Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What a surprise! Great-Great-Great-Grandfather's "Doors of Faith"

About a month ago I was happy to find the name of my 3rd great-grandfather in a history book about my ancestral village of Legrad, Croatia. The discovery that he had held the post of mayor during the middle of the 19th century confirmed a family story and gave me hope that I might eventually reveal more clues about my ancestor, who was supposedly a Jewish orphan raised by Catholic religious sisters.

Two weeks later, I planned and announced a special "Doors of Faith" blog carnival over at The Catholic Gene. Its purpose: to highlight articles by bloggers that tell stories and share photos of Catholic churches in which their ancestors worshipped. The round-up of all those articles will be published on the opening day of the new Year of Faith 2012-2013 declared by Pope Benedict XVI.

Only two days after I posted that announcement, I received an amazing bit of news about the very doors of my own ancestors' Catholic church in Legrad, Croatia.  Here's the story.

The Holy Trinity Catholic Church (Župa Presvetog Trojstva) is a beautiful late-Baroque one-nave parish church serving the village of Legrad. It was built around 1780, and by the middle of the 19th century the church needed renovation. That project was taken on in the year 1857. In addition to the renovation, a few other improvements were made.

Guess who provided for them? My 3rd great-grandfather, Josip Bence.

What were those improvements? The inside of the church was repaired, painted and tiled; two more bells were purchased for the church bell tower; and one more item was upgraded - you won't believe this: new entrance doors for the church.

I have loved this beautiful little church for many years, ever since I was given a picture postcard of it that was formerly in my great-grandmother's possession. Now I've learned that her grandfather was instrumental in preserving and updating the church. Talk about a family heirloom!

I haven't yet had the opportunity to visit Legrad, but you can be sure that once I make it to the village one of my very first stops will be to the Holy Trinity Catholic Church (Župa Presvetog Trojstva) to visit the place where my ancestors worshipped for so many decades and to admire its beautiful interior, its bells, and of course, the church doors.


A very special thank-you to Mike, a current resident of Legrad, for sharing this bit of history with me and for providing these photographs of the church. The news about Josip Bence's contribution to the church was taken from Josip Đurkan's Legrad i Njegova Župa Kroz Stoljeća (Legrad and its Parish Through the Centuries), published in 2005. Here is the English translation along with the original text:
"In 1857, the tower of the parish church was renovated through gifts from the Legrad municipality and the Varaždin general command for the sum of 2,000 forints. That same year, a new entrance door to the church was made, by care of Legrad Captain Joseph Bence. Then two more bells were purchased and placed in the tower. One weighing 230, and another 170 kg. The church inside was painted, tiled, also cared for by gifts of the captain."
 "1857. godine toranj župne crkve obnovljen je darovima legradske općine i varaždinskog generalata za svotu od 2.000 forinti. Iste godine načinjena su nova ulazna vrata u crkvu, brigom legradskog kapetana Josipa Benceja. Potom su nabavljena još dva zvona i smještena u toranj. Jedno od 230, a drugo od 170 kg. Crkva je iznutra okrečena, popločena, također brigom i darovima kapetana."

Legrad's Holy Spirit Catholic Church (Župa Presvetog Trojstva) is once again undergoing renovation as funds become available. An upcoming article here at 100 Years in America will highlight the details of the current restoration project. In the mean time, you may view some of the conservation work done on the St. Joseph altar by the Department of Conservation at Zagreb University. Visit their Facebook page (Odsjek za restauriranje i konzerviranje umjetnina ALU Sveučilište u Zagrebu) or go directly to their photos of the restoration and assembly of the altar. If you'd like to make a donation to go toward the restoration, please contact the church: Župa Presvetog Trojstva.

More articles (including photos) here at 100 Years in America about Legrad's beautiful little Catholic church:


  1. Wow! That is so interesting! What a great find!

  2. Lisa, this is such a precious find from your own heritage--and tangible, too, should you ever get to return to the town. It's been interesting, too, seeing the teamwork necessary for you to uncover these narratives from your ancestor's native language--and in obtaining the pictures, too.


For more from Lisa, visit Smallestleaf.com.

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