Church buildings have been built on this area from the 9th century onwards. The Church of St. Michael in Pilštanj was the seat of the ancient parish, from which all parishes in Kozjansko and Bizeljsko were formed. The age of the churches can be determined from the names of saints to whom they are dedicated – St. George, St. Martin, St. Margaret, St. Michael. Pilgrimage churches are intermixed with modest village branches.
Svete gore above Bistrica ob Sotli takes a special place among sacred buildings. This ancient cult centre with St. Mary’s church dedicated to her birth, St. Martin’s and George’s chapels, the chapels of St. Sebastian and Fabian and the chapel of the Lady of Lourdes is situated on the narrow ridge of the hill. Legend says that the construction started after the Countess of Kunšperk got lost in the dark woods, and ordered a church to be built in this area after she was rescued.
St. Mary’s Church was first mentioned in 1265 as Monte Sancte Marie. As to when the hill was given its name of Svete gore, it remains unknown.
The chapels of St. Martin and St. George are among the oldest sacred buildings in Slovenia, whereby the Chapel of St. George has long been intriguing experts with its illegible inscription and the silhouette of a man, which constantly evokes new interpretations of the relief and inscription.
St. Mary’s Church, the main church from the Early Baroque, has the appearance of a basilica. In the period of 1868 to 1871, the church was painted by Tomaž Fantoni. The main altar features the most important events in Mary’s life, and all her relatives. In the nave, another six side altars lean on the columns which are dedicated to St. Anna, St. Florian, St. Anthony of the Desert, Lady of the Rosary, St. Francis Xavier and St. Isidore.
Pilgrims turn to Mary with Jesus on the throne in the nave. An interesting feature of the statue is that their clothes are changed, and have around 30 pieces of clothes stored.
In 1663, the Croatian nobleman Janez Sakhmardi Dyankoch left his mansion to the Pauline monks who erected a monastery here. The mighty Church of Our Lady of the Assumption was added to the mansion and a pharmacy set up in the tower, which was decorated with paintings by Anton Lerchinger. The chapel of St Francis was added to the church in 1760, which was also decorated with paintings by Anton Lerchinger. The monastery was abolished in 1782, and the mansion was sold to Count Ferdinand Attems in 1805. After World War II, ownership of the mansion transferred to the state. The Little Brothers of St. Francis of Assisi (Minorites) arrived in Olimje in 1990 and set up the monastery here. They ran the Olimje Parish and set up a herbal pharmacy, beehive, and a herb garden in the former castle garden. There is also a pilgrimage house within the monastery.
Simple people were more familiar with crosses, chapels and signs, which are plentiful on the hills and valleys of Kozjansko. They were placed there to express people’s devotion, in remembrance of events, and as a guide on the way.
There are also many stone signs from the 16th to the end of the 19th century, which were supposed to show the way for pilgrims and travellers. The Kozjansko park area prides itself on eighteen of such signs. Some stone columns are decorated with figural images, among them, the figure of a sorrowful Christ stands out. The signs are the work of unknown folk artists, the only exception is the sign in Lesično whose quality far surpasses all other works. People named the signs as crosses, and the name of the former owner was usually added.
More in the booklet: Stone signs in Kozjansko park.