About the history of the Castle
Pejačević Castle is located in the center of Virovitica, built on the site of a former medieval fortress. It is one in a series of Slavonian castles owned by the famous Pejačević family, known by their noble title “Pejačevići Virovitički”, meaning the Pejačevićs of Virovitica. The Pejačevićs built it between 1800 and 1804 according to the designs of the Viennese architect N. Roth. The castle was owned by them until the middle of the 19th century, when, due to poor management and indebtment, it was sold to the German princely family Schaumburg-Lippe. Schaumburg-Lippe owned it until 1911 when it was bought by Count Ivan Drašković, who sold it together with the surrounding park to the town of Virovitica in 1930. It has been in the service of the town ever since.
The castle was built at the turn of the architectural styles, mostly in the early classicism style at the end of the Baroque era. Classicist tendencies are already evident in the elongated floor plan that was common for the 19th century. It is a single-storey, single-winged building. The utility rooms were placed on the ground floor while those on the first floor were representative rooms, as was customary for the architecture of the castles at that time. The castle is also adorned with three battlements, embracing an area of about 3000 square meters, and thus is one of the largest Croatian castles. Since 1969 it has been a cultural monument of the 1st category. For many years, unfortunately, the castle was slowly decaying and was a mockery in the city center.
Restoration of the Castle (2016 – 2019)
In 2016 the City of Virovitica applied for the European Integrated Development Program toward the renovation of the Pejačević Castle and the revitalization of the city park, a program intended for the restoration of cultural heritage in the function of tourism, called “5 to 12 for the Castle”. This was the largest project of the City of Virovitica, lasting 36 months with the value of more than 81 million kuna. 85% of the required funds were financed by the European Union from the European Structural and Investment Funds in the financial period 2014 – 2020. The main purpose of this project was to renovate the Pejačević Castle and restore its rich history, to create a permanent museum exhibition “Wooden Age” which will place Virovitica among the cities with exceptional tourist and cultural offer. The project holder was the City of Virovitica, while the project partners were the Tourist Board of Virovitica, the Tourist Board of Virovitica-Podravina County, the Wood Cluster of Virovitica-Podravina County and the Public Institution for Management of Protected Areas and Ecological Network of Virovitica-Podravina County.
Pejačević Castle today
As part of the project, Pejačević Castle was renovated and the park was restored with new trees, shrubs and ornamental plants. Promenades in the park were arranged, as well as the promenade in front of the Petar Preradović High School where is a new, modern fountain also located. In the park there are designer wooden bridges, each of which has its own story related to Virovitica.
Virovitica was historically known as “Little Venice” with as many as 16 bridges in the city center. As a hommage to that time, through the project of renovating the park, five designer wooden bridges were set, each of which tells its own story. The Bridge of Love, that leads to the Church of St. Roko, thus has a special bridge extension where newlyweds like to be photographed, next to Pejačević Castle in the background of their photos. The Bridge of Mirrors is unique because it gives different views of the Castle itself. The Gymnasium Bridge is intended for all generations and their community socializing. The Portal Bridge represents a “passage” from the old Virovitica to the new urban city. And a Music Bridge that plays as visitors walk on it, is set up near the place where the old Music School once stood in history.
The new permanent exhibition of the City Museum is called “Wooden Age”. It shows the wood as the main theme throughout many different aspects of the historical development of the Virovitica, as well as the natives – people known as Mikeš. In the west wing of the Castle, a tree is shown as a part of everyday life of the citizens. From the room named “Forest” where you can hear the rustling of leaves and smell the forest, through rooms presenting wood in everyday situations through history, both in the peasant and bourgeois families, to the room called “Women’s World” representing the most intimate rooms in every home. In the east wing, next to the salon of the Pejačević family (with a large wooden piano), wood is shown as a means of business. There is a display of old Virovitica’s crafts and guilds with special emphasis on TVIN, a furniture factory that built modern Virovitica in the 20th century. In the attic of the Castle, a tree is shown in the social, spiritual and sacral life through a display of old wooden instruments, associated mostly with Folklore Society “KUD Virovitica”, City Music Association and Croatian Singing Society “HPD Rodoljub”. There is also in display the old wooden altar from the church in Sedlarica.
In addition to the cultural and historical display of priceless exhibits, numerous multimedia and other contents with a focus on the tourist experience have been added. In such a way there is the simulation of tree “sawing” in the museum itself and “competition” with other visitors in cutting the timber of different types of wood. There is also possibility of listening to the old Mikeš dialect on antique radio receivers, solving quizzes with Mikeš words, the possibility of sending old traditional dishes recipes by e-mail, the education on different combing hair skills with wooden combs at different periods of history, the “Virtual Wardrobe of Pejačević” and other similar content.
The theme of “Wooden Age” is also spread throughout the city. There is the educational route “The Alleys of Virovitica” with wooden boards containing pictures of Virovitica as it once was and urban legends about Virovitica’s Romeo and Juliet, about Marin Bridge, Little Venice, Edita Schubert’s Promenade, the skating rink around the Castle and other similar stories.
With two hours of multimedia content, animation, games, movies, music, and more than 1500 priceless exhibits, the City Museum of Virovitica, along with the Tourist Information Center that includes a souvenir shop designed in the shape of a tree, and a small multimedia hall, educational space, restaurant and cafe bar, mutually makes a complete and an extremely attractive tourist product.
With the help of European funds, the City of Virovitica has managed to preserve the priceless Castle, given it a new glow and a new function as a tourist destination that presents the rich cultural and historical heritage of Virovitica in an attractive and innovative way.