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Slovenia, a country with one of the densest networks of sacred buildings



There are more than 2,900 churches in the country

Slovenia is considered a country with one of the densest networks of sacred buildings. The church alone is said to have more than 2,900.

The stereotypical image of Slovenia outside urban centers is a hill with a church on top. Not in vain. From the beginnings of Christianization in the 8th century and with its escalation in the 9th century, which is symbolized, for example, by the activities of the missionaries Cyril (Constantine) and Methodius, a huge number of sacred buildings were built on Slovenian territory. Many of them have origins in the Romanesque period, but they were later rebuilt or replaced by those of newer styles, so traces of this earliest period are scarce.

Extensive cultural heritageIn any case, there are said to be more than 2,900 churches in Slovenia, although around 2,400 are in use. A large part of them is also registered as cultural heritage; more precisely, almost 2,700 churches and chapels are registered as cultural heritage, for the maintenance of which the state allocates 1.5 million euros (2022). This represents around a quarter of all funds allocated to cultural heritage.

Taking into account the secularization and the emptying of the countryside, the maintenance of many churches in smaller villages is demanding. Smaller and remote parishes in particular cannot handle this burden, and that is why some are falling into disrepair.

The church in Hrastovlje, which also has the famous fresco Dance of the Dead, is one of the most famous fortified churches.  Photo: Wikipedia

Building against the will of the clergyIf we talk about the multitude of sacred buildings in our country, it is worth noting that people built some of them even in the face of opposition from the official church or local pastors and bishops, as estimated – as reported by STA – by the author of several books on Slovenian churches Franci Petrič. This is said to be a reflection of the Slovenian character, as Slovenes want to have ‘access to God’ always and quickly.

Of course, the majority of churches are Catholic, 19 are Evangelical, 3 are Orthodox, and there are also two synagogues.

Protection from Turkish incursionsThere are several specific periods in the Slovenian history of church building. The first can be highlighted the period of Christianization, although the first sacral buildings were created earlier, even in the late period of the Roman Empire. Even today, the Slovenian cultural landscape is characterized by fortified or camp churches on the hills, which are connected with the defense against Turkish invasions. Because of the latter, the period from the beginning of the 15th to the end of the 16th century is considered one of the most difficult periods in the history of the Slovenian nation. Around 350 camps were set up on our territory at the time, and one of the most recognizable fortified churches is certainly the one in Hrastovlje.

Bežigrad Church of St.  Cyril and Methodius, which was built in the 1950s to replace two demolished churches due to the expansion of the Economic Exhibition Center, is also famous for its shape, which resembles a small tower.  Photo: MMC RTV SLO

Influential Baroque styleThe remains of the anti-Turkish camp can also be found on Ptujska Gora, on which stands the Basilica of Mary the Protectress with a Mantle, which is considered the most beautiful Gothic monument in our country, and is known mainly for its relief image of Mary with a Mantle. Part of the church was otherwise baroque, which was a common practice in our country. And let’s not be mistaken if we assume that it was the Baroque that probably had the greatest impact on Slovenian sacral architecture. The Ljubljana Cathedral, for example, is baroque, and the largest church in our country is characterized by its volume as late baroque; this is the church of st. Mohorje and Fortunata in Gornji Grad.

Sacred buildings are not just historical architecture. They were also built in the 20th century. I should mention at least two. The first is the church of St. Cyril and Methodius behind Bežigrad, which typologically resembles a small high-rise building. Architecturally, the half-buried Church of the Incarnation of Christ in Dravlje by the architect is certainly recognizable. Marko Mušič.

Of course, the topic is not exhausted with this record, which we can already conclude from the given data on the number of these buildings. We should also mention that, in addition to Slovenia, such a dense network of sacred buildings can also be found in South Tyrol.

Source: Rtvslo

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