Lepoglava Lace: Rise and Fall

Lepoglava lace on black bagkround

Lepoglava lace is related to the Order of Saint Paul the First Hermit (also known as the White Monk). In the year 1400, these monks adopted a life of seclusion, knowledge, and dedication, forming the cradle of science, art, and culture in Europe at that time.

Origin of Lepoglava Lace

White monk sitting and writing
White monk from the Order of Saint Paul the First Hermit.

The small town of Lepoglava is located below the Ivanščica Mountain, in the graceful and gentle landscape of the Croatian highlands, and is divided into two by the Bednja river. The town was located near the two main roads from Zagreb to Vienna and from Zagreb to Budapest. Because of its convenient transportation and proper distance from the noisy city, the monks of the St. Pauli Order of Hungary came here to establish the first hermitage. Many years later, with the assistance of aristocratic gentry, the first public middle school and university were established.

The advent of monks also brought beautiful and charming lace weaving skills. Since then, the art of making lace has gradually been accepted by the villagers, and it has become a tradition that has never been interrupted for hundreds of years.

Rise and Disappearance

After World War I, Danica Brossler encouraged women to start making lace again through official institutions, and offered courses, workshops, and a lace-making school for this purpose. Lepoglava Lace won the gold medal at the Paris World Expo in 1937 and the bronze medal at the 1939 World Expo in Berlin. This is the heyday of Lepoglava’s lace crafts.

Until World War II, when Croatia was occupied by Italy, the school interrupted the education and work of lace production, but many women continued to make lace sales to maintain their lives, so Lepoglava’s lace tradition could continue.

Intangible Cultural Heritage

After the war, all countries in the Balkan Peninsula formed the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. This tradition almost disappeared during the communist regime. Until 1993, when Croatia became an independent country, it began to pay attention to lace. In 1997, with the support of the government, the first international lace festival was held in Lepoglava. Due to the long term attention of the city council, the lace production school became active again in Lepoglava. The city council saw the employment and profit brought by this opportunity, and formulated the program of Lepoglava’s lace pattern design, weaving work, education, promotion, and sales. The plan was accepted by the Varaždin County Government and by the economic sector, with financial support. The promotion of the plan has created favorable environmental conditions, stepping lace out of the cultural and ethnography exhibition rooms, to form an actual economic activity providing income for women in the region.

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