Sveta Gora (Holy Moutain, Monte Santo) is an important sacred place with a rich pilgrimage tradition. It is situated at the junction of the Vipava and Soča Valley at the transition of the Gorica Plain into the Friuli Plain. With its height of 682m above the sea level it offers a magnificent view of the Julian Alps, the Trnovo Forest, the Karst up to the sea, and to Brda and the Friuli Plain, the Carnic Alps and the Dolomites to the west.
The pilgrimage route
The first sanctuary of Sveta Gora was mentioned in early sources from the Middle Ages dating from 1368, 1376, 1382 and 1383, and there is more information about another Church on Sveta Gora which was built between 1514 and 1544. This is the period when the legend of the St. Mary’s apparitions to Urška Ferligoj from the nearby settlement Grgar was created. This gave encouragement to numerous pilgrimages from all of the nearby countries.
The basilica of the Assumption of Mary was built on a place where Mary holding Jesus in her arms was shown to the shepherd-girl Urška Ferligoj in 1539 and asked her “to tell the people to build a house for her here and ask her for mercy”. The official circles did not believe Urška and they confined her but she saved herself twice in a miraculous way and after two years of preparation works, they started to build the church. It was consecrated in 1544.
The Basilica of the Assumption of Mary
The Basilica of Sveta Gora from the first half of the 16th century has always been an important monument of cultural and historical value. It was designed as a three-nave church in which elements of late Gothic and Renaissance style were combined. During the First World War, precisely in June 1915, the church was destroyed and other buildings on the hill were also demolished: the monastery, the restaurant, and edifices for pilgrims.
The present main altar dates back to 1932 and behind it are the tombstones of the Gorica Archbishop Borgia Sedej and the Apostolic Administrator of the Yugoslav part of the Gorica Archdiocese. As regards the interior of the church, the stained glass windows from 1939 are worth mentioning. The church received a new church organ of high quality in the same year and the bells from 1921 are also famous. The Way of the Cross, painted in 1765, was placed in the church in 1977.
What has remained of the former Church of the Holy Mountain of the 14th century is just a stone plaque built into the wall behind the main altar, to the left of the entrance into the Winter Chapel. This is where the statue of the Mother of God with Jesus Christ of the late Gothic style is kept. The statute was carved in the second quarter of the 16th century.
The present church is at least the fourth one on the same place, constructed in neo-baroque style in the period from 1924-28 upon the plans of the architect Silvan Barich (in Italian – Baresi; 1884-1958), by birth from Podgrad in Istria. The monumentally designed basilica is adorned with a 50m high bell tower with mighty bells. The main attention is given to the image of the Queen of the Holy Mountain but the carved ceiling, the Way of the Cross, stained glass windows are also to be admired.
Image of the Holy Mary
The present basilica was built in 1928 following the plans of the architect Silvan Baresi (Baricha). It is designed as a three-nave building with a transverse nave. It is 72 m long and 22 m wide. Its greatest artistic artefact is a famous graceful image of the Mother of God at the main altar which was donated to the sanctuary by the Aquileia Patriarch Marino Grimani and its authorship is attributed to the circle of the Venetian painter Palma Vecchio (Old Palma, 1480-1528). It was solemnly crowned, that is why the Mary of the Holy Mountain is – the Queen in 1717. It belongs to the most famous images of the Holy Mary in Slovenia.
The Marian Museum is open to visitors in the monastery.
The museum collection of the Soča/Isonzo Front with numerous exhibits and archive photos and documentary material is currently closed due to reconstruction.
First world war
Also the more contemporary era has left indelible marks in this place which speak of the bloody days of the past of this important historical and cultural area. Right here, along the Soča/Isonzo River, the Soča/Isonzo Front took place during the First World War from 1915 to 1917, which left behind horrible devastation with numerous casualties and serious consequences. On the southern side of the hill, the mountaineers from Nova Gorica blazed and marked a path which for the most part runs through trenches and caverns remaining from WWI.
Sveta Gora (Monte Santo in Italian), once Skalnica (Rocky Mountain), is mainly the hill with the pilgrimage route but also an extended point of the Slovenian Mountain Transversal.
List and descriptions of hiking trails in Goriška region.
Mt. Sveta Gora, Marijino Celje and the sanctuary of Castelmonte (Stara Gora) near Cividale (Čedad), three well-known and much frequented sanctuaries, have been linked up by the Road of the three Sanctuaries forming thus an unique triangle of three churches dedicated to the Virgin Maria.