Tolmin’s peasant uprising

Gorica in 17th century by Merian

Tolmin’s peasant uprising started on March 27th 1713 and was the last in the line of big peasants uprisings before the reforms of Maria Theresa and Joseph II. In Slovenia in 15th and 16th century around 95% of people lived of agriculture. But their social status was worsening, due to Turks invasions and wars, diseases and tax increase. In the time period of 250 years occurred around 140 smaller and local uprisings and five bigger and more important ones. Among important and bigger peasant uprisings we consider Carinthia uprising in year 1478, all-Slovenian uprising in year 1515, Croatian-Slovenian uprising in year 1573, second all-Slovenian uprising in year 1635 and Tolmin’s uprising in year 1713.

The farmers in Gorica region and partly in Carniola (lordships Devin, Novi grad and Socerb) resisted against new taxes, tax on meat and wine. Tolmin’s farmers were already in conflict for some time with Tolmin governor earl Jakob Anton Coronini. Here the taxes were collected arbitrarily and with a use of violence by Gorica scribe Jakob Bandel.  He was very strict, at the same time he collected more than the state demanded, as he enriched himself on the expanse of farmers. In year 1713 he arrested the group of Tolmin people, with that he accelerated the establishment of farmer’s union or revolts and caused the march of Tolmin people and Kanal lordship towards Gorica, on March 27th 1713. Peasant uprising was prepared by Ivan Miklavčič, some sources mention, that also Ivan Gradnik participated with assistants Gregor Kobal, Lovrenc Kragulj, Martin Munih and Andrej Laharnar. Farmers from the surroundings of Gorica also joined them. The march itself launched a series of uprisings, as in Brda, Čepovan region, Brkini started the uprisings, miners from Idrija, Žiri and farmers from Rihemberk, Štanjel and Svetokriški lordship. The biggest clash between power and farmers happened in Solkan on June 1713, but the government forcibly suppressed the resistance.

The meeting of count with Tolmin’s rebels in Solkan (Tone Kralj, 1972)


On March 27th 1713 around 500 Tolmin people gathered to march towards Gorica and to liberate the arrested farmers. On the march towards Gorica deputy of provincial governor Strassoldo with his detachment of horsemen intercepted them in Solkan and tried to discourage them nicely from their intentions. Tolmin people wanted to see the arrested compatriots, afterwards they would be willing to negotiate. But Stassoldo attacked them, he captured twenty-five more farmers, the rest he dispersed. This had Bandel so scared, that he resigned from the place in Gorica castle.

Devin castle – on the right is castle in ruins, at the back is Trieste

The following day more farmers joined the fight and together they managed to chase away the musketeers. So the Tolmin people walked around midday to the square armed with blackjacks, swords, guns and other sorts of peasant tools and weapons. With that they cut the castle from its armoury and the chance to defend, because of that it came down to negotiations. These were led by city judge Brunetti in the name of Strassold. At the beginning they demanded the release of arrested farmers, but at the arrival of other farmers they tightened their demands complete liberation from taxes and demolished Bandel’s house. In fear from new demolishment the judge handed them the prisoners under the condition, that they return back to their town. Some farmers stayed in the city, at the same time some hundred soldiers arrived.

Two days later, on March 29th 1713 around 1000 rebels attacked tollhouse in Kobarid and demanded a written certificate of elimination of new octroys. In a few weeks the outbreaks calmed down, most likely because of the spring and necessary work on the fields. But the uprising unexpectedly expanded at the end of April and the beginning of May from northern lands all the way to Trieste Carst. It was the organised movement, organised by Tolmin people. Two attacks on tollhouses in Kanal and Ročinj followed, as well as the attack on subsidiary of provincial forest master. The uprising expended into Brda, where rebels attacked a farmer, who did not want to join the resistance. It came to first three deaths.

On May 3rd they sacked the rectory in Idrija, because of that the signs of rebellion among miners started to show. But administrator of the mine calmed them down by exempting them of paying the tax on tobacco. Rebellious farmers established peasant union and committed to not be subjected to landlords. Union also started to collect rebel tax, and they showed nobles, that they won’t be paying old lawsuits anymore, they would rather start a war. Srassoldo banned the peasant organisation, as a result of this ban around 3000 people gathered in Branik, where they declared their own emperor and governor.


In Trieste area, in the city Devin around 700 farmers attacked the castle, but they were stopped by cannons. Some of them died during the attack. The uprising spread from Tolmin into Kanal, Rihenberk, Štanjel, Devin, Socerb, Novi grad and lower Carst. 750 mayors and village judges joined. Due to the fear and to protect their own property nobles started to send requests to court for help with the defence. By the order of emperor’s court war council 600 men from regular German infantry and 200 horsemen were sent to Tolmin on May 17th.

The arrival of 600 townsmen from Karlovec and Senja na Goriškem on May 20th was announced by the provincial war commissioner, who in first week of July crushed the rebels in Rihemberk. Farmers fought with them on July 14th in Solkan, where they were defeated. Defeated farmers returned to their homes immediately.


Castle above Rihemberk, todays Branik

Because the farmers in the end lost the resistance, the regular farmers again had to take an oath and for ever renounce the uprising. Fines and deprivation of the rights to vote the Mayor followed. Part of rebel leaders managed to escape and emperor commission was searching for them with arrest warrants in Gorica and Carniola region up to the end of September. Property of some was confiscated already during the search. On January 1714 they captured Ivan Gradnik. 150 Tolmin people was sentenced to imprisonment, 11 leading rebels were sentenced to death. They were executed on April 20th, 21st and 23rd 1714 on a square called Meadow in Gorica. On April 20th they executed Ivan Miklavčič or Ivan Gradnik, Gregor Kobal, Lovernc Kragulj and Martin Munih. They did not quarter Ivan Gradnik because he was a professional soldier. First they cut off his hands, behead him and expose him on torture wheel on the square. On April 21st they executed Mihael Baloh, Jakob Velikonja, Jakob Gruden and Tone Pavšler. On April 23rd they executed Matej Podgornik, Andrej Laharnar and Valentin Lapajna. In Wien they still today retain the documents with information about accusations and executions. The final conviction came in year 1716, when they released all imprisoned farmers. Priests, who encouraged the uprising were expelled from entire Gorica region.


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