Heritage Trails through Dolenjska and Bela krajina

MIRNA GORA




















Mirna gora (Friedensberg) was the site of the famous church of sv. Frančišek Ksaver (St Francis Xavier). It was built around 1743 and was a renowned destination of pilgrimage to ward off thunderstorms. During World War II it was burnt down and partly renovated in 1993.

The origins of the church are, as with numerous other pilgrimage churches, tied to a folk tale. The tale speaks of an evil dragon that lived in a cave in the mountain of Mirna gora. As wheat and grapes ripened, the dragon would vomit thunderstorm clouds that brought thick hail. A period came when the hail destroyed the crop for seven years in succession and famine set in. The people then sought help with St Francis Xavier, the guardian against bad weather. A church, dedicated to the guardian, was built above the dragon's cave and the thunderstorms ceased and peace was established. The mountain was therefore named Mirna gora or the Peaceful Mountain.

St Francis acted as guardian against the rigours of the weather and storms, patron against the plague, and guardian for the auspicious final hour. Until World War II he was worshipped by the inhabitants of the Kočevsko area, Bela krajina, and the Croats. The main pilgrimage took place on the fourth Sunday after Easter, which was the Sunday closest to the name day of St Alexis of Rome (17th July), and on Angel Sunday (first Sunday in September), when mostly the pilgrims from Kočevsko came. During the Rogation Week in May processions of inhabitants of the Črnomelj and the Semič Parishes came in request of nice weather in plentiful crops. In recent years the solemn blessing occurs on December 3rd. There is also a revival of offering Masses for fields, wheat and wine.

Planina (Stockendorf), once a village of the central type in Kočevsko, is situated on a small karst plateau on the south foot of the Mirna gora. It is first mentioned in written sources in 1574. In 1880 there were 34 houses with 176 inhabitants living there, while in 1930 there were 30 inhabited and 6 deserted houses with around 130 people living in the village. The majority of the inhabitants (115 people from 22 houses) moved away in December of 1941. After the war farm and forest workers were lodged there.

The people subsisted mostly on timber, firewood and woodenware trade until World War II. The inhabitants of Gorenjci near Semič and Rodine also had a few vineyards. A two-class school was set up already in 1866, where after World War I Slovene teachers were also employed. In the village of Planina a succursal church administration unit was founded in 1737 and a local church administration unit in 1791. The latter was promoted to a parish in 1875. Abolished in 1987, its territory was then incorporated into the Parish of Semič. The church of sv. Elija (St Elijah) was built around 1730. It is at present adorned by the paintings of Štefan Šubic and Matija Bradaška.

During World War II the deserted Planina and its hinterland offered shelter to the partisan resistance movement. In the great offensive of Kočevski rog in 1942 Italian soldiers burnt down the village and there attacked the Cankar brigade in September of the same year. A national farm cultivated the deserted land to provide for the Kremen hospital and the reconvalescence hospital in the village. A partisan invalid choir was also formed in the village.

Natural characteristics

Mirna gora is the highest peak of the hilly outskirts of Bela krajina, measuring 1048 m. It is situated on the southeastern part of the undulating karst plateau of Kočevski rog and is connected to Poljanska gora. It has characteristically indented eastern slopes that steeply fall into the valley of the Divji potok and Vrčice streams but gently slope towards the low karst flat land of Bela krajina across poorly defined ledges and slopes.

Mirna gora and its closest surroundings form an island of dolomite rock within karst carbonate rock. The dolomite rock provides water to many springs, most generously to those at the Ponikve and Planina villages. The steep eastern slopes towards Gače are indented with headwater valleys.

The hilltops are covered by rich forest vegetation with the prevailing subalpine beech forest with Hacquetia epipactis and the Dinaric forest of fir and beech. The forests form a part of the extensive woodland of Kočevski rog, which together with the neighbouring Dinaric plateaus represent one the largest wooded areas in Europe. They are well known shelters of big beasts. The forests around Mirna gora are also one of the rare breeding grounds of capercaillie in Kočevski rog.

In the vicinity of the deserted villages of Planina, Kleč, Ponikve, and Sredgora the once cultivated land is slowly changing into a wide band of overgrown areas and plantations of coniferous trees. The hayfields above Planina are partly even left to natural succession as a forest reservation.

The alpine hut on Mirna gora was built in 1929 on the incentive of Ivan Zagožen, a schoolmaster in Planina who was also the first president of the Mountaineering Club of Bela krajina. Italian soldiers burnt the hut down in the summer of 1942. It was renovated in 1953 and at the same time the church belfry was transformed into a lookout tower. The home offers 50 beds and is run by the Črnomelj Mountaineering Club. It is the only maintained alpine post in Kočevski rog.

Mirna gora and Planina are the starting points of several walking routes.

The Forest Education Route Planina - Mirna gora
(Length: 3.5 km; duration: 2.5 h)
The circular route leads across the southern slope of Mirna gora up to its summit. Along it the rich forest vegetation is presented together with various tree and shrub species and the importance of forests in the preservation of water. There is an Information Room set up in the forester's hut and old forestry tools, a car of the former forest railroad, a charcoal-, and a lime-kiln are on display in its vicinity.

Along the forest railroad Rog - Črnomelj
(Length: 4 km; duration: 1.5 h)
The route leads along the partly preserved line of the former forest railroad between Luža near Sredgora and Štale. Waymarked paths lead from Planina and Mirna gora to the starting point at Luža near Sredgora.

Shepherd's Path
(Length: 10 km; duration: 4 h)
The path leads along the former shepherd's paths around Mirna gora. There are vast hayfields in the vicinity of the ruins of the Ponikve and Škrilj villages. A feature of the route is also the overgrowing areas that bear witness to the disappearing cultural landscape.

The Trdina Way
Mirna gora is included in the Trdina Way that connects Kočevski rog and Gorjanci with the outskirts of the Krško hills. From the summit the route leads to adjoining control points at:
Gače: 955 m above sea-level; distance: 4.5 km; duration: 1.5 h
Smuk: 546 m above sea-level; distance: 10.5 km; duration: 3 h

 

Information on the visit to Mirna gora and its surroundings:
TIC Semič, Roška cesta 4, Semič
tel.: 07 356 5200, fax: 07 356 5210
e-mail: tic.semic@siol.net
Planinski dom on Mirna gora
tel. 07 306 8573

Marketing:
Novi trg 6, p.p. 11, 8000 Novo mesto
tel.: 07 3372 440, fax: 07 3939 322
http://www.slovenia-heritage.net