The river Krka has cut a marked river
valley upstream from Soteska. This has worn deeply along the
Žužemberk fault line into the area between the edge of the Kočevski
Rog hills and the Ajdovska planota (plateau). The steep slopes
of the heavily forested plateaux meet at the riverbanks, leaving
barely enough space for the road. In the shelter of the forest,
the ancient migration routes of wild animals, including bears,
wolf and lynx, run through the isolated canyon and across the
An important communication and trade route, connecting central
Slovenia with the Croatian coast via the Novo mesto basin and
Bela krajina, ran through the river canyon from prehistoric
times onwards. The route was controlled in prehistory by a hillfort
on the summit of the Plešvica hill (593 m o.d.) above the left
bank of the Krka.
Medieval sources first mention the narrows at Soteska as Taeure
in 1145 and as Teber in 1313. The road through it was guarded
by the Ainöd fortified keep. This is now called Stara Soteska
and is located on a rocky promontory above the right bank of
the Krka. The fortified Soteska Stately Home was built on the
level ground on the left bank of the Krka after its abandonment
in the 16th century. A settlement of the same name gradually
grew up around the Stately Home.
A large scheduled heritage area is located on both banks of
the river Krka. It contains the following scheduled cultural
monuments: the ruins of the Stara Soteska castle, the Soteska
Stately Home with its park and the Hudičev turn (Devil's Tower),
the parish church of Sv. Erazem (St. Erasmus).
Air photograph of Soteska, circa 1935
Soteska Stately Home. The predecessor of the Soteska
Stately Home was built on the level ground beside the river
Krka in the 16th century. The ground plan of the Stately Home,
drawn by Janez Klobučarič in the first decade of the 17th century,
can be detected in the southwestern part of the ruined Baroque
The magnificent Soteska Stately Home, one of the finest in
the duchy of Carniola, according to Valvasor, was built by Duke
Jurij Žiga Gallenberg between 1664 and 1689. It was rectangular
in plan with an internal courtyard, surrounded by four two-storied
tracts with arcades in both storeys. The strength of the fortified
building was emphasised by four corner towers and an entrance
tower. The coats of arms of the Gallenberg and Schrottenbach
families, as well as an inscribed plaque, dated to 1675, were
placed above the entrance portal. The richly painted rooms painting
of the Stately Home are dated to the end of the 17th century
and attributed to the painter Almanach.
The Gallenberg family held the Soteska lordship until 1733,
when they sold it to Count Auersperg. The Dukes of Lichtenberg
bought the lordship in 1743 and held it until 1793. It was then
bought the Auersperg Princes from Žužemberk castle, who held
it up to the end of the Second World War.The Stately Home was
burnt in the autumn of 1943 and used as a source of building
material after the Second World War.
The church of Sv. Erazem is also closely connected with the
owners of the castle and country house at Soteska. It was first
mentioned in 1396 and became the seat of the parish in 1617.
The present building dates to circa 1664. It has high quality
18th century altar furniture and a presbytery, painted by Goldenstein
A Detail of the Wall Painting
Hudičev turn and the park. The park was laid out at
the same time as the construction of the country house. It originally
comprised the fortified area around the country house and was
laid out according to renaissance principles. A new Baroque
park was laid out on the flat area beside the river Krka at
the end of the 17th century. It combined the architectural and
the constructed natural ambient in an exquisite whole.
The park pavilion known as Hudičev turn (the Devil's Tower),
which has a trefoil ground plan, forms the central motif of
the park. The interior is richly painted. The ground floor is
decorated with an illusionist composition, which is based on
well and portal motives. The vault is decorated with a scene
from antique mythology, the kidnapping of Ganymede by Zeus.
One may wonder at the partially visible paintings in the first
storey. These are imaginative illusionist compositions of pillared
architecture and monumental female figures, which personify
faith, hope and love. The atelier of master Almanach was responsible
for the painting the, which date to the end of the 17th century.
The walled park was divided into rectangular fields, organised
around a central path. The park pavilion was connected along
the axis of the park to the country house by the central path,
which ran through three stone arches. This created a feeling
of disappearing in space, which is so typical of this period.
An orchard was planted in the park and tenants were moved into
the Hudičev turn at the beginning of the 20th century.
Folk tradition explains the unusual name of the park pavilion.
It links it with the hedonistic entertainments, organised by
the lord of the Stately Home, which led the local population
to call it the Devil's Tower (Hudičev turn).
The Ruins of Stara Soteska Castle in
The Ruins of Stara Soteska Castle.
Goldenstein, circa 1860
Stara Soteska Castle is first mentioned in the sources
in 1311. The first known owner, lord Herman Črnomaljski, is
mentioned in 1326. The Širski Knight acquired the castle from
the Črnomaljski lords by marriage in 1448. The isolated position
of the castle led to its abandonment in the 16th century and
the construction of a new castle on the opposite, left bank
of the river Krka.
The surviving ruins reveal that the castle was a tower or keep
type. The remains of the southern wall with its rounded corners
are indicative of typical Romanesque construction techniques,
employing ashlar blocks laid in regular courses. This dates
the foundation of Sara Soteska to the 12th century. The central
Romanesque keep acquired a double curtain wall with towers and
a moat in the late Gothic period. These survive as foundations.
The castle possessed dungeons that were cut deep into the living
rock, which were visited by J. V. Valvasor in the second half
of the 17th century. Here, the daughter of the then owner, Jurij
(George) Širski, awaited her fate at the end of 15th century,
for the crime of falling in love with her local teacher against
her father's will.
In the 19th century, the economic strength of the Soteska
lordship rested on the exploitation of the extensive forests
in the Kočevski Rog hills. A sawmill was established on
the right bank of the Krka in the middle of the 19th century.
It achieved its greatest prosperity in the period between
the two world wars. The surviving mechanical equipment
includes the following: a 1906 Francis Radial Turbine
with a vertical axle, a 1929 steam engine, a full reciprocating
saw made by the Esterer factory and a veneer peeler.
In 1927, a hydroelectric plant was erected on site of
the former mill on the left bank of the Krka below the
mansion of Soteska. It still retains all the original
equipment, which was produced by engineer Schneiter from
It is also interesting to note that a brewery operated
in Soteska in 1840.The Jazbina karst cave near Podturn
was converted for use as a refrigerator in 1867.
The main entrance shortly
after the Second World War
Visiting Soteska. There is an official car park with
an explanatory panel opposite the ruins of the Stately Home,
beside the regional road. A visit to the scheduled area includes
a tour of the ruins of the Soteska country house, the Hudičev
turn park pavilion and the associated outbuildings. The exhibition
depot of the Technical Museum of Slovenia (Tehniški mužej Slovenije)
will be on display here from the 1st September 2000.
The ruins of Stara Soteska castle are on the right bank of
the river Krka, circa 500 m from the starting point. Signposts
point out the way across the bridge, through the sawmill and
further on along a forestry road. It is also possible to walk
to the parish church of Sv. Erazem above the ruins of the Stately
Visit to the Tehnical Museum of Slovenia exhibition depot
and Hudičev turn are possible by prior arrangement at the Dolenjske
Toplice Commune, phone: 07/384-5191.