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The Mark Krain (March of Carniola) is in the southeast (lower right) of this map of the 10th-century Holy Roman Empire. Note its initial namesake and capital, Krainburg/Kranj, and what would later become its largest and most important city, Laibach/Ljubljana.

The March (or Margraviate) of Carniola (Slovene: Kranjska krajina; German: Krain) was an imperial estate of the Holy Roman Empire and predecessor estate of the Duchy of Carniola. It corresponded roughly to the central region of the modern state of Slovenia. At the time of its creation, it served as a frontier defence against the Kingdoms of Hungary and Croatia.



Before the coming of the Romans (c. 200 BC), the Taurisci dwelt in the north of Carniola, the Pannonians in the south-east, the Iapodes or Carni, a Celtic tribe, in the south-west.

Carniola formed part of the Roman province of Pannonia; the northern part was joined to Noricum, the south-western and south-eastern parts and the city of Aemona to Venice and Istria. In the time of Augustus all the region from Aemona to Kolpa river belonged to the province of Savia.

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire (476), Carniola was incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy, and (493) under Theodoric it formed part of the Ostrogothic kingdom. Between the upper Sava and the Soča rivers lived the Carni, and towards the end of the sixth century Slavs settled the region called by Latin writers Carnia, or Carniola meaning, "little Carnia", i.e., part of greater Carnia. Later on the name was changed to Krajina or, in German, Chrainmark. The new inhabitants were subjected to the Avars, but threw off their yoke, and joined the great Slavic state of Samo.


The march of Carniola on the eastern slope of the Julian Alps probably dates back to the late ninth century, when it was formed alongside the marches of Carinthia, Istria, and Pannonia. The southernmost of these, Carinthia and Carniola, were especially susceptible to Magyar raids. In 952, Carniola was placed under the authority of the Duchy of Bavaria, as were Carinthia, Istria, and Friuli.[1] In 976, the Emperor Otto II made his nephew Otto I Duke of Bavaria and separated the marches from the duchy. He made Carinthia a duchy for the Liutpoldinger Henry, who acted as a sort of "chief of the border police," controlling Istria, Friuli, and Carniola.[2]

In 1040, the Emperor Henry III separated Carniola from the Duchy of Carinthia and granted the Windic march to the former.[3] The reason for the split was partly military considerations and partly the innate distinctness of the region, whose pattern of German colonisation differed from that of Carinthia proper. Carniola had been additionally settled mostly by Bavarians with a minority of Swabians and retained its Slovene culture while most of Carinthia adopted German culture. The most prominent Bavarian families were the Hoflein, Stein, Hertenberg, Reydeck, and Rabensberg, while the Swabian families of the Auersperg, Osterberg, and Gallenberg were also represented. It is possible that Carniola even had Germanic settlement dating back to the Völkerwanderung: the little forest-bound town of Gottschee, southeast of Ljubljana.[4]

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Initially, the margraviate was bordered by Carinthia and Styria to the north, Croatia and Slavonia to the east, Istria and Dalmatia to the south, and Friuli, Gorizia, Udine and Gradisca to the west. The Carniolan lands were bound informally to the other marches of the southeast of the Empire in what has been termed the "Austrian complex" because of the supremacy which Austria quickly obtained over the others and the way in which they tended to follow her.[5] Due to this informal cohesion, Carniola was more like a geographical part than a whole and it was often combined to its neighbours and granted out as payment for electoral support. Nevertheless, its status as the most southeasterly of the marces helped it retain its marcher privileges well into the thirteenth century and long after the other regions, especially Friuli, had lost theirs.[6]

Patriarchal rule

On 11 June 1077, Carniola and Istria were transferred by King Henry IV to the powerful Patriarchate of Aquileia. Nevertheless, margraves were still appointed and the territory was administered as a separate province. After the extinction of the first dynasty with the death of Ulric II in 1112 (he may have resigned his march in 1107 or 1108), the patriarchs took over the governing of the territory. The patriarchs partitioned the territory between several powerful fiefs, the most prominent of which were Merania, Gorizia, and Cilli. In 1245, Patriarch Berthold gave Carniola to Frederick the Warlike of Austria with royal consent.

In the twelfth century, the Republic of Venice gradually acquired the Istrian littoral and Carniola took control of what remained of the Istrian march. Soon Carniola extended over the Kras Plateau and had two small seacoasts on the Gulf of Trieste and the Gulf of Kvarner. It reached to the Isonzo valley, but not the river itself. This change in its geographical constitution was accompanied by increased interest on the part of nearby landlocked powers.[7]

Bohemian rule

Around 1254, Carniola lost its marcher privileges. When Frederick the Warlike died in 1246, Carniola was given to Ulric III of Carinthia, a cousin of the patriarch. Ulric developed Carniola, endowing many lands to the church and establishing a mint at Kostanjevica. He willed his lands to Ottokar II of Bohemia in 1268. Ottokar likewise acquired Austria and Carinthia in 1269, uniting them to his Crown, which already stretched to Königsberg, which he had founded. Thus Carniola was the southernmost possession in a line which stretched from the Adriatic to the Baltic Sea.

Ottokar became embroiled in a dispute with the German King Rudolf I of Habsburg over the German royal election. Rudolph and the Reichstag demanded he cede all lands acquired after the death of the Emperor Frederick II in 1250 to him, a demand which would have applied to Carinthia and Carniola. Ottokar refused, but was eventually defeated in 1276 and was forced to cede the lands. Under the Habsburgs Carniola became a frontier against Venice in the west while its eastern border remained stable.

Austrian rule

Rudolph gave Carniola to his sons Albert I and Rudolph II in 1282 after a meeting in Augsburg, but instead Carniola was leased to Meinhard II of Tyrol. In remained in the Meinharding dynasty until Henry II died in 1335. John I of Bohemia renounced his rights of inheritance and dukes Otto and Albert II of Austria gained Carniola despite an agreement Henry had made with Louis IV of Upper Bavaria whereby his daughters would inherit his lands. Rudolph IV of Austria declared Carniola a Duchy in 1364, although like his claiming of the title of "Archduke of Austria", it was not confirmed until much later: this time 1590.

List of margraves



  1. ^ Semple, 42. The first certain reference to a march of Carniola dates to 953.
  2. ^ Ibid, 43.
  3. ^ Thompson, 606.
  4. ^ Ibid.
  5. ^ Ibid, 607.
  6. ^ Semple, 43.
  7. ^ Ibid.


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