A rich history that speaks to us to this day
The surroundings of modern Brežice have been inhabited since prehistoric times. This is confirmed by the rich Celtic graves, dating from the second century BC and found on the fairgrounds. Brežice was first mentioned as a settlement in 1241, under the name Rain, which is German and means “river-bank”. Over the centuries, the Sava River dictated the growth ofthe old town settlements on the left bank of the riverchannel, thus determining the town’s name. The Slovenian name “Brežice” means “urban settlement on the banks of a river”. Bank - bregci - brežci - Brežice.
In the 11th century, the territory fell into the hands of the Salzburg archdiocese and remained in its possession until the 15th century. Due to its good location, the town started developing early: a castle was built, a military unit formed, as well as a court set up as early as the 13th century. It became the administrative and economic centre of the archdiocese’s estates in the valley of the river Sava. The town was awarded city rights in 1353 with a city judge, appointed by the Archbishop of Salzburg, who was the head of the city administration. He ruled on matters of civil as well as criminal law and blood court. The city held two fairs (at Pentecost and on St. Lawrence day) with peace appointed eight days before each fair for the purpose of conducting business smoothly. The citizens had the right to fish, but the fish also had to be served to the archbishop and his entourage when he came to town. In order to buy and even establish a clear succession, a non-citizen had to obtain the consent of the archbishop.
»Due to its fast growth, Brežice obtained a castle, a military unit, a court and a mint as early as the 13th century and were awarded city rights in 1353.«
At the end of the 15th century, Brežice was devastated by the Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus, also known as King Matthias I. After a ten-year war between him and the Habsburgs, the city belonged to the latter after the signing of a peace treaty. Brežice thus became a princely city.
An important turning point for the city was the year 1501, when Brežice received the right to its own coat of arms, which has been preserved to the present day and shows three hills rising above flowing water and a pyramid in the background. The flowing water represents the Sava River, the three hills are the Lands of Styria, Carniola and Croatia and the pyramid stands as a symbol of the sun rising above them.
»After a peasant revolt in 1515, Brežice castle was destroyed. It was rebuilt in the following years and later played an important role during the Croatian-Slovenian peasant revolt in 1573 led by Matija Gubec.«
Throughout the Turkish invasions, the town of Brežice was repeatedly burned and pillaged. During the Slovenian peasant revolt in 1515, when the city was attacked by 9,000 people, farmers burnt down the old castle from the first half of the 12th century as well as the city. The castle was later rebuilt and reinforced with corner towers, thus becoming the only fortress in the Posavska region to withstand the attacks of rebellious peasants during the Croatian-Slovenian rebellion in 1573 led by Matija Gubec.
Brežice awaited the end of the Middle Ages as an important trade and craft centre in the south-eastern part of Styria. In the second half of the 16th century, the town was taken over by Protestantism and the city got its own preacher. The 17th century was marked by the arrival of the Franciscans, who built the Franciscan Monastery in 1660, around which a small northern suburb of the town started to develop. In the present monastery building, built after WWII, the Brežice High School is located ever since 1945.
»Brežice became an important administrative and trade centre of the lower Posavje region of Styria.«
In modern times, the inhabitants of Brežice lived mainly on trade and transport. Due to the town’s location along the Sava River, in those times an important waterway from Austria to the east, a bustling river port was emerging there. Even today, several large houses of rich merchant families are preserved on the former river bank. Nevertheless, Brežice operated mainly as an administrative and trade centre of the lower Posavje Region on the Styrian side, constantly competing for dominance with the town of Krško, which was equally important on the Carniolan side.
»After World War II, the city awaited more optimistic times, and began to develop rapidly.«
Nationally conscious Slovenes in Brežice established a library, a bank and the Town hall there at the end of the 19th century in order to resist the systematically enforced Germanization and push for an expansion of national consciousness. During World War II, the Germans deported 17,259 people from the city and its surroundings, where mainly Gottscheer Germans and immigrants from Bessarabia were settled. On 28 October 1941, the Brežice Partisan unit was founded with the task of preventing the expulsion of Slovenes from these areas. After World War II, a large part of the Germans emigrated from Brežice. The town began to develop rapidly and can nowadays be proudly called a city with a rich tradition and extraordinary natural and cultural attractions.