Idrija (mine castle)

16th century

Gewerkenegg - mine castle (in a literal translation community hill or community castle) was built between 1522 and 1533. But even before its construction a castle of patriarch of Aquileia has been witnessed on the area of Idrija - castrum nostrum de Idria but nothing is known about it. It was probably located on the area of Lower Idrija where also parish office was located. Gewerkenegg certainly is not legal successor of mentioned patriarch'a castle. It was built on initiative by Ahacij's company of mining enterpreneurs with intention to secure stocks of mercury and cinnabar (also cereals) from Venetian and Turkish intrusions. So Gewerkenegg is not a castle in the true sense of the word because it was not built as a fortified center of a dominion but as fortified main office of mining administration and a storehouse for ore.
Disagreements between partners in a mine and speculations of a court brought to nationalization of a mine in Idrija in 1575. Archduke Karel bought off shares of a mine with the castle and all other mine assets from all owners of the time which were mostly from the ranks of most noble families in Kranj like Auerspergs, Lambergs, Ekghs and Ravbars. After nationalization in 1575 the castle became residence of mine managers. In 1607 area of Idrija was excluded from Tolmin dominion. After established cameral Idrija's land dominion mine managers have also taken over a function of land lords and were until 1848 collecting land register's duties from approximately 300 subjects in Idrija area. In 1783 Idrija was also formally excluded from Gorizia region and annexed to Carniola region.
Idrija's mine and castle were Austrian national property until the end of World War I. when according to St. Germain peace treaty Idrija belonged to Italy.
Until 19th century mercury and cinnabar were still stored in castle cellars and also cereals and other life necessities for miners until construction of a new storehouse in 1763 near parish church of St.Barbara. In 1940 mining administration moved out of the castle and 2 years later the castle was occupied by Italian army command for Idrija. Between 6th and 14th March 1945 the castle was pretty damaged during the British bombardment. Building was reconstructed and was until 1949 used for the needs of the court-of-law. In 1953 Idrija Municipal Museum, established in 1949, began to manage a great part of castle. Part of a castle was used by music school. Between 1988 and 2008 the building was thoroughly rehabilitated and completely rearranged for museum and other cultural needs.

Mining corporationg maintained 30 armed miners, called lancers, in the castle. Even in the 19th century a collection of spears and uniforms of lancers and musketeers of mine militia from the era of French wars was stored in the castle.

Sapač, Igor: "Grajske stavbe v osrednji Sloveniji - III. Notranjska (Med Idrijo in Snežnikom), Viharnik, Ljubljana, 2006, ISBN 961-6057-54-5
Contact details:
Mestni muzej Idrija - muzej za Idrijsko in Cerkljansko
Prelovčeva 9
5280 Idrija
tel: +386 5 37 26 600
fax: +386 5 37 73 580
Web links:
Idrija Municipal Museum
Idrija (
Idrija Municipal Museum: castle Gewerkenegg
Shows and entertainment:
Municipal museum, for up-to-date events see homepage of museum.
GPS coordinates:
N 46° 0.043' E 14° 1.123'


Western facade of the castle; access was originally protected by a canal and drawbridge
East portal with year 1758
Three corners of castle are fortified by thin three-storeyed cylindrical towers which are half of storey higher than castle wings
Ground floors are lit by smaller rectangular windows and in the storeys are bigger rectangulat windows enclosed into simple aprofiled mortar frames
Main castle rustic portal on the east side
Portal with year 1527
Simple wooden staircase leading from east to inner courtyard
Heraldic plate from first half of 16th century embedded on the staircase (presumably coat-of-arms of Gorizia county, joint with Austrian archduke coat-of-arms)
South-western courtyard corner
North-eastern corner
In 1990 they reopened vault arcs closed in 19th century in both floors and renewed remarkable architectural painting
Eastern facade is emphasized by tall roof turret with clock
Latern-like roof is completed with weather vane in form of Mercury
Western facade of castle courtyard with Baroque painting renewed in 1990
Pointed-arch late-Gothic portal in ground floor of south wing evidents that a building was located on the same place even before the present castle was constructed
Corridor on ground floor of south wing
Empty courtyard space is dominated by octagonal stone crown of a well
Container for transferring mercury
In the first floor of north-east roundel door is located which represent symbolic crossing from preparation to results of work; night guard hits on metal and thus calling miners to "reading"
We continue from roundel to east wing where exhibition "view of a town" is arranged
Space where famous people are presented who came to see Idrija mine or were even among its owners
Time of Italian and German occupation
"Living in Idrija"
Year 1758 in vaulted corridor on the second floor of south wing shows the time of facade painting creation
Stone portal from 1853, address Idrija 242 (present address Vodnikova 5) is located in the corridor in second floor of south wing
Memorial room of writer France Bevk (1890-1970)
Exhibition space of Idrija lace
Peasant frescos in corridor on second floor of east wing
Sveta Neža (St.Agnes), 1802, near Tratnik, čekovnik
Corridor in the floor of south wing is decorated by historical paintings by Janko Trošt (1894-1975)
Work of miners in the mid 17th century
"Mercury" tower represents symbolic entrance into the world of Idrija mining underground and it is formed as a mineshaft in three storeys
Mercury ores and Lipold's collection
Exhibition hall "Milestones of five centuries"
Model of largest European pumping device powered by water which was continuously used until 1948; wooden spade-shaped overshoot has a diameter of 16,3 meters
Where nowadays a kindergarden is located a Baroque garden was once (even before WW II) located
View of part of Idrija
Idrija with castle in Valvasor's "Skicna knjiga" ("Sketch book")
Jakob Adam, Idrija with castle around 1775, copper engraving from the book Baltazar Hacquet, Oryctographia Carniolica II, Leipzig, 1781
Idrija with castle on colored copper engraving by Karl Postl from Eder's suite by a sketch by Ferdinand Runk from the end of 18th century, Ljubljana, Narodni muzej Slovenije; photo: Tomaž Lauko
Idrija with castle on lithography in Wagner's suite of Carniola, around 1845
In 1945 damaged Gewerkenegg castle, used from: Idrijski razgledi, 1972