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The Frankopans, at that time still the Counts of Krk, began to build the castle in 1223. At that time the Croatian-Hungarian King Andrew II donated the County of Vinodol to them of which Trsat was also part. The mediaeval characteristics of that original building – a shelter, tower with ramparts and towers, an enclosed courtyard, cistern and an entrance with a drawbridge – have been partially preserved. In a military sense it was one of the most powerful and most westerly Frankopan fortifications in the Littoral region. As a spiritual and cultural source it also played an important role in the overall life of the community. Legend says that at the end of the 13th century the Holy House of Nazareth, more accurately the birth house of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was located on Trsat. The little house appeared “by itself”, and in the same way three years later “on the wings of angels” it was transferred to Loreto, where it is located today. It is more likely that the Crusaders, after defeat in the Holy Land in 1287, tried to relocate a part of the holy relics, which they had seized, and thus pieces of the Nazareth house as well. This event impressed the folk so much that the people immediately began making a pilgrimage to the top of the Trsat hill, which did not pass unnoticed by the lords of the castle. A Krk count personally came to Trsat and sent a delegation to Palestine, which informed him how Mary’s birth house had indeed disappeared from Nazareth. In memory of this event Count Ivan Frankopan ordered that a chapel should be erected, and then his son Martin built a Franciscan monastery with a church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary of which only fragments remain today. In the later built larger church, a painting that shows Mary as the Mother of Mercy has great value, and it is worshipped as being miraculous. Moreover, it is claimed that it was personally painted by St Luke the Evangelist. The church became the final resting place of many members of the Frankopan family, and the monastery, which the Frankopans supported, was a source of spiritual life and education. Located here today are 58 exhibits which have been donated by devotees of Our Lady of Trsat, and the oldest item is the reliquary of Barbara Frankopan on the stand of which are located the relics of thirty-six saints. The Trsat monastery library holds many testimonies and valuables in its 20,000 volumes. The most famous is the unique ‘Raj duše’ (‘Heaven of the Soul’), the prayer book of Nikola Dešić, printed in Padua in 1560. It was the personal prayer book of Katarina Frankopan.
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