Svete gore (Holy Mountains)
The pilgrimage to Svete gore starts with Easter Monday, and the main procession is on 8 September. From May 1st to St. Martin’s Sunday, mass is held on Sundays at 11.00, and in August and September at 9.30 and 11.00. Svete gore belongs to the parish of St. Peter below Svete gore / Bistrica ob Sotli.
The 527 meter hill known as Svete gore (Holy Mountains) rises above Bistrica ob Sotli. The vista from its peak extends far into the mountains of Croatia, through Donačka gora and Boč, all the way to Pohorje. From the top of the ridge downwards are ranged five shrines: Lurd’s Chapel, the chapel of St. Sebastian and St. Fabian, the Church of St. Mary, dedicated to Mary's birth, and the chapels of St. George and St. Martin.
An attempt was made to discover the past of Svete gore with archaeological excavations which took place in 1967/68 and 1971-1976. According to the remains of pottery found, settlement of Svete gore had already taken place in the 1st century BC., and among the finds, provincial Roman pottery from the 1st to 4th centuries AD predominates. Roman coins have also been found. There was a military outpost in the immediate vicinity of the hill in the period from the 4th to 5th centuries, and a refuge on its peak. After the fall of the West Roman Empire, Posotelje became part of the Ostrogoth state. During the migration of various peolls throughout Europe, they left traces on Svete gore, too, revealed by the partially destroyed grave of a German soldier, with a grave goods of weapons and vessels. When the Slavs strengthened their hold over the land, they began to bury their dead on the top of the hill. There is thus an early medieval necropolis in the space between Lurec and St. George’s chapels, belonging to the late Slave phase, with objects found being from the end of the 9th and beginning of the 10th centuries. The latest is an earing belonging to the “Belobrdo” culture and dated to the first half of the 11th century.
The Church of Mother of God
After final settlement, the Slavs slowly adopted Christianity and built the first shrine. Svete fore is first mentioned indirectly in sources in 127… domus noue apud Sanctam Mariam…fratris Wernheri noue domus Sancte Marie…and then in 126 an Monte Sancte Marie. It is mentioned in later sources as Vnser vrowen Perg, and the question of when it received the name Svete gore remains open.
Major construction work took place on the hill in the 17th century, when the original church was extended, and in 1611 sanctified by the Ljubljana bishop, Tomaž Hren. Around 1727, the church, which had again become too small was increased by the addition of an aisle, or side nave, the main nave was vaulted and raised, and the present choir stalls and galleries were connected. Similarly, access to the church and to the two galleries were connected. Similarly, access to the church and to the two galleries was provided by a spiral stairway.
The flowering of pilgrimage was frozen in the period of Emperor Joseph, and only after 1860 was there a new summer, which was provided by the St. Peter parish priest, Jurij Stepišnik (1857-1862) and Martin Sevnik (1862-1892). They completely renovated the church, which Tomaž Fantoni repainted in 1868-71, as is recorded in the church. The main entrance to the church was under a mighty bell tower, and through a richly profiled and ornamented main portal, which bears the date 1732.
The present early Baroque church has the appearance of a basilica, it is a nave and two side aisles, and measures 31m by 17m. The presbytery, which s the same width and height as the nave, is constructed with regularly shaped quarried stone. The two oratoria look over the end of the emporia.
Tomaž Fantoni painted the nave of the church and the images depict various events connected with Mary. On the vault of the presbytery is painted Mary of the Assumption, and on the side walls scenes from the litanies of Mary.
In the aisles are portrayed the granting of various prayers which occurred at the intercession of Mary of Svete gore. The author of the pictures is unknown.
More than the frescoes, the eye is drawn to the main altar, on which sculptures rise in here storeys. Before us are ranged the main events in Mary’s life – birth, the Annunciation and crowning in Heaven. Above the tabernacle stands Mary the queen, with scepter in hand and children to her right, surrounded by angels. This part of the altar was restored in 1980, and it was establish that this was the earliest part of the altar, very probably eve
n from the old church. All of Mary’s relatives are collected between the various capitals.
In the nave, six side altars rest against colums, dedicated to St. Ana, St. Florian, St. Anthony the Hermit, Mary of the Rosary, St. Francis Xavier, and St. Isodor. All the altars originate from the third quarter of the 18th century, have stone pedestals, and left and right in line are almost identical.
Mary’s throne in the nave is a great deal closer to the eyes of pilgrims, to which the resort with their difficulties and prayers. The statue on it is old, but entirely reworked, and it portrays Mary with Jesus in her arms. It is noteworthy that the statue has been reclothed.
To the left of the throne is a Baroque pulpit, which was restored in 1979. In the choir stalls is a triple organ from the first half of the 18th century, which was renovated in 1994. In addition to this, the church also preserves a number of votive images, among which the oldest is from 1681. That from 1779, which depicts a procession of the inhabitants of Župeča vas, is primarily of interest because of its depiction of Svete gore, on which a smaller object, probably a chapel, appears between Boštjan and Lurec chapels.
The church once had tree bells. In 1917, two were collected for the army. In 1924, an new bell was raised in the bell tower. In 1969, the bells were recoppered, and in 1982, the entire roof and tiling was replaced.
The Chapel of St. George
The chapel to St. George was erected slightly below the church of St. Mary. It vas created in the pre-Romanesque period, probably in the 9
th or 10th century, although it is mentioned in documents only in 1545. A narrow, high, semi-circular terminated portal leads into the chapel itself. There is an inscription on its curved lintel in an unusual script, which has still not been deciphered today. To the right of the door, plaque has been built into the wall. The original is a light yellow sandstone, in an irregular trapezoidal shape. On it is engraved a relief of a man with aa pear-shaped head and raised arms and some indeterminable signs. It is thought to have been created at the end of the first millenium.
At its creation, the church had a short rectangular nave with open roofing, probably a semicircular apse at he very beginning, which was modified into a four-cornered presbytery. Today’s presbytery, which is closed on three sides and vaulted within, is form the 16th century. The light in the nave comes through a number of windows. The most interesting are two in the south wall of the nave, with semi-circular terminations and funnel shaped incisions in the wall on both sides. In the narrowest part, a frame from a single piece has been erected. The chapel is unpainted, simply decorated with painted rectangles and devotional crosses.
It was given a new roof in 1969, in 1978 it was finally arranged, the level ceiling replaced and the floor and painting restored.
The Chapel of St. Martin
Yet a little lower than the chapel of St. George is the chapel of St. Martin. This, too, is built on bare rock, is pre-Romanesque in plan, and formerly embraced the present nave, but with a level covering, and probably an apse. In the second half of the 15th century, the apse was replaced with a three sided terminal presbytery and the nave was vaulted. In front of the entrance in an open porch which was built in the 16th century. A narrow, high, pointed portal leads to the interior, which is terminated at the apex with an arch hewn from a single piece of stone. Above it, in the gable of the wall, is a rectangular window which has been hewn from a single piece. The presbytery, which is covered by ribbed vaulting, is painted with late Gothic frescoes from the middle of the 17th century, while the nave was painted around 1500 by a Čelovnik master. The frescoes were restored in 1977. The altar, from 1655, with a statue of St. Martin, which was restored in 1986m stands on a stone pedestal, and in 1991, the chapel also received new roof.
The Chapel of St. Sebastian and St. Fabian
Immediately above the Church of St. Mary is chapel of St. Sebastian and St. Fabian. It is the only one set across the saddle, and it was built in the first half Fabian. It is the only one set across the saddle, and it was built in the first half of the 15th century as a single building. In the middle of the 16th century, a side building was addend and a new entrance to the church arranged. It has a tower, which is without a bell, just as are all the other chapels. The original Gothic window with trefoil conclusion has been preserved in the altar part. The interior of the chapel is of interest primarily because of the wall frescoes, on which the Čelovenik master in 1514 painted a series of scenes and holy figures, as well as the two patrons. Under this layer is an older layer of frescoe, probably from 14 52. They are ascribed to the master who also painted the presbytery in the parish church of St. Peter in Bistrica ob Sotli. The frescoes were restored in 1970-71, and in 1987, the roof was covered with new shingles.
In the first half of the 17t century, the chapel was extended, and the wooden ceiling replaced with a vaulted one, which was painted at the same time. Of the fittings, only the gold altar from 1662 has been preserved (without he statues of saints), which was restored in 1971 and moved to Lurec chapel.
The Chapel of Mother of God of Lurds
The final chapel is set right at he peak of the ridge, dedicated since 1893 to the Mother of God of Lurds, and prior to that to St. Bolfenk. The chapel has a rectangular nave and a three sided terminal presbytery. The stone corners of the presbytery and the nave are sprinkled with unusual shaped stonecutter’s marks. When the wooden vaulting was removed in 1971 and replaced with a new, level ceiling, as it had been originally, the first painting was discovered. All the walls had once been covered with passion scenes form around 1600. Immediately behind the door is a half-length picture of an knight in fashionable clothing with “mill wheels” and the order of the golden fleece around his neck. Today, thanksgiving images are preserved in the church, which have been donated by believers in thanks for prayers answered.
The rectory is on the flank of the hill. The building is from the 18th century. It was restored in 1976, and st that time a water supply was taken from here to the top of the hill, where in 1974, a small building with sanitary facilities was erected.
In front of the rectory stands a chapel with statue to Mary of Sorrow. Its interior was painted by Florijan Umek, from Buče, but only a small part of the painting has been preserved. The chapel was renovated in 1977/78.
The Chapel of “God’s leds”
Still lower down the hill, beside the only source of drinking water, is the chapel of “God’s leds”, which is first mentioned in the 18th century. The old chapel vas demolished in 1939, and a new one built slightly lower down, to the plans of Simon Kregar.
Osojnik’s and “Bound Cross”
Two shrines set on pillars direct us to Svete gore. The first has been erected on Vrhunce. It is known as Osojnik’s cross, and carries the date 1612. According to tradition, is is supposed to have been erected in memory of the arrival of Bishop Hren in Gore. Besice the footpath which leads to Bistrica ob Sotli stands the second shrine, the so-called “Bound Cross” from 1612. The shrine is broken in the middle and has been bound with iron hoops; from which it presumably received its name.
The pilgrimage to Svete gore starts with Easter Monday, and the main procession is on 8 September. From May 1to St. Martin’s Sunday, mass is held at 11.00, and in August and September ant 9.30 and 11.00.
Svete gore belongs to the parish of St. Peter below Svete gore / Bistrica ob Sotli. Its former priest, Father Martin Panič, has taken care of its renovation and maintenance for almost forty years. It is thanks to him, and of course al the donations from parishioners and pilgrims, that Svete gore is today as it is.
The Parish Church of St. Peter
The parish church of St. Peter has been built in the valley, on a plateau. It is first mentioned in 1275. The oldest part of the church is its nave, of which the basis is pre-Romanesque. It was raised in 14th of 15th century, the interior given ribbed vaulting, and a three sided terminal presbytery added. In 1645, a bell tower was constructed. The church was later adapted to the Baroque, its Gothic vaulting replaced by Baroque, and the two chapels and a sacristy added. At the start of the 19th century, it was already in such poor condition that the church plate was removed. It was repaired in 1835.
Below the bell tower, a portal with the date 1668 leads into the church. The architecturally and artistically most important place in the church is the presbytery, which is covered with a stellar ribbed vault, meeting in two bosses. The majority is covered in frescoes, which were uncovered and restored in 1970. They were created in 1452. On the vault in the centre, reigns Christ the Ruler He is surrounded by angels with their implements of torture and the angel Michael with scales, in which he weighs good and evil souls. In the extreme easterly fields are the apostels Peter and Paul. On the side ceiling panels of the presbytery are ranged a bull, lion, angel and eagle, the four symbols of the evangelists. The second field is covered by stenciled decorative tendrils.
The church had already been painted. So above the entrance which leads to the sacristy is preserved the portrait of a bishop, and to his right, a partially preserved fresco of two saints. In the top section of the north wall is a fresco of Christ and Peter, and frescoes which depich the Eucharist of Christ and a scene from the Mount of Olives. On the vault of the nave itself are paited four scenes from the life of Peter.
The Baroque Path of the Cross, after the renovation of the church and the installation of a new organ in 1992, was installed in a corner enclosure, in the nave and in the side chapels.
On the north wall, where there was formerly a pulpit, a relief tomb was built for the parish priest, Janez Kodrič, who died of plague in 1646.
The glas partitions are the work of the sculptor, France Kokalj, from 1970 and 1971, and the figural door to the fabernacle and the broze pedestal with the Crucifixion, of the sculptor France Gorše.
The side chapels are dedicated to St. Joseph and Mariy of the Rosary. The altar in the chapel of St. Joseph is rom the first half of the 18th century, whicle that in Mari’y chapel is a copy of it. The baptismal font, judging by style from 1660, is in a corner of Joseph’s chapel.
The church bences from 1837 were replaced by new ones in 1959, and again in 2002.