Tabor Fortress Church
This is one of Slovenia's really secret "fortress churches" and you ain't getting in without knowing someone who has the key to the giant castle door.. luckily we know some people who have access to this giant key and we also know that they would be delighted to show you around this mini castle.. protecting a church.. on top of a hill.. in a beautiful forest.
If your knowledge of Medieval Ottoman history is limited to Richard the Lionheart riding off and bashing a few Turks in the Crusades whilst Robin Hood ran his kingdom, then you might be surprised to know that the Turks were rather good at fighting back and rampaged through middle Europe themselves, burning everyone and everything that got in their way.
Your best hope of surviving in those times was to hide or to get to a safe place and there were plenty of castles in Slovenia at that time, but even more churches, often on higher safer ground. Some of these churches got high defensive walls and fortresses built around them to protect the church and the people who got there in time..
So this is what a Fortress church is and Green Slovenia is perfectly placed in Middle Europe to find several of these phenomena still in good shape, one of the finest and most fun examples being Tabor on the edge of Grosuplje.. it hardly has a scratch on it!
This fortress is so picture perfect that it looks like a film set.. but it is REAL! The church inside is protected by high, thick castle walls, with a big gatekeeper metal door and a network of wooden gangways around the entire fortress with arrow slits and kill holes.
Hundreds of people would shelter inside these walls and Tabor has a perfect record of NEVER being defeated by Ottoman raiders! Wow what a story, but we say again.. this castle is REAL.. and you can wander around here and imagine just what is was like to shelter in here as the attack raged outside.
Nowadays the trees have grown to hide this little treasure on top of a steep hill from the newest foreign invaders.. us tourists!. In ancient times the trees would have been cut so as to see the attackers coming. Fires would have been lit and the bells rung to warn the defensive network of towers, churches and castles in the area that trouble was coming. When they arrived, the invaders would have to run up this steep hill with no cover and very little chance of success against a heavily defended church. Often, they knew the odds so took what they could outside and moved on without attack.
The best view by far is right up top from the magnificent St Nicholas church bell tower, straight across the valley for miles. You can climb up the rickety wooden staircase pulling cobwebs off your head to see the two massive bells and gaze out at the green view from the spaghetti western style wooden shutters!
The church merits a visit on its own, with colourul medieval frescoes on the walls and a complete set of paintings depicting Jesus' crucifiction march. One particular fresco, directly above the alter shows Cain and Abel and the Devil is peeking out over one their shoulders.. try to spot him (or her) if you can!
There are little details everywhere, including a gruesome defensive measure even inside the church that only a local guide could point out to you and make this visit extra special.. As we contorted ourselves to edge back down the stairs in the bell tower we were shown a hole by our feet directly above the entrance to the church where hot oil could be poured or spears directed at attackers entering the church! Sneaky and hopefully never needed!
Outside the church there is a place where people put their hastily gathered belongings by a wall in a pen and this was guarded to stop other villlagers nicking stuff, can you believe it! The guide will explain these kinda things to you and this is what really brings this Fortress alive and can totally trigger your imagination.
Your guide will also explain stuff like how the arrow slits changed in shape and size over the years as weapon techology improved and how defending soldiers lay down sideways by some of these slits to get a better shot.
Outside on the vertical fortress slopes is a miniature pointy cone shaped metal hut replica, just like the bigger one on top of Triglav, the highest mountain in Slovenia and there only a few of these replicas in the whole country.. Some Slovenians go to find each replica like a quest and tick it off their list!
The approach to the Tabor from the car park is best described as a rocky green paradise path and there is another surprise inside a mini cave on the way. There is a mini religous shrine here with a legend of how this place was frequented by people wanting a sign for their futures and one particular visitor misread the mooing of local cows! Find out more from your local guide folks!
So this castle is such a great example and the very definition of the numerous Slovenian secret places that you have never heard about and would probably never find.. but if you knew about it, you would probably want to visit.. well now you know!
So how do I get to visit Tabor?
You could just drive or E-bike here alone, of course, but you won't get in and that would be a real shame.. you really must see inside here, wander around and explore the church and bell tower. So please just contact the lovely people at the local Grosuplje Tourist Info Centre.. preferably a day before and arrange your visit! Tel (00386 820 071 57).
The Tabor is one of 4 fab attractions that can be done from Grosuplje, just 20 mins south East of Ljubljana. We were really surprised when we drove the 50 mins here from the Lodge to find another Karst mini region. This is an area with rocky limestone geology now covered in forest.
There is a really fab Supernova cave just around the corner from Tabor, at the bottom of the hill with an ice cave and which protected the overspill of villagers from Tabor hiding from the Turkish invaders.. Grosuplje also has a large natural Disappearing lake to explore AND would you believe it, yet another Fortress church on the other side of Grosuplje to discover called Santa Maria and that one is more church than castle..
So we decided the best way to group these 4 Green Slovenian treasures was to call them the Grosuplje Fab Four!
We really enjoyed our mini visit to Tabor and hope you will also get the chance to discover the magic of this very special and unique Fortress church on top of a hill.