March of Carniola

March (or Margraviate) of Carniola
Mark(grafschaft) Krain
State of the Holy Roman Empire
late 9th century–1364
March of Carniola within the March/Duchy of Carinthia circa 1000 CE.
  March of Carniola
  Other parts of the March/Duchy of Carinthia
  Rest of the German Kingdom
  March of Carniola at the time of the Hohenstaufen Emperors (circa 1250).
  The pale highlighted area roughly corresponds to the later Austrian Circle and is shown merely for context.
Capital Not specified
Government Markgrafschaft (Margraviate)
   Established late 9th century
  Attached to Duchy of Bavaria 952
  Separated from Bavaria (as part of the Duchy of Carinthia) 976
  Separated from Carinthia 1040
  Inherited by King Ottokar II of Bohemia (thus uniting it with Austria and Styria) 1268
  Ceded to the Habsburgs 1276
   Declared a duchy by Rudolph IV of Austria 1364
  Status as duchy recognised 1590
Succeeded by
Duchy of Carniola
Today part of  Slovenia

The March (or Margraviate) of Carniola (Slovene: Kranjska krajina; German: Mark Krain) was a southeastern state of the Holy Roman Empire in the High Middle Ages, the predecessor of the Duchy of Carniola. It corresponded roughly to the central Carniolan region of present-day Slovenia. At the time of its creation, the march served as a frontier defense against the Kingdoms of Hungary and Croatia.


Main article: Carniola

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.


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 and was 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, Emperor Otto II appointed his nephew Otto of Swabia Duke of Bavaria and separated the marches from the duchy. He made Carinthia a duchy for Henry the Younger of the Bavarian Luitpolding dynasty, who acted as a sort of "chief of the border police," controlling the marches of Istria, Verona (Friuli), and Carniola.[2]

In 1040, King Henry III of Germany 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 north of the Karavanke mountains. 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 marches 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 of Germany 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 Thuringian dynasty of Weimar upon the death of Margrave Ulric II in 1112 (he may have resigned his march in 1107 or 1108), the patriarchs took over the governing of the territory, against the resistance of the Rhenish House of Sponheim, Dukes of Carinthia from 1122. The patriarchs partitioned the territory between several powerful fiefs, the most prominent of which were the Counts of Andechs (later Dukes of Merania), the Meinhardiner dynasty of Görz, and the Counts of Celje.

In the twelfth century, the Republic of Venice gradually acquired the Istrian littoral and Carniola took control of what remained of the Istrian march around Pazin (Mitterburg). 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] In 1245, Patriarch Berthold gave Carniola to the Babenberg Duke Frederick II the Warlike of Austria with royal consent.

Bohemian rule

Around 1254, Carniola lost its marcher privileges. When Frederick the Warlike died in 1246, Carniola was given to the last Sponheim duke 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 the Přemyslid King Ottokar II of Bohemia in 1268. Ottokar likewise had acquired Austria with Styria, and upon Ulric's death in 1269 he united Carinthia and Carniola to his Crown, which already stretched to Königsberg, which he had founded on his Prussian Crusade. Thus Carniola was the southernmost possession in a line which stretched from the Adriatic to the Baltic Sea.

In 1273 Ottokar became embroiled in a dispute with Count Rudolph of Habsburg over his election as King of the Romans. The next year Rudolph and the Imperial Diet of Nuremberg demanded that all fiefs acquired during the interregnum after the death of Emperor Frederick II of Hohenstaufen in 1250 were to revert to the Imperial crown, a demand which would have applied to Austria, Carinthia and Carniola. Ottokar refused, but was eventually put under Imperial ban in 1276 and forced to cede the lands, only retaining Bohemia and Moravia. Under the Habsburgs, Carniola became a frontier against Venice in the west while its eastern border with Hungary 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 his ally Count Meinhard of Görz-Tyrol, Duke of Carinthia from 1286. It remained with the Meinhardiner dynasty until Duke Henry VI of Carinthia died in 1335. King John I of Bohemia renounced his rights of inheritance and the Habsburg dukes Otto and Albert II of Austria gained Carniola despite an agreement Henry had made with Emperor Louis IV of Wittelsbach whereby his daughters Adelaide and Margaret of Tyrol would inherit his lands.

Albert's son Duke 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. By the 1379 Treaty of Neuberg, Carniola was attached to the Inner Austrian possessions of the Habsburg dynasty.

List of margraves

House of Sponheim:

House of Andechs:

Dukes of Merania:

House of Babenberg:

House of Sponheim:

Přemyslid dynasty:

House of Habsburg:

Meinhardiner dynasty:

House of Habsburg:

declared himself "Duke of Carniola" in 1364.


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


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