The historical and geographical term of Vinodol denotes a wider, unique area of mediaeval fortified towns (Trsat, Grobnik, Bakar, Hreljin, Drivenik, Grižane, Bribir, Novi and Ledenice), and their surroundings.
The oldest inhabitants of Vinodol were the Japods, the Liburnians and the Illyrians, the evidence of which are the finds from Veliki Osp, Sveti Juraj in Bribir and Humac near Tribalj. With the arrival of the Romans in 128, the upper class inhabitants gradually become Romanized, but the continuity of the Roman town cannot be visually recognized in Vinodol. The remains of a Roman architecture in Selce give most information. The reason for rapid Romanization of Vinodol, particularly its coastal settlements, is probably the existence road from Aquileia (north Italy) leading from Istria to Tarsaticae (Rijeka), and from there across Vinodol to Senia (Senj). Stations were built at the roadside, for the exchange of horses, food and water provision, and acquiring of the ship cargoes. Numerous finds of amphorae in the sea bed from Jadranovo to Klenovica testify the trading of oil and wine, especially in the 3 rd and 4th c AD.
In the early Middle Ages Vinodol belongs to "Tarsatic" Liburnia, and at the end of the 8th ct. it comes under the Frankish rule. The direction of Frankish descents towards Pannonia goes exactly following the Roman road. Along with the road the first Croatian districts take position, when the first Croats definitely become settled in Vinodol in the 8th ct. There are three directions of Slavic colonisation of Vinodol: the sea way from Dalmatia, the terrestrial line - the road Sisak-Senj and the road Pivka-Rijeka.
The Slavic colonisation is so strong that the Roman names soon get their Croatian translation: Vallis vinearia - Vinodol, ad Turres - Kod Tor (Kotor), Castellum - Kastelj; but there are also Old Slavic names of localities, like Dedimir, Gorica, Humac, Kosavin, etc. The centres of Croatian districts in Vinodol: Grižane, Badanj, Bribir and Lopar, develop on old antique refugia (refuges) and castelli out of which the Roman inhabitants have moved, probably on the island Krk. Annexes are built to the existing forts in that first phase of clan system, of which the archaeological research give evidence (Badanj), and the same is expected with the forts Bribir, Grižane, Drivenik.
As "Territorium regale", the Croatian-Hungarian king Andrew II gives Vinodol to the possession of princes of the island Krk, later Frankopans, in 1225., with all the rights and belongings. Nine castles form the principality ( Novigrad i.e. Novi Vinodolski, Ledenice), Bribir, Grižane, Drivenik, Hreljin, Bakar, Trsat and Grobnik). The centre of county districts in Vinodol is a castle - castellum at the top of a hill, from where it communicates with the neighbouring castle and its own sea port ( Ledenice) in Povile, Bribir in Jasenova and Selce, Grižane at the mouth of a river Dobračina.
The Law of Vinodol
The Law of Vinodol is brought in during the reign of the Frankopans, in 1288. It is one of the most valuable historical and juridical documents. It is written in Croatian language and in Glagolitic alphabet. The Law is composed by a special commission which was selected between the representatives of nine castles (county districts) of Vinodol, by the assembly of inhabitants of Vinodol. It is about the law which primarily protects interests of feudalists. The Law of Vinodol comprises innovations in different branches of law: administrative law, penal law and process law. It is an important monument of the old Croatian common law, and at the same time it reveals the process of feudalisation in Croatia and provides evidence of the high level of social development of Vinodol area in the 13th ct.
In the course of the following centuries the power of the Frankopans abates. Vinodol, as a territorial organisation of princes of Krk, falls apart in 1449. In the so-called "Modruš collation" it is divided between several rulers, and each one of them wants his access to the sea. The major part of towns of Vinodol goes over and installs under the rule of another famous aristocrat family - the Zrinskis, except for Novi with surroundings, which becomes the property of the Frankopans of Tržak, and in that way is differentiated Vinodol of the Zrinskis and Vinodol of the Frankopans.
The change of dynasty, the danger of the Turks and Venetian blockade slow down the life in Vinodol in a short period. Due to the Turkish peril, the Zrinskis move the centre of principality to Bakar, and Bribir remains political and ecclesiastical centre of the valley. After the Battle at Krbava (1493.) the Turks devastate Vinodol several times.
After the Austro-Turkish war in 1606., ex Turkish subject, Catholic Vlachs, settle on the territory of the Zrinskis (Tribalj, Bakarac, Hreljin) and the Frankopans (Zagon-Bater), and as good warriors and cattle-breeders they receive privileges from the feudal landed gentry. The arrival of the new ethnical layer is especially recognised in folklore.
With the apprehension of Petar Zrinski and Fran Krsto Frankopan and their execution in 1671., the Hapsburg dynasty succeeds in realising its centuries-old dream of gaining access to the sea. The coastal goods of the Zrinskis, also the estate of the Frankopans in Novi, remain a legitimate part of the Croatian kingdom, but are usurped as a feud by the imperial fisk, selling them or including to the newly founded administrative units, which experience constant changes of government in the course of the 18th and 19th ct., and at the beginning of the 20th ct.
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