In medieval Latin »Valvasor« or »Valvasore« held the meaning »the carrier of the feud«. In western Europe its use can be traced back to the 11th century. The family Valvasor originated in the region of Bergamo in northern Italy, specifically from the town Telgate. It was Janez Baptist Valvasor who established the family Valvasor in the region of Carniola in central Europe, that is now the Republic of Slovenia. The capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana, was already then the centre of trade, administration, religion and learning for the area. It played an important role as the main market town on route between eastern and central Europe, and Italy. It is not surprising that it became a magnet for enterprising businessmen.
Valvasor’s father migrated to Ljubljana and soon made a fortune, providing a solid foundation for the family, which reached the peak of its power in the second half of the 17th century. On 11th March 1547 he formally became a citizen of Ljubljana, which at the time meant a significant rise in social status in the state of Carniola. As a man of standing and considerable property, he was also able to issue several loans to the Archduke Karl, who in return gave him the right to the rents of the Laško estate in 1554. Subsequently, following more loans over several years, he gained the estates of Konjice, Švajlarski Turn and Medija, which added to the family status and furthered its influence.
The acquisition of the properties and the subsequent marriage to Emerenciana, the daughter of Ljubljana’s mayor Vid Khisl led to his further social advancement. In 1551 he acquired the title to provincial nobility. The marriage was short-lived. After the death of his wife in 1572, Janez Baptist Valvasor remarried. The bride belonged to the noble family Werneckh. He died childless in 1581 and was buried in the church cemetery in Laško, a place to which he was closely attached. A few months before his death he made a last will and testament, leaving the castle of Medija to Hieronim Valvasor, a distant relative, for his »loyalty to the family«.
Hieronim had four children with Agnes von Scheyer – two sons – Jernej and Adam and two daughters – Lucretia and Zofija. His considerable properties and castles, as well as his wealth enabled Hieronim to join the ranks of Carniolan upper nobility in 1602. He died in 1612.
His heirs were Jernej and Adam. It is Jernej who becomes important to this story. He was born in 1595 and married the Baroness Marija Elizabeta von Dornberg and had seven chidren with her (four sons and three daughters). After his wife died, he married for the second time in 1632, Ana Marija Rauber from the Krumperk Castle at Domžale. The marriage was most fruitful, since they had 17 children. The twelfth child was a son named Janez Vajkard – our Valvasor.
Jernej was a good father to his large family but also a prosperous landlord who increased his property by several considerable holdings. In 1641 he bought the Gamberk Castle, then gradually added the estates Belnek, Zavrh, and Moravče. He was active in politics as the Chief Treasurer of the Duchy of Carniola and Member of the Carniola Council. After his death in 1652, the family lineage continued with three sons, Karel from his first marriage, Janez Vajkard and Janez Herbard from the second.
During the second half of the 17th century the family Valvasor reached the peak of its power, wealth and influence, which lasted into the middle of the 18th century. This was the time when the family Valvasor was connected through marriage to all the important noble families of Carniola.
The downward slide of the family began in the middle of the 18th century, when their life force and economic power began to fade, and their estates were gradually taken over by strangers. The family was mentioned for the last time in the lists of Carniolan nobility in 1808. The Jesuit Wolfgang Valvasor, doctor of theology was rector of three Jesuit collegia, in Ljubljana, Klagenfurt and finally at the University of Graz from 1741 to 1757. Apart from Janez Vajkard Valvasor whose fame and significance were recognized only later, it was the Jesuit Wolfgang Valvasor who reached the highest rank in society as doctor of theology, several times rector of Jesuit collegia and of the University of Graz.