Road of three sanctuaries
Road of three sanctuaries is a theme path connecting three St Mary sanctuaries: Sveta Gora at the outskirts of Banjšice plateau and Marijino Celje at Kanalski Kolovrat in Slovenia and Castelmonte above Cividale in Italy.
Its connecting paths lead past numerous historical, natural, cultural and ethnologic sights. Along the path, the visitors can enjoy at panoramic points offering spectacular views of the Soča and Idrija valleys, of the Nova Gorica plain and the Friuli Venezia Giulia region or of the Julian Alps in the north. The sanctuaries can be reached by bus or car. Moreover, well-marked paths also invite the visitors to take a ride by bike or go there on foot.
The suggested car road: Sveta Gora – Preval – Grgar – Bate – Kanalski Vrh – Kanal – Lig – Britof – Oborča – Stara Gora. The path goes along asphalt state and local roads in total lenght of 42 km.
From Sveta Gora (682 m) it leads through Grgar basin towards Banjšice and then via Kanalski Vrh towards the Soča Valley to Kanal (21 km). From there, it goes up again via Čolnica settlement to Kanalski Kolovrat and along the ridge to Lig with the sanctuary Marijino Celje (680 m). Then it continues to Britof (which is located 5 km from Lig) via the settlements Lovišče and Strmec. After crossing the local border crossing in Britof, the path continues for another 7 kilometres to the sanctuary Castelmonte (618 m): along the Idrija River to the settlement Podreskije, where it goes up towards Obroča and to the ridge road leading all the way up to the sanctuary.
The cycling trail runs along macadam and asphalt side roads with less traffic.
You can get to the Soča Valley along the 11,2 km long path Sveta Gora (628 m) – Preški vrh – Zagora – Plave (macadam path to Zagomila 4,2 km). At the section Plave – Vrtače – Lig is ascends to the ridge road along Kanalski Kolovrat and then goes slightly down to Lig. This part is 14,7 km long, of which 7,9 km run along a macadam road between Zamedveje settlement and the ridge road. From Lig, the path descends past Lovišče and Strmec to the Idrija Valley and Britof settlement. After crossing the local border crossing, it continues towards Košona and Castelmonte.
This hiking trail runs in direction of traditional peasant paths.
It leads from Sveta Gora down to Preški Vrh (500 m) and continues towards Baske settlement, where it splits into two paths: a hiking trail towards Deskle or a slightly longer path towards Kanal. Both paths then offer the possibility to continue towards Lig, where they merge again and lead to the Idrija Valley towards Britof and further on towards Castelmonte.
Hiking trail towards Deskle:
This is a field path leading from Sveta Gora to Paljevo settlement through forests (2.5 hours). From there, you can take the path to Deskle (0.5 hours) and then via Goljevica and Kamence up to Kanalski Kolovrat to Lig, where the sanctuary Marijino Celje is located.
Hiking trail towards Kanal:
The path to Kanal leads from Preški Vrh through Baske settlement. It is 12.1 km long and takes approximately 5 hours. From Kanal, continue along a steep and winding road past Čolnica settlement to Marijino Celje in Lig and then to the above-mentioned road towards Castelmonte. The 3.5 km path from Lig to Britof takes 3.5 hours. After reaching Idrija River, go up past Kodermaci settlement to Oborča and St. Anthony church via Markolini and Kauc villages towards Castelmonte. You get to Oborča in approx. 1 hour, to Markolini in about 0.5 hour and another 1.5 hour to Castelmonte.
About the sanctuaries
It was first mentioned in written documents in 1368. According to a stone plaque, which was found during the building of this basilica in 1541, a church was located in the same place already in the 11th century. It was probably demolished by the Turks in 1470. The first pilgrim church was being built between 1541 and 1544 in a place at which St Mary is said to be shown to the shepherd-girl Urška Ferligoj from Grgar in 1539 and asked her “to tell the people to build a house for her here and ask her for mercy”. It was designed as a three-nave church made of carved stone in which elements of late Gothic and Renaissance style were combined and could accept from 4 to 5 thousand pilgrims. Upon a decree by the emperor Joseph II, it was abandoned and partially demolished between 1786 and 1793. During World War I, it was completely demolished. In 1924, the foundation stone for a new church was placed and the church was restored in 1928. The authorship of the graceful image is attributed to the Venetian painter Palma Vecchio. It shows the Mother of God with Baby Jesus, John the Baptist and St. Isaiah and was solemnly crowned at Travnik in Gorizia in 1717. The present basilica was built following the plans of the architect Silvan Baresi from Gorizia and resembles the Udine basilica. Plans for the presbytery and vestry were prepared by Maks Fabiani. Some old furniture was also kept. In 1943, the graceful image was removed from Sveta Gora. In 1947 it was stolen and then returned to Sveta Gora from Rome in 1951.
Nowadays, the Franciscans take care of the basilica, full of religious, artistic and music joy at various choir, organ and other concerts.
The sanctuary is first mentioned in 1325 as “De S. Zenone de supra Judrium” and then in 1344 as “Sancti Zenonis in Sclauonibus”. Judging from its characteristics, the second late Gothic of St. Zeno was built in the 16th century. Until 1757, the St. Zeno Church was a subsidiary church of the old parish church in Kanal. After 1761, when the symbol of the merciful saint was transferred, it became a pilgrimage church. In the second half of the 18th century, the church was given a characteristic dominating landscape feature with two bell towers ornamented with tin endings. In 1825, the right bell tower was demolished, and in 1997, both bell towers were again renovated. The altar of this day was built in 1847, while the main altar is thought to be constructed during Pacassi’s workshop, i.e. in 1686. After having been used for 100 years at Sveta Gora, it was transferred to the Marijino Celje Church in the time of Joseph II in 1786. During the periods between 1786 and 1793, and between 1915 and 1928, in the time of devastation, Marijino Celje took over the pilgrimage role of Sveta Gora. Frescoes of Saint Florian, Saint Anthony the Abbot, Saint Anthony Padovano, Saint Valentin and Stations of the Cross, dating back to 1849, were produced by the painter Antonio Dugoni from Cividale. St Anna’s image in the left lateral altar was produced by Raffael Pich from Gorizia in 1837. The aisle ceiling, painted in 1926 and 1927, and Saint-Zeno’s painting were produced by Leopold Perc from Lucinico. Four evangelists on the aisle ceiling and the Ascension on the right lateral altar are thought to be painted by Clemente de Neri.
The Sanctuary of Castelmonte is the oldest and most well-known St Mary sanctuary of the Friuli region. In the 5th century, a place of sight and defense was here and a sanctuary in the 6th century. A legend speaks of St Mary who tricked the devil and arrived from the Devil’s Bridge in Cividale to the mountain first. The Castelmonte sanctuary was named after the Slavs had inhabited the place in the 8th century. The church was expanded in the 14th century. After the fire in 1469, the graceful statue from 1420 - one of the most beautiful St Mary statues - was placed here and this represents the beginning of a new sanctuary. It was severely damaged between 1511 and 1513 due to an earthquake and during World War I.
The present-day church was consecrated in 1744. The crypt features St. Michael chapel. The main marble altar was made in 1684 and the side ones in 1687 by Paolino Tremigon from Venice. The presbytery arch frescos depict the Assumption of Mary (Lorenzo Bianchini, 1865).
The main pilgrimage takes place on 8th September, when Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary is celebrated. Since 1913, the sanctuary is being taken care of by the Capuchin monastery.
Sources: Road of Three Sanctuaries brochure