Sometimes we come to a place that simply astonishes us. When we look around we have a feeling that time has stopped and that we entered another world, another unforgettable dimension. Such feelings can be experienced when entering the mysterious world behind the walls of Žiče Monastery. You can explore its history on your own, accompanied by either our tour guides or audio guides. Moreover, this brochure is offered as additional help. Keep it as a souvenir, and remember touching the thousand-year history of the Žiče Carthusians.
Legend of Monastery’s origin
When the Margrave of Styria Ottokar III returned from the Second Crusade, he wished for some relaxation and therefore visited Leopold from Konjice to go hunting in Konjiška gora. Coincidentally he came to shady hollows in the south parts of the mountains, where suddenly an extremely white hind appeared in front of him. He followed it as bewitched on his horse, but as he was not able to catch it he fell asleep in the shade on the hot summer afternoon (on St John the Baptist day). A man in a white fur coat and as bright as the sun appeared in his dream and revealed himself as St John the Baptist, ordering him to build a monastery on this place. At this moment a rabbit jumped in Ottokar’s lap as it was frightened by the hunters’ screaming. The saint’s image disappeared and Ottokar shouted: “A rabbit, look, a rabbit!” Because of this rabbit the monastery was called “Seiz Charterhouse” (the Slovenian pronunciation of zajec – rabbit – is written Seiz in German) for a long time and has the initial “S” in its coat of arms. Arrival of the Carthusians It is not a coincidence that this monastery in the tranquil, remote St John the Baptist Valley was settled by Carthusian monks from the Grande Chartreuse in . They found an untouched part of the world in this hidden valley, where they could live according to the strict rules of the Carthusians – humility, remoteness, prayers and meditation. The Monastery construction Two separated Upper and Lower monasteries connected with the beautiful and unspoiled St John the Baptist valley were erected following the model of French charterhouses. The Upper monastery (Žiče Monastery) washome to monks who lived in total silence and first of all dedicated their lives to intellectual work. In Špitalič, in the so-called Lower monastery, lay monks were above all manual workers providing the Carthusians with everything necessary for the monastery's existence and operation. Moreover, they were able to take care of travellers and guests in a hostel with a hospital in the lower part right at the beginning (Špitalič derives from the word hospital) with the aim to care for the sick as well as to accommodate guests. Later, after the Turkish devastation and movement of the lower part to the upper monastery, the building housing Gastuž – said to be one of the oldest active inns in Central Europe - was erected in the 15th century. The Monastery’s blooming and downfall Soon the monastery became a centre of culture and politics on our territory. The Carthusian Prior General from Žiče, Stephen Maconi – a friend of Saint Catherine of Siena – connected the then politically and ecclesiastically divided continent of Europe from this place. In the 14th Century the monastery boasted a library of over 2,000 books, which was larger than all but the one found at the Vatican. Furthermore, well-known medieval Žiče manuscripts were written in this monastery. Natural healing and pharmacology played an important role in the Carthusians’ lives, however, milling industry, brick making, glazier’s trade and other handicraft enabled them to survive. The monastery was finally closed by decree of the Austrian Emperor Joseph II in 1782 and the region around Žiče monastery was thrown on the mercy of the course of time. Žiče charterhouse today The special energy of this place, peace and tranquillity, untouched nature and awareness that something very important was located here once, were the reasons that the municipality undertook intensive research and renovation works over the last 30 years. Slowly the monastery is becoming alive again. The lower part boasts a well-preserved parish church of the Visitation of Mary, while the rest of the monastery provides the experience of unspoiled nature and tranquillity. The renovated outbuildings of the upper monastery house two permanent exhibitions about the history and renovation of the monastery. Furthermore, the sparkling wine of Zlati grič matures in the monastery cellar; among the arches a potter presents his handicraft and invites you to admire his products; herb gardens and a herb shop awaken memories of the invaluable heritage. Sometimes you can also smell monastic dishes coming out of Gastuž, which is the oldest inn on Slovenian territory dating back to 1467. The monastery is slowly awakening from a two-hundred-year long dream ... But the magic and mystic return to St John the Baptist Valley when Gregorian chorals and tunes of well-known performers sound among the walls of the monastery, when participants of Spiritual growth camps find their peace, when a painter paints his last line and an actor acts the last scene in his drama, when torches begin lighting and stars start shining in the sky.