Škofja Loka is one of Slovenia’s best preserved medieval towns, located at the foothills of the Alps some 23km from the Capital, Ljubljana. Its centre is a time-capsule of a bygone age. It has a delightfully picturesque setting and boasts not one, but three castles (albeit two of them ruined) built on a plateau above the town.
Seat of the Bishops
The name Škof means ‘Bishop’ in Slovenian; and the town takes its name (‘Bishop’s Meadow’) from the fact that it was granted to the Bishops of Freising in 973 by the Holy Roman Emperor Otto II. Škofja Loka maintained ties with this distant region as an important religious centre throughout the following millennium.
Evidence of Škofja Loka’s importance as a religious centre is to be found in it’s several impressive churches; Capuchin Monastery with a library containing many important manuscripts; and of course the castle which served as the residence of the Bishops of Freising until the advent of the Second World War.
A Walk Around Town
Start your walk by the granary in the Spodni Trg (Lower Square). The 16th-Century granary building was recently refurbished and now houses a bank and a quality restaurant, Kašča, in its cellar. This is a great spot for lunch. From here, take the route via Cankarjev Trg passing under medieval houses to arrive at St Jacob’s church. Continue on the same road to reach the 14th-Century Capuchin Bridge, the oldest preserved bridge in Slovenia. Retracing your steps, it is a short walk to the impressive Mestni Trg (town square), where the town’s cultural heritage is celebrated in performances of the Škofja Loka Passion Play. There are plenty of shops and restaurants here, and when you’ve finished exploring you can take the pleasant path up to the castle for views over the town’s terracotta rooftops to the hills beyond.
The Castle’s Chequered History
Dating back to the 12th Century AD, the Loka Castle as we see it today is the result of a complete remodelling begun in 1892. The original castle began life as a large fortified tower, of which only the foundations remain. Around 1270, the castle became the official residence of the Bishops of Freising. The building of this period was destroyed by earthquake in 1511 and rebuilt shortly after.
During the Second World War, the Castle was occupied by Italian then German forces. In 1944 the German forces shot 50 hostages in revenge for the Parisan killing of a German soldier. At the end of the War, Partisans took over control of the castle, which was used to hold Prisoners of War. Many of these prisoners were massacred and buried in mass graves close to the Castle.
The town took over ownership of the castle in 1959, and converted it to a museum. You can find out more about the castle’s chequered history by visiting the site. You can also visit the two older, ruined castles by taking a short circular walk around the plateau.
I hope you enjoyed this article. Follow me on Instagram @Experimentsinfiction for more images from from Škofja Loka. For more of Slovenia’s national treasures and hidden gems, stay tuned to the Postcards from Slovenia series.