were the Bičkela and Kerečenj, owners of Zelingrad where aristocratic families lived and these had one or more estates. Unfortunately majority of these Medieval estates no longer exist, some of them are only ruins (for example Zelingrad – on a hiking trail leading to Kladeščica). However some have been preserved like Domjanićevo, Domin and Omilje.
The hardest years were those of Turkish attacks, and when these stopped the economy of the region slowly started to be revived again. Churches and traditional wooden country houses (kurija) were restored. In the 18th century chapels and churches were either built or restored in the Baroque style. At that time Sveti Ivan Zelina was still a small place. During the canon’s visit in 1759 it was found that Zelina had 39 houses and the population of 212 inhabitants. Crafts and trade were growing stronger and further developed reaching their high in the 19th century. Zelina becomes a significant crafts centre. This is evidenced by the fact that Sv. Ivan Zelina, among the first in northwest Croatia, gets the royal charter.