For providing him with a haven during his flight from the Tatars, Bela IV, the King of Croatia and Hungary, gave his thanks to the city of Gradec by issuing the Golden Bull (1242), which made it a royal free city. This obliged Gradec to construct defensive walls and towers. It took 20 years to complete these fortifications, in 1266. During this time, the Lotrščak tower was built. Its main function was to guard the city’s southern entrance: the little Dverce gate. These were taken down in 1812 during the construction of Zagreb’s southern promenade or the Strossmayer promenade (Strossmayerovo šetalište) as we know it today.
The name Lotrščak comes from the Latin phrase campana lantrunculorum – ‘the thieves’ bell’, which rang in the evening before the city gates were closed for the night.
We do not know exactly what the tower looked like in medieval times, but some old drawings of it show only two floors, with two windows on each floor, and a four-sided roof. The ground floor entrance was on the northern side, while the external stairs led directly to the first floor.
From the end of the 16th century, there was no more danger of Turkish attack, so the tower lost its original function. In the centuries that followed, the tower was used by various people for various purposes. From the 17th century, it was used as a storage, and in the 19th century, there was a coffee house on the ground floor with an entrance from the south. At a certain point, the tower became used for residential purposes. Most radical were the changes from 1857. This was the romantic period of restoring medieval buildings: the Lotrščak tower gained two new floors and a polygonal wooden fire lookout on the top.
An interesting fact from the tower’s history is that, since the municipal authorities lacked funds for its upkeep, it was leased to townspeople under the condition that they should maintain it and, in case of an enemy attack, return it to the authorities for defense purposes.
At the end of the 19th century, the city council installed a cannon in the tower. By firing each day at noon, the cannon set the clock for all city churches’ bell ringers. The cannon was first fired on New Year’s Eve of 1877. During the First World War, the cannon was silent and forgotten. In 1927 it fired again from the southern side of the fourth floor, from where it still fires today, exactly at noon.
Today, the Lotrščak tower is part of the Public institution Klovićevi dvori Gallery. There is an ART & GIFT SHOP on the ground floor of the tower, which sells souvenirs, books, and unique jewelry. The first and second floors are used for exhibitions, and the top of the tower offers the most beautiful view of Zagreb to its visitors.