The 12th-century Holy Trinity Church in Hrastovlje was fortified in the 1500s to defend it against Turkish attacks. But it’s not the church that is very interesting, hidden by the high defensive walls but what is displayed inside. The church located in the tiny Karst village of Hrastovlje in southwestern Slovenia is easily missed but a great reward awaits the visitor.
During work on the church workers noticed under a think layer of plaster was artwork from an earlier age. It was sculptor Jože Pohlen that identified the frescos from the middle ages. Some of the writing on the wall are in a Glagolitic script, the oldest known Slavic alphabet.
Oh what is this I cannot see“A Conversation with Death”, Journal of Folklore Research
With icy hands gets a hold on me
Oh I am Death, none can excel
I open the doors of heaven and hell
The interior is entirely covered by an exceptional fresco cycle from Istrian medieval times and the Renaissance, the best known in the Slovenian part of Istria. The cycle was painted by John from Kastav. In the central apse in the conch stands the Throne of Mercy, beneath which lies a row of Apostles below the arches. An unusual scene appears in the northern apse. The three Wise Men are seated on the throne and next to them stand SS. Cosmas and Damian. John from Kastav (Johannes de Castua) signed it and wrote the year of its creation (1490).
On the site of the southern apse, above the door, protectors from infectious diseases look upon us: St. Rocco, St. Sebastian, and St. Fabian. The arch part of the central nave, above the apse, is adorned with the Coronation of the Virgin. The Annunciation to Mary is to the left and right. In the vault of the central nave are scenes from the Creation of the World made according to etchings of the Dutch graphic artist Master with Scrolls and connected with Pazin frescoes.
Months from January to July are painted on the side arches of the southern nave, and August to December on the northern nave which also shows images of years (Annus), time (Tempus), and St. Jerome. All along the northern wall stretches the long procession of the Adoration of the Magi. Herod's Farewell is depicted on the western side, while the cycle of the Passion of Christ covers the western and a part of the southern wall, which bottom part shows a detailed scene of the Dance of Death.DanceModern Dance
The Danse Macabre made its first appearance during the plague (Black Death) years of the fourteenth century. In Germany it was the Todtentanz; in Italy, danza della morte; and in England, the Dance of Death.
The fresco that shows 11 skeletons leading the same number of people forward to a freshly dug grave. A 12th holds open a coffin. The doomed line-up includes peasants, kings, cardinals, and even a moneylender (who attempts to bribe his skeletal escort with a purse): all are equal in the eyes of God.