Celje is a town in Slovenia, the administrative centre of the municipality of Celje. It has the third largest population in the country and is the centre of the historical region of South Styria. Geographically, Celje is situated at the confluence of the Savin, Loznic and Voglain rivers, at the foot of a hill that contains the ancient Celje Castle, and at the junction of roads connecting Ljubljana, Maribor, Velenje and the Central Sava Valley. What is most memorable about the history of Celje is the fact that the town remains in history as the centre of the County of Celje (14th-15th centuries), the only fully independent ethnic Slovenian state in the medieval period. The state coat of arms of Slovenia includes as an element the three stars, which were the symbol of the Counts of Celje and then of the city itself.
Cele got the name Celeia during the Roman era. The present Slovenian town was given several other names, with early attestations of the name of a Slavic settlement recording Cylia in 452, Ecclesiae Celejanae in 579, Zellia in 824, Cilia in 1310, Cilli in 1311 and Celee in 1575. The name is of Roman origin and its further etymology is obscure.
The first settlement in the Cele area appeared during the Hallstatt era. The Annals say that the settlement was known since Celtic times, and ancient Greek historians know it as Kelea.
The area of today's Slovenian town came under the Roman Empire in 15 BC under the name Civitas Celeia. The city officially received its city rights during the reign of the Roman Emperor Claudius. Historical records attest that the city was rich and densely populated, secured by walls and towers, containing multi-storied marble palaces, wide squares and streets. It was called "Little Troy." Very soon Celeia became a thriving Roman colony. Many great buildings were constructed, among which stands out the Temple of Mars, which was famous throughout the empire.
The city was destroyed by Slavic tribes during the migration period of the 5th and 6th centuries, but was rebuilt in the earliest Middle Ages. The first mention of Celje in the Middle Ages was under the name of Cylie, in records dating from 1122 to 1137. Celle became the seat of the Counts of Celle and remained so for the period from 1341 to 1456. Celje acquired the status of a market town in the first half of the 14th century, and full and official town privileges were granted to Celje by Count Frederick II on 11 April 1451. Celje became part of independent Slovenia after the Ten Days War in 1991. On 7th April 2006 Celje became the seat of the new Diocese of Celje, created by Pope Benedict XVI within the Diocese of Maribor.
If we were to guide you on what sights to visit during your Celje sightseeing tour, the list would look like this:
- Abbey Church of St. Daniel - one of the many fantastic places in Celje;
- Franciscan Church of St Cecilia, which is just one of the many attractions in Celje;
- St. Nicholas Church;
- Grayfriars Monastery, founded in 1241;
- The 16th century Palace;
- Museum of the New History of Celje, attracting tourists to Celje;
- The Regional Museum of Celle, which is one of the most famous places in Celle; - The Gallery of Children's Art;
- Gallery of contemporary art;
- Children's Museum Hermann's Burrow, one of the famous attractions of Celje;
- Slovenian Folk Theatre;
- Temple of Hercules, which has the power to attract thousands of tourists to Celje.
Undoubtedly, one of the greatest attractions of Cele is the Castle of Cele. The earliest records of it date back to 1322. Over the years, the castle has borne various names, such as Later, the castle was known by various names, including "vest Cili" in 1341, "Castrum Cilie" in 1451 and "gsloss Obercili" in 1468.
The castle's first fortified building was built in the first half of the 13th century by the Counts of Heunburg of Carinthia, on stony exposed land on the western ridge where the castle is located. Celle Castle has five sides, or four sides plus one south side, which is its natural defense. Since the first written records of the date of the castle's appearance go back in time to between 1125 and 1137, it is believed that it was probably built by Count Gunther. In the western part of the castle there was a building with several floors, of which remains of its walls have survived to this day. The eastern part was enclosed by a courtyard with large ponds. The eastern wall, which protects the castle on its most vulnerable side, is about three meters thicker than the rest of the wall. The walls of Celle Castle are covered with parapets and have a protected walkway, which is a typical and characteristic feature of castles of the time.
The first building of Zell Castle is supposed to have been burned and destroyed in the fighting between the lords of Sanneck and Auffenstein. The lock was later moved to the north side by freemen determined to prove their loyalty to the Lords of Sanneck. Thanks to them, the castle was given a new defensive wall, and they reinforced the castle's defenses with a tower on the north side guarding the entrance to the inner ward. Finally, the new wall reaches from a natural cliff on the east to the remains of the earlier wall on the northeast. The entrance was moved to the southern part, where it remains today.
Celje has an organized tourist tour called "Under the Stars of Celje", which takes place in late summer every year, and includes performances and shows that recreate life in the Middle Ages. In addition to this interesting event, musical concerts are also organized at the Palais Celle. It has been estimated that around 60 000 people visit Celle Castle every year. The annual cultural event, Veronika's Evenings, named after Slovenian opera star Veronika Deseniška, is also held in the castle. The event programme includes various concerts, theatre performances and other entertainment. In addition, every year during this event, the organizer awards a poetry prize, again named after the opera star.