The known history of Kutjevo and the Kutjevo estate began when the Cistercian abbey was founded in 1232. Twelve monks from the Cistercian Monastery of Zirc (Zircium) near Lake Balathon in Hungary were entrusted with founding an abbey in Kutjevo in the “treasured Požega valley”. An old document from 1232 called the abbey Abbatia Beatissime Virginis Marie Vallis honesta de Gotho. In the fifteenth century Ladislav Gorjanski’s widow (1460) and Lovro Iločki (1493) were patrons of the church. The Cistercians left Kutjevo in 1529 because of danger from the Turks, who took it in 1536 and razed the Cistercian church and abbey to the ground. In Turkish times Franciscans from Velika Požega, Cernik and Našice took care of the population’s religious needs. The medieval history of Kutjevo ended in 1696, after 150 years of Turkish rule.
In 1689 Emperor Leopold I granted the devastated Kutjevo estate to Ivan Josip Babić, a Zagreb canon who was appointed titular abbot of Kutjevo and lord of the Kutjevo estate. At Babić’s invitation, the Jesuits came to Požega in 1698 with the intention of founding a primary and grammar school there. By deeds of gift issued by Emperor Leopold I on 7 February and 13 October 1700, the Kutjevo lands were granted to the Society of Jesus in Požega for the upkeep of the Požega grammar school. When the Jesuit order was abolished in 1773, their presence in Kutjevo ended. Emperor Joseph II disbanded not only the Jesuits but some other religious orders in the Austrian Monarchy, too, and created foundations to benefit from all their confiscated estates. In Croatia this was the Croatian and Slavonian Educational Foundation administered until 1880 by the Hungarian Treasury, and then by the Country Government in Zagreb. The Educational Foundation ran the Jesuit lands in Kutjevo until 1882 and often leased them. From 1798 to 1812 Count Jakob Svetić de Nemes-Sagod leased Kutjevo, he was the owner of several nearby landed properties: Pleternica, Trenkovo, Velika and Pakrac. After him Counts Nikola and Karlo Szécsen de Temerin leased Kutjevo until 1836. Then the Country Government in Zagreb decided to sell Kutjevo and it was sold at public auction in 1882 to Vjenceslav Turković and Franjo Türk from Karlovac. At that time the estate covered an area of 25,283 cadastral acres, 20,796 of which were under forests. The estate at that time had only three teams of horses, two ploughs, several ordinary carts and a very good wine cellar. Until 1925 Vjenceslav’s sons Milan and Petar Dragutin ran the estate, and from 1925 to 13 September 1945 Milan’s son Baron Zdenko Turkovć. Baron Turković’s family developed the Kutjevo estate for sixty-three years bringing it to the highest point in all its history. The rise was interrupted by the First World War, and the Second World War and new political conditions meant the end of the privately-owned Kutjevo lands, which were turned into a socialist agricultural estate.
The size and the wealth of Kutjevo changed over time. When it was under the Jesuits it included, besides Kutjevo, 35 villages in the area between Mount Krndija in the north and the rivers Londža and Orljava in the south. In 1736 the estate had 636 households, 517 hoes of vineyard, and farmed 1,180 acres of arable land. It had 19,035 plum trees, 39 water mills, and 642 horses, 725 oxen, 1,463 cows and heifers, 1,040 sheep and goats and 1,029 pigs. In the 1740s records show 225 holdings and 675 serfs who farmed 2,656 acres of arable land and 3,001 mowers of meadows. In 1816 the estate had 405 beehives. When the inventory of Kutjevo was made in 1883, after the Jesuit order was abolished, it had: a mulberry wood beside the residence with 1,726 mulberry trees; plum orchards in 11 villages with 9,573 trees, 213 acres of excellent arable land, 250 mowers of meadows, two vineyards (in Kutjevo 300 diggers and in Venje 160 diggers), and Kula Farm with one hundred Swiss dairy cows and numerous livestock of various kinds.
At the time of Baron Turković, Kutjevo was one of the most advanced estates in Croatia and a strong incentive for improved farming in the Požega region. In the early twentieth century it covered an area of 25,507 acres and 1,325 square metres or about 14,667 ha. Of that area there were: 18,931 acres and 234 square metres of forest, 3,907 acres and 2,376 square metres of arable land, 446 acres and 5,209 square metres of meadows, 180 acres and 1,080 square metres of vineyards, 1,875 acres and 1,883 square metres of nursery plants, 11 acres and 918 square metres of pastures, 56 acres and 1,238 square metres of gardens and parks, and 118 acres and 5,674 square metres of other areas (roads, building sites and the like). The estate had four farms: Ivanindvor-Gradac, Ferovac, Briest and Vlajevac. Forest management was based on well planned forest exploitation. The most profitable economy on the estate was grape growing and wine production. Kutjevo wines (graševina and ružica) and Kutjevo “de Gotho” plum brandy won many prizes at trade fairs.
In the early twentieth century there were about 500 ha of fruit plantations with 247,306 trees on the Kutjevo estate (mostly plums, apples and pears). Raspberries, chestnuts and hazel nuts were grown too. Crops were farmed and livestock reared, and there was also hunting and fishing. The estate management was in Kutjevo, and the central management in Zagreb.
Today’s manor house in Kutjevo is part of the former Jesuit complex that consisted of a monastery church, residence (later a manor house) and farm buildings and gardens, and was built on the remains of the Cistercian abbey. In reports from 1660 and 1700 it is mentioned as a ruin in which the wine cellars were probably the best-preserved part. The Kutjevo Cistercian abbey was one of four in today’s Croatia (Topusko, St James’s in Otok near Podsused in the vicinity of Zagreb, St Mary’s on Dolac in Zagreb, and Kutjevo). In 1704 the Jesuits began to clear away the ruins in order to restore the old Cistercian church. In 1721 they began to build a new Baroque church on the remains of the old one and at the same time built the manor house and other farm buildings, so that the entire complex was finished in 1735. It became the administrative centre of the estate and the summerhouse of the Jesuit College in nearby Požega.