The history of Celje: From the Celts and Romans to the Counts and Yugoslavia to the EU


8th to 6th centuries BC During the Hallstatt period, Illyr-
ian tribes settle in the area of present-day Celje, but are
later supplanted by more advanced Celts, who name their
first settlement Kelea.

15 BC Romans first move into the area, and incorporate
it into their Empire. The town begins to flourish as a major
transport point.  

46 BC The town is granted municipal rights during the
reign of Emperor Claudius under the name Municipium
Claudia Celeia, expansion of both the population and
development continues.  
Late 4th century Christianity begins to spread rapidly. Ar-
chaeological records indicate the building of an early Chris-
tian basilica, the only of its kind discovered in Slovenia.

6th century After a long period of increased warfare
following the disintegration of the Roman Empire, agricul-
turally advanced Slavs invade and establish permanent
settlement in the area.

824 The only mention of Celje between the 6th and 12th
centuries is in a contract signed on behalf of Emperor
Louis regarding the gift of a local church.  
1241 Celje has been rebuilt into a once again sizeable
market town, a fact evidenced by the establishment of the
Celje Minorite by Catholic monks.  
1333 At the time a smaller fortress, the old castle comes
into the possession of the Lords of Sanneck, or the Cilli
family, who begin renovating and expanding it.  

1341 The Lords of Sanneck are given the elevated title
the Counts of Celje by Emperor Louis IV,  and go on to
become the most powerful family in the region.

1436 King Sigismund of Luxemburg, who some 40 years
earlier had had his life saved by Count Hermann II and later
married Hermann’s daughter Barbara, elevates the Counts
to the rank of princes of the Holy Roman Empire. The
Counts strongest rivals, the apparently envious and quick-
tempered Habsburgs, reacted with a declaration of war.

1443 The war with the Habsburg’s ends with the signing
of a mutual inheritance agreement, which states that if  
one of the families is ever without a male heir, then all of
their property and lands are awarded to the other.

1456 After a series of Machiavellian dealings, Ulrich II, the
most powerful member of the Cilli family, manages to ex-
pand the Counts’ dominion to wide swaths of present-day
Austria, Croatia, Bosnia and most of Hungary. However,
in the process he ultimately made more enemies than
he could handle, and was assassinated in Belgrade on 8
November. This would prove to be one of the more fateful
events in the region’s history, as he was the family’s last
male heir, and in accordance with the agreement made 13
years earlier all of the holdings of the Counts of Celje were
ceded to the Habsburgs.

16th century Many of Celje’s noblemen convert to Prot-
estantism, by 1580 it has supplanted Catholicism as the
leading religion in the region.

Early 17th century During the Counter-Reformation many
Protestants are driven from the area and Roman Catholi-
cism is once again the dominant religion.

27 April 1846 The first service on the newly completed
Venice-Trieste railway line stops in Celje.

1867 After the Prussian defeat of Austria, Celje officially
becomes part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

1902 The town’s first telephone line is installed

1910 Celje becomes a hotbed for German nationalism,
and a census shows that 66.8 per cent of the population
is German.

1918 In the aftermath of World War I Celje, along with all
of Slovenia, becomes part of the newly created Kingdom
of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes - the forerunner of Yugo-

Early 20th century As a result of its strategic position
as a transport hub and increased access to the Balkan
market, the town experience rapid industrial expansion
and population growth. The city’s German population is
now a small, but wealthy, minority.

April 1941 Germany occupies Celje, and the city suffer-
ers heavy losses throughout World War II. Many people
were either imprisoned or deported to camps abroad,
while other were conscripted into the German army.

1945 After Yugoslav forces reclaim the city, the remaining
German citizens are expelled. Many Slovenes who were
thought to have collaborated with the occupying forces are
also expelled or killed, with estimates ranging from 10,000
to 100,000, and the bodies are buried in mass graves on
the outskirts of the city. The atrocities could not be openly
discussed during the Yugoslav era, and even nowadays
remain a rather taboo topic.

1991 Slovenia declares its independence from Yugo-
slavia, precipitating a ten-day war which ends with the
withdrawal of the Yugoslav army. A new national flag
and coat of arms is adopted, with the latter taking its
three golden stars from the coat of arms of the Counts
of Celje.

2004 Slovenia joins the European Union and Nato.  
2007 On 1 January, Slovenia introduces the Euro as its of-
ficial currency, and in December implements the Schengen
Agreement allowing for visa-free travel to other member

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