Nature has always fulfilled me and inspired me with its beauty. But still, everywhere I go, I am searching for the traces of human creativity. This time the road took me to the valley at the foot of Gorjanci. About an hour drive from the capital Ljubljana – and I already find myself in the middle of the orchards and vineyards of Pleterje, which this time of the year are already in preparation for the winter sleep …
By Sonja Bezjak
Charterhouse Pleterje – important Slovene cultural heritage
The beaten path could take me even deeper into the orange and red tree crowns, drawing a fairytale backdrop. But one of the greatest religious monuments in Slovenia: Charterhouse of Pleterje pulled me towards its direction.
Carthusians, known as the strictest catholic religious order, have a long history in Slovenia, which dates all the way back to 1165. The remains of already for centuries abandoned monasteries can be seen in Styria, specifically in the village of Žiče near Slovenske Konjice in eastern Slovenia, and Carthusian monasteries near Laško, and Bistra near Vrhnika.
The Charterhouse of Pleterje is a catholic monastery in which monks follow Christ in an exclusively contemplative life. It stands in the village of Drča near Šentjernej.
Carthusian monastery Pleterje in Dolenjska region of Slovenia – the one I am visiting today – is of the youngest generation, but also the only one in which monks live today.
Let’s start at the beginning …
The monastery at the foothills of Gorjanci, away from the people, in peace and solitude was founded and constructed by Counts of Celje, one of the most important medieval families in Slovenia. Patron of the construction was Herman II. They laid the cornerstone in 1403. Rumor has it that he was trying to make up for the sins that he accumulated in his militaristic life.
And combative were the centuries that followed. The monastery and its surrounding towns were constantly on the risk by the Turkish invasions. It was later sacked by the Turks, and then rebuilt with strong fortifications by the monks. The monastery belonged to the Jesuit Order from 1595 to 1773. It later became the property of the state but the Carthusian order got it back in 1899.
Behind the silent monastery walls
Carthusians live as hermits, in silence and peace, separated from its surrounding. Still, it is possible to view from up close this piece of history. We leave our car at the beginning of linden avenue, where a signpost invites us to draw ourselves into silence.
Along the long wall we walk to the first gate, which are the only ones open to visitors. Behind them a friendly keeper appears, and invites us into a small shop and in short but in picturesque manner describes some of the attractions of the local life.
On the large-scale farmland, the vineyards and orchards are stretching. Here they produce the typical Dolenjska region Cviček wine, as well as other varieties of Chardonnay, Pinot gris, Muscat, Kerner … While writing these lines, the author is sipping on a perfect Blue Frankonian wine …
The monks also offer their famous Pleterje brandies and bottled pears for sale.
In addition to wine, in the autumn you can buy organic apples and seedlings of the old native varieties of apple and pear. For those with the interest in the history or spirituality, the keeper has put on display books, which testify to the long history of the Carthusian life.
The magnificent Gothic church
From here we walked across the grassy plain, all the way to the door of the magnificent Gothic church.
After a large reconstruction, which went on mainly in the 1980’s, today the church impresses with numerous symbols and emblems. They are a great testimony of the history of the counts, as well as the masters building the church.
Another point of interest and specialty is hidden in the walls of the Carthusian church. These are “štimance”, terracotta pots with holes built into the wall, helping to improve the acoustics.
“But how is the life of the monks hidden behind the walls?”, we ask the keeper. He friendly unlocks the door of the old sacristy and we watch a short movie: about the life of silence and solitude in the foothills of Gorjanci, living with the rhythm of the seasons and strict schedule every day.
A visit to Kostanjevica
Following referral from the movie we went to the nearby village Kostanjevica on the Krka River, all sides surrounded by the river Krka. Bridges for pedestrians and bridges for transportation decorate this lovely and unusual village, famous for its art.
The Gallery of Božidar Jakac in addition to Carthusian art collections (whose work experts attribute the Flemish, French, Italian and German masters), are on display works by some Slovenian artists of the 20th century: Janez Boljka, Tone Kralj, Božidar Jakac and Bogdan Borčić. Needless to whisper to your ear, that you can find the gallery in a former Cistercian monastery …