The Slovenia Times

The Town of Artists and Bohemians



e and Karavanke with the mighty Uršlja Gora on the other. Numerous archaeological sites show the area was an important habitation region next to the strategic path from central Slovenia to the Austrian Klagenfurt basin and further to the north.

Slovenj Gradec is a typical medieval town. In 1185, an important mint operated in the town square and by 1267, Slovenj Gradec had obtained town rights. Numerous families of craftsmen gave it a unique image that can be seen today.

Situated in the Korška region, the town is imbued with an independent originality and strength, which has been tested many times during its long history, starting in the old Carinthia, the cradle of Slovenia, to the national referendum in 1920 which ultimately divided quite large Slovenian minority from its central nation.

Harbinger of peace

Slovenja Gradec was named as a peace town for its international performances, under the sponsorship of Secretaries-General of the United Nations, that have happened annually since the first great manifestation "Peace, Humanity and Friendship among Nations" in 1966 until 2005. Each time, the centre of the performance was an artistic exhibition in the Slovenj Gradec Gallery of Fine Arts followed by international medical symposiums, writers meeting and musical events in the house of the composer Hugo Wolf. In 1998, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Perez de Cuellar, denominated Slovenj Gradec as a "Peace Messenger Town" of the United Nations. Much credit for that go to the painter Karel Pečko, who has been living and working in Slovenj Gradec for all of his life and is still, in spite of his advanced age, the best guide trough the town, especially because he knows many interesting stories about the town and its citizens, including ex-human rights ombudsman, Matjaž Hanžek, the wife of ex-president of Slovenia, Štefka Kučan and others.

Inspiring Uršlja Gora

The social and artistic engagement of Karel Pečko decisively placed Slovenj Gradec in history. In 1954, he graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Ljubljana. In 1957, he had already contributed to establishment of Umetnostni pavilion ("Art Pavilion", which later became the Slovenj Gradec Gallery of Fine Arts), which he directed in addition to his full-time work at school and from 1963 as its principal. As a director, he managed the Slovenj Gradec Gallery of Fine Arts until 1997. Throughout his forty years of management, the program of the gallery was internationally designed. In this aspect, the gallery activity contributed to the acquisition of the title of Peace Messenger Town. In 1996, Karel Pečko's foundation was established; its primary purpose is to provide grants for arts and humanities students, publishing and financial support of projects and research that study the problems of Carinthia.

As a great icon of Slovenj Gardec, Pečko is especially known for his muse - Uršlja Gora, which is a constant theme on his paintings.


Why Uršlja Gora?

"During my 3rd year of college, one of my professors said to me: "If you want to be a painter, you need to go to the opera. And I went every night to the opera. At first it gave me headaches, but then I saw a violet head of an aria singer. I always thought that music was the purest, most unburdened of all art forms. Perhaps only sport comes near that description. And Uršlja Gora Mountain has rhythm. It is not static; it is, however, fantastic with a touch of eroticism. Pohorje is, well, a bit too level for me. I had to paint 100 paintings to see whether there was potential there. It was not done over night. If you experiment, you are both everywhere and nowhere. You invest in profundity, and that is better."

Birthplace of composer Hugo Wolf (1860-1903)

Hugo Wolf, who achieved worldwide fame in the musical capital of Europe, Vienna, spent his childhood years in Slovenj Gradec. Little Hugo was reputed as an infant prodigy since he mastered the violin. When he became famous, he was especially respected as an incomparable master of solos.

The Church of St Elizabeth and the Holy Spirit

In 1251, the town parochial church was as first in the world dedicated to the Hungarian princess and duchess St. Elizabeth, patroness of the poor and homeless. The main altar in the church of St. Elizabeth is one of the greatest achievements of Slovene baroque altar design. Next to it, there is a church of the Holy Spirit from the year 1428 where used to be the town almshouse.

Pease Messenger Town

The title "Peace Messenger" is held by 92 cities from all continents. Since 1988, they have met regularly at annual conferences that serve as an exchange of experiences and a search for possibilities of joint collaboration in actions for peace and global cooperation. In 1992 in Marakesh, the cities passed a statute to form a non-governmental organization of special status at the UN: International Association of Peace Messenger Cities; Slovenj Gradec is a member of an executive committee of the organization. This is not a surprise since it is very actively involved in the operation of the organization. It tries to incorporate its peace mission into all its endeavours and activities in locally and throughout Slovenia as well as in internationally. Among its activities, there is a very successful annual competition for children's' literary and artistic work on topics with a clear message of peace as well as the organization of the peace festival with the main state celebration in the honour of UN Day.


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