Podravske Sesvete with a recognizable identity and spirit of the place
Podravske Sesvete, thanks to the proximity of the Drava River and its exceptional geographical location surrounded by dense forest, is among the most interesting places in Podravina. Almost endemic and like a “land island”, they have been developing their own identity since the Middle Ages, which is today recognizable in tangible and intangible heritage, ethnography and speech.
In the medieval parish censuses within the Archdiocese of Gornja Komarnica of the Zagreb diocese, the parish “omnium sanctorum de Grabonouk” was mentioned as early as 1334. It was correctly located by the first researchers in the area of today’s Podravske Sesvete, although its nomenclature is related to the neighboring Kloštar Podravski. The existence of the medieval church of All Saints is an extremely important piece of information available in the canonical visitation dating to the middle of the 18th century when a new church was built in the restored Sesvete, and north of which there was a wall as “the remains of the old church or fortress”. Following the Josephine survey (1763-1787), it is evident that at the end of Strossmayerova Street (formerly known as the Old Church) there was precisely this facility. Incidentally, it should be said that, in addition to this indicative street name, the toponym Popovica extends further west as an obvious reminiscence of the sacredness of that area. Since it was a parish church, confirmed in the vicar’s list from 1501, a settlement and a small independent estate Mentzent developed around it, to which smaller settlements (estates) are connected: Lopatko, Vranošinec, Podblatje, Ternovica, Deženovec, Dragašovec and Podbrezje.
With the arrival of the Ottoman threat, the estate was gradually devastated and the settlement was rebuilt by 1695 at the latest, as evidenced by one document, but this does not mean that the settlement and parish could not have existed for several decades earlier, as is the case with other surrounding areas. With the arrangement of the Military Frontier and later the Varaždin Generalate in 1749, Sesvete were assigned to the Pitomača company, and the first street was formed in the north-south direction from the former church towards Pitomača. In the middle of that street, a new center of the settlement with a Frontier station and chapel was built (1702); above the first location a so-called Gornja Škola (Upper School) was remodeled by 1911, and a parish church was built on the site of the second location by 1878. By 1780 at the latest, the pillar of St. John of Nepomuk, which has been located in the newly built chapel since 1889, was also erected there. At that time, there was the old parish court in the shape of a corner house next to the school, and, on the same location, the present parish court was built in the 1970s. In the middle of the 19th century, with the construction of the Čivićevac canal and the control of the Drava River, Sesvete gradually expanded first to the west and later to the east, resulting in a specific cross form of the place as an unintentional reflection of the community that strongly practices Christianity. It was religion itself that gave generations of people from Sesvete the strength to create a recognizability which can be sensed at every step. The result is visible in the opening of the Ecological Garden of Peace in 2003 as the first such open-air museum consisting of impressive life-size wooden sculptures which depict world historical figures (Odysseus, Noah, Jesus, Magellan, Francis of Assisi, Beethoven), all through a reflection of the celebration of nature, water and the cycle of life.
Among the local celebrities, Sesvete is associated with the medieval noble family Vitez od Sredne from which the famous humanist Janus Pannonius (Ivan Česmički; 1434 - 1472) descended, then the Croatian Illyrian Ferdo Rusan (1810 - 1879) whose parents are from here, Croatian musician Blaž Lenger (1919 - 2006) from neighboring Draganci, Željko Kovačić (1937 - 2015) as an educator, chronicler and immense creator of the written word, and finally Josip Cugovčan (1955 -) as a painter, ethnographer and antiquities collector.
In contemporary Croatia, Podravske Sesvete was initially part of the Municipality of Kloštar Podravski, from which they left and became an independent municipality in 1997 and to which, along the village of the same name, the hamlets of Mekiš and Draganci belong. In total, there are about 600 households with approximately 2000 inhabitants. There are no major industrial centers nearby, so the main activities of the population are agriculture and small crafts. However, it is a place which has a great potential in becoming a tourist destination, as there you can still sense the spirit of the place that has long been lost in many modern milieus