Kostanjevica na Krki Monastery

Filiation: Morimond-Villers

Foundation: 1234

Resolution: 1785

 “Where Culture and Art Intertwine with Nature and Spirituality.”

The Kostanjevica na Krki monastery is nestled in the plain between the Krka River and the Žumberak Mountains. The abbey is a subsidiary of Viktring Abbey in Carinthia, which in turncomes from the Morimond filiation via Villers-Bettnach. The Cistercian viticulture was particularly influential in the landscape. Today the monastery houses a museum complex, its arcaded courtyard is one of the largest in Central Europe.

Sheltered by the stout Gorjanci range and the Krka river, nearby enchanting Kostanjevica na Krki, one of the oldest towns in Slovenia and the only one built on an island, stands a jewel of medieval architecture – the former Cistercian monastery The Spring of St Mary, which has housed the Božidar Jakac Art Museum since 1974.

The monastery was founded by the Carinthian Duke Bernhard von Spanheim in 1234. The Duke’s wife Juta and son Bernard are buried in the former monastery church. Until it was dissolved in 1786, the monastery was a seat of commerce, culture, and economy. It was heavily fortified as early as the Renaissance period and provided refuge against raids by robbers.

Visitors are greeted by the twin Baroque towers and the façade of the old monastery church with frescoes by celebrated painter Franc Jelovšek. Baroque architectural forms dominate throughout the monastery complex, dating back to the extensive renovation undertaken by Abbot Alexander Taufferer in 1738. The representative arcade courtyard is one of the largest in central Europe. The original architectural design has been best preserved in the monastery church, which represents one of the finest early Gothic interiors in Slovenia. It is distinguished by its system of arches and ornamental sculptures of Hungarian-Czech provenance.

Following its dissolution under the Josephine reforms in 1786, the desacralisation of the church and the sale of its furnishings, the monastery deteriorated rapidly. The first attempts at renovation were made at the end of the 19th century. However, its condition worsened drastically during the Second World War when the building was burned down, leaving its wings bare and partially razed.

In the 1950s, renovation of the monastery complex started and it is still ongoing. The present appearance of the monastery is the result of several interventions, which are the subject of the permanent exhibition Kostanjevica na Krki – The Monastery,laying out the renovation process over the last half century.

The Božidar Jakac Art Museum figures among the largest in Slovenia both in terms of space capacity and collection of art. It preserves and exhibits 20th century art with a focus on Slovene expressionism. Its core collection comprises works by notable Slovene contemporary artists such as France Kralj, Tone Kralj, Božidar Jakac, France Gorše, Jože Gorjup, Zoran Didek, Bogdan Borčić and Janez Boljka. Since 1977, the outstanding Pleterje European Painters Collection, belonging to the nearby Pleterje Charterhouse, is also on display. Most notable among the works spanning from the 17th to the 19th centuries are a series of paintings of the apostles, which were almost certainly created in the workshop of the Flemish master Anthony van Dyck.

The Forma Viva International Symposium of Sculptors, which was started at a work site in Kostanjevica na Krki in 1961, also boasts a rich tradition as the oldest still running sculpture symposium in the world. At the biannual month-long residency set in idyllic surroundings, artists work with oak wood which is typical of the area. In this way, the Forma Viva Sculpture Park has been steadily growing around the museum with more than one hundred monumental sculptures created over recent decades.

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