Ljubljana. History. City.

Exhibition May 8, 2018 − January 1, 2030
[Permanent exhibition]

How well do you know the rich history of Slovenian capital? Pile-dwellers, Emona, Middle and New Ages, the 20th and 21st centuries… what is the history of Ljubljana? Get to know Ljubljana's past - see the chronological presentation of Ljubljana’s millennia of heritage with precious authentic artefacts, like the world's oldest wooden wheel with an axle!

LJUBLJANA is space, events, time.
The HISTORY are facts and the narrative that have created our present.
The CITY is dwellers, life, changes.

Learn about the history of our capital city, its important geostrategic position at a crossroads of routes, and of the extraordinary events that unfolded here from prehistory to the 20th century. Alongside crucial points in time, emperors, kings and presidents, the exhibition also presents you the everyday life of the city’s population, which also left its mark on Ljubljana.

In our globalised world, heritage just might be what differentiates cities the most, and it also shaped our capital's identity. Therefore, the exhibition proudly highlights local peculiarities, stories of everyday life in the past, and the individuals who left the strongest impressions on our history.

In autumn, the museum will also publish a popular-scientific monograph about the history of Ljubljana. The book will present five great periods in Ljubljana’s past: from the first traces of man to the first permanent settlements and their development in prehistory, the first city during the Roman period, the origins and development of the walled medieval city, cultural and urbanistic developments during the early modern period and the vivid political events of the 20th century.

More about the exhibition

In the beginning, there was nature, with all of its laws, resources, and whims. Despite a colder climate, about 40,000 years ago Neanderthals would occasionally inhabit the area of today’s Ljubljana, where they would also utilise wooden points for foraging, hunting and gathering food. 35,000 years had to pass for people to finally permanently settle in the area. They lived in stilt houses, which rose above the marshy landscape. Maybe the belief that the citizens of Ljubljana should be called “froggers” has really old roots! The famous wooden wheel with an axle, about 5,200 years old, is also from the pile dwelling period. This discovery placed Ljubljana on the world map of the oldest and most important innovations. Later, people settled closer to the centre of today’s Ljubljana. The people that travelled through this space, or settled here permanently, received different names from history: Veneti, Illyrians, Celts. Everything then changed once the Romans arrived here …

When the reign of Augustus was coming to its end, his troops helped construct Emona. Why here exactly? It was due to the important strategic location, on a crossroads of important trade routes in the narrow Ljubljana Gates, the lowest natural passage between the Alps and the Dinarides, in a time when Romans were conquering new lands in the Balkan south and the Pannonian east. The Roman colony of Emona formed next to a navigable river and it was due to this fact that the city remained relevant in later periods. This was a proper Roman town, with roads, sewers, public buildings, walls, and a lively everyday life. Its streets were filled with merchants trading wonderful glassware, craftsmen carved headstones, children played with marbles on sidewalks, brides wore golden engagement rings, while travellers wore phallic amulets for luck. The city had a long life, but not an eternal one. With the fall of the Western Roman Empire, life in Emona also declined.

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, it was Slavs that came knocking on the Ljubljana Gates and settled on the edges of the Ljubljana Basin. It was only at the dawn of the second millennium that circumstances were finally ripe for the development of medieval Ljubljana. Its beginning is a story of success: the recent discovery of a wooden plate positions its origin in the early 11th century. A good hundred years later, the medieval city of Leibach, or Luwigana, is first mentioned in written records. Almost overnight, in slightly over a century, Ljubljana expanded from a small hut settlement under the Castle Hill to the river’s left bank and became a true medieval town with imposing walls that withstood a Turkish siege in the early 15th century. The importance of the town is documented in the fact that Ljubljana had its own mint and, since opportunity makes a thief, it also had its money forgers.

The proliferation of the city during the proverbial Dark Ages continued in the modern era when Ljubljana began developing into a centre of trade, craftsmanship, culture and national identity. The 16th century was crucial, as the Reformation brought us first books written in Slovene. Following the “fiery” Counter-Reformation was a period of peaceful city life in the 17th and 18th centuries, when Ljubljana received its Baroque change of clothes. The city nobility was busy rearranging their city homes into monumental Baroque palaces – among which was also the one hosting our museum – the Auersperg Palace. The bourgeoisie indulged in new opulent facades for their houses.

National identity was influenced by the brief episode of French supremacy, during Napoleon’s conquering of Europe, when Ljubljana became the capital of the Illyrian Provinces and Slovenian was now the officially used language. The romantic in us could say that it was love which, a few years later, most influenced the rise of the level of the Slovenian language. The love that the poet France Prešeren, author of the text for the Slovenian anthem, felt for his young muse Julija.

The first half of the 19th century once again transformed Ljubljana’s image, which was even further altered by a severe earthquake in 1895. Following this disastrous event, Ljubljana stepped into the new century fully renovated due to the resourcefulness of its mayor Ivan Hribar, who was very successful in acquiring funds for the renovation.

The 20th century was turbulent for the entire world, and Ljubljana was no exception. With the conclusion of the World War I, during which Ljubljana was an important city in the hinterlands of the Isonzo Front, the 600 years of Habsburg rule of Slovenian lands also came to its end. In the period between the two wars, Ljubljana experienced a lively city life, the stock exchange began operating, the University of Ljubljana was established, as were the Academy of Sciences and Arts and the Ljubljana Grand Fair. At the same time, it was Jože Plečnik who impressed his carefully considered architecture on the period and the city, which is making Ljubljana a unique city to this day. The World War II inflicted much pain on the city and encircled Ljubljana in barbed wire. With the liberation, the state also entered a new political, social and economic paradigm – socialist Yugoslavia. Quick urbanisation marked the period, Ljubljana grew exponentially, and migration increased the city’s population. Following several decades of Yugoslavia (with Marshall Tito also passing away in 1980 at the University Medical Centre Ljubljana), Slovenians decided to form an independent state on a plebiscite in 1990. Independence was declared on 25 June 1991, and for the first time Ljubljana became the capital of an independent Slovenia.

As we have begun about 40,000 years ago, we continue today: with nature. After millennia of settlements in the area, Ljubljana has preserved a strong contact with nature, as green areas reach deep into the centre of what is today a contemporary European city.
Galleries at the exhibition