Three Mysterious Lights and the Holy Trinity Church

You know how the 17th century was … the Recatholisation that began after the Protestant upheaval of mid-16th century slowly backed off its peak hysteria and became somewhat complacent. But the coffers of the church and wealthy aristocracy were still quite full, and people were using stories of apparitions and miracles to drive resources to their village – by having a church built and expecting money from pilgrims.

This is Gradisko jezero, a small artificial lake in Lower Styria, in the heart of the hilly Slovenske gorice region. In the beginning of the 17th century the villagers of Porcic were pushing their lords and the bishop to build a church somewhere here, at the foot of Purkstalberg hill. They even erected a small chapel dedicated to the Holy Spirit themselves.

But then a power game begun between the wealthy, because the pilgrimage-based revenues were substantial and the exact place of the future church mattered – it was a question of which landowner wil get the lion share of them. One faction wanted to have the church in the valley, the other on the top of the hill.

And so miracles started to ‘happen’. First the oxen refused to transport the building materials to the valley. Then people started seeing mysterious lights, always three of them, always above the hill. These visions were not easily ignored, and Count Stubenberg won – he donated the land on the top of the hill to the bishophric and the new church, dedicated to the Holy Trinity (three lights, remember!), was completed in 1643. Soon the village became known as Holy Trinity – Sveta Trojica.

The miracles and those three lights were a powerful magnet for pilgrims; the church management was entrusted to Augustinian monks who built a monastery next to it.

Soon the church was too small for every visitor, and with the help of Count Draskovic of Varazdin a new, much larger one was built in the Baroque style, with three bell towers symbolizing the Trinity.

Modern village of Sveta Trojica v Slovenskih goricah.

In 1786 Emperor Joseph II. dissolved the monasteries in Austria, and in 1811 the Augustinian monks left Sveta Trojica. However, the number of pilgrims was still on the rise – in the mid-19th century over a hundred thousand pilgrims per year visited the imposing, miracle-inducing church.

Franciscans then took over the monastery and are still here. The three-towered church is a striking landmark and is today a part of the coat-of-arms of the municipality of Sveta Trojica v Slovenskih goricah.

And at night you might see the three mysterious lights flickering in the sky – make a wish if you do!

Today pilgrims are less numerous, but the church and the monastery are still a tourist hotspot; the Gradisko lake is full of fish, and the rolling hills of Slovenske gorice are as beautiful as ever.

All kite aerial photos shot with Nikon P330 on a delta kite.

Leave a comment