Celje is a typical Central European town and the third largest town in Slovenia. It is a regional center of Lower Styria and the administrative seat of the Urban Municipality of Celje. The town of Celje is located under Upper Celje Castle at the confluence of the Savinja, Loznica and Voglajna rivers in the lower Savinja Valley. It lies 241 m above mean sea level. The Celje region is frequently shaken by minor earthquakes. In the local colloquial Slovene dialect, Celje is called Cjele or Cele, giving it a special modulation, spoken mainly by its citizens.
The City Municipality of Celje covers 95 sq km, has a population of more than 300,000, and includes 39 urban and suburban settlements. Celje itself covers 24 sq km and has a population of around 50,000. Celje is the third largest town in Slovenia and is the administrative, business, economic, commercial, cultural, educational, and medical, sports, and market center of the region. It lies along the Savinja River in the southeastern part of the Celje Basin, 241 meters above sea level. It is located at the traffic junction between Ljubljana to the west, Maribor to the north, Zidani Most to the south, Velenje and Slovenj Gradec to the northwest, and Rogaska Slatina to the east.
Celtic Times of Celje
The first settlement in the area of Celje appeared during the Hallstatt era. The settlement was known in the Celtic times and to Ancient Greek historians as Kelea; findings suggest that Celts coined Noric money in the region.
Once the area was incorporated into the Roman Empire in 15 BC, it was known as Civitas Celeia. It received municipal rights in AD 45 under the name Municipium Claudia Celeia during the reign of the Roman Emperor Claudius. Records suggest that the town was rich and densely populated, secured with the walls and towers, containing multi-storied marble palaces, wide squares, and streets. It was called ‘Troia Secunda’, the second; or small Troy. A Roman road through Celeia led from Aquileia to Pannonia. Celia soon became a flourishing colony, and many great buildings were constructed, such as the temple of Mars, which was known across the Empire. Celeia was incorporated into Aquileia under the Roman Emperor Constantine I.
The city was razed by Slavic tribes during the Migration period of the 5th and 6th centuries but was rebuilt in the Early Middle Ages. The first mention of Celje in the Middle Ages was under the name of Kylie in Wolfhold von Admont’s Chronicle, which was written between 1122 and 1137.
The town was the seat of the Counts of Celje from 1341 to 1456 It acquired market-town status in the first half of the 14th century and town privileges from Count Frederick II on 11 April 1451.
After the Counts of Celje died out in 1456, the region was inherited by the Habsburg of Austria and administered by the Duchy of Styria. The city walls and defensive moat were built in 1473. The town defended itself against Turks and in 1515 during great Slovene peasant revolt against peasants, who had taken Old Castle.
Many local nobles converted to Protestantism during the Protestant Reformation, but the region was converted back to Roman Catholicism during the Counter-Reformation. It became part of the Habsburgs’ Austrian Empire during the Napoleonic Wars. In 1867, after the defeat of Austria in the Austro-Prussian War, the town became part of Austria-Hungary.
The First Service on the Vienna
The first service on the Vienna-Trieste railway line came through Celje on 27 April 1846. In 1895, Celje secondary school, established in 1808, began to teach in Slovene.
At the end of the 19th century and in the early 20th century, Celje was a center of German nationalism which had repercussions for Slovenes. The 1910 census showed that 66.8% of the population was German. A symbol of this was the German Cultural Center, built in 1906 and opened on 15 May 1907, today it is Celje Hall. The centuries-old German name of the town, Cilli, sounded no longer German enough to some German residents, the form Celle being preferred by many. The 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica listed the town under the German name Cilli.
Population growth was steady during this period. In 1900, Celje had 6,743 inhabitants and by 1924 this had grown to 7,750. The National Hall, which hosts the Mayor’s Office and Town Council today, was built in 1896. The first telephone line was installed in 1902 and the city received electric power in 1913.
Slovene and German ethnic nationalism increased during the 19th and nearly 20th centuries. With the collapse of Austria-Hungary in 1918 as a result of World War I, Celje became part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes subsequently known as Yugoslavia. During this period, the town experienced a rapid industrialization and a substantial growth in population.
It was occupied by Nazi Germany in April 1941. The Gestapo arrived in Celje on 16 April 1941 and was followed three days later by SS leader Heinrich Himmler, who inspected Stari picker. During the war, the city suffered from allied bombing, aimed at important communication lines and military installations. The National Hall was severely damaged.
The toll of the war on the city was heavy. The city including nearby towns had a pre-war population of 20,000 and lost 575 people during the war, mostly between the ages of 20 and 30. More than 1,500 people were deported to Serbia or into the German interior of the Third Reich. Around 300 people were interned and around 1,000 people imprisoned in Celje’s prisons. An unknown number of citizens were ‘forcibly’ conscripted into the German army. Around 600 “stolen children” were taken to Nazi Germany for Germanization. A monument in Celje called ‘Vojna in mir’ that is War and Peace by the sculptor Jakob Savinsek, commemorates the World War II era.
After the end of the war, the remaining German-speaking portion of the populace was expelled. In the middle 1970s, 30 years after crimes, the local authorities build preschools, schools, blocks, halls and other objects on mass graves. In 1991, when it became possible again to discuss the facts pertaining to the massacre, the Slovenian government decided to build a memorial to the victims of Teharje.
Celje became part of independent Slovenia following the Ten-Day War in 1991. On April 7, 2006, It became the seat of a new Diocese of Celje, created by Pope Benedict XVI within the Archdiocese of Maribor. The town’s tourist sites include a Greyfriars’ monastery founded in 1241 and a palace from the 16th century.
The coats of arms of Celje are based on the coat of arms of the Counts of Celje. The coat-of-arms of Celje was selected for the national arms immediately after World War I in 1918, when Slovenia together with Croatia and Serbia formed the original Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes subsequently Yugoslavia. A similar coat of arms was integrated into the Slovenian national arms in 1991.