Žička kartuzija (monastery)
Closter Seiz, Seytz, Seiz Charterhouse

12th century

In the romanesque era, newly founded Carthusian Order (in 1084 in France) settled in Žiče charterhouse (Seiz Charterhouse) in around 1160 for the reasons not yet fully understood. This first institution here at the time was founded by Margrave Ottokar of Styria of the house of Traungau. It was finished by his son which also issued a charter as a legal act and confirmation of his affection towards the french order. In 1782 Emperor Jožef II. abolished the monastery. Since then the monastery is falling into ruins and organization "Protection of monuments" is now trying to stop that.
Not much is left of many charterhouse and agricultural buildings. In Špitalič for instance is fairly well preserved, once monastic church, nowadays parish church with a portal which is considered to be great artistic treasure. In Špitalič so called "lower monastery" was located where lay monks were residing. It it known that located here was also "hospital" (typical medieval hostel, shelter and hospital at the same time), after which a village (Špitalič) got its name. Špitalič with its gothic-romanesque style from the end of 12th century ranks among the most important monuments across Central Europe. In the 15th century this "lower monastery" was abandoned.
If we continue our walk to "upper monastery" which is located around 2 km towards the valley from "lower monastery" we will find high gothic pillar sign to which a big chapel was later added. Three fish ponds are in the immediate vicinity and they were the only source of meat for carthusians. >From here on a view is opening to monastery ruins.
First we encounter the oldest inn in Slovenia (1467) which still holds medieval recipes in its collection. Immediatelly after inn a view is opening to "upper monastery" which was once protected with defence wall and many towers, of which the strongest is upper round tower located high on the bank. Defence wall was constructed in the way that it followed contour of the terrain, which is tipical for medieval construction of castles. Around the year 1530 as a result of frequent Turkish invasions monks have reinforced the defence wall and build large round tower above the monastery.
Monks houses, the cells, in which every monk lived by himself, were located around big rectangular courtyard and special covered corridor, which connected church and other common premises, was standing around courtyard. Chapter hall, dining room (refectory), kitchen etc. are arranged at small cross corridor (cloister) which runs around smaller courtyard north at church. With these key elements, amongs which a big cross corridor (cloister) is novelty and speciality in west-european monastery building of the era, a new type of monastery was created, a Charterhouse. Žiče Charterhouse has preserved all of the essential elements from the middle ages.
Great monastic church of St.John the Baptist, after whom a valley is now called, is a single-aisled hall. At the first glance it gives a sense of gothic building and is only a big ruin nowadays. A number of structural features suggest that the church is romanesque in its essence. Romanesque building from first era of Charterhouse was heavily rebuild in gothic era to adapt it to new style as well to practical needs. According to sources from 14th century the repairs were essential. In addition to the main entrance if the western facade, which is now completely demolished, a great church also had two entrances on the north side. The first entrance from the west wall was for order monks, which also had a separate room in the west part of the church. Into the eastern part of the church, where also altar was located, priests were entering through special entrance straight from small cloister.
A large building of so-called Ottokar's Chapel, which was originally sachristy, is leaning on the south side a church choir. Before gothic reconstruction, which added narrow three-sided finish, it was in the line with church choir towards east and flatly finished, as well as chapter hall on the other side. Burried here were founder of Charterhouse, Margrave Ottokar of Styria, his wife Kunigunda and their son with the same name as his father, which was first leadr of Styria. Solemn cave is now empty and opened since 1827, when baroque-style tombstone was transfered to cisterian monastery Rein at Graz, Austria.
Small cloister which on north side leans on the church is rectangular-shaped and was connecting together individual common places located against it. Of original, romanesque-style cloister, we know only that it had the same ground plan as gothic cloister has today, because all frame walls show romanesque particularities but its architecture is unknown. It is concluded that the cloister was made from wood, maybe even until gothic reconstruction. Located at the easter part of corridor, next to church as it was practice also in other charterhouses, was a Chapter Hall, which is a kind of chamber, where monks (at the beginning there was twelve of them) gathered under the leadership of prior and consult.
Among important areas are also considered: refectory, kitchen, cellars and floor wing. Floor wing at west wall was built in the beginning of 15th century and in still entirely preserved. Due to subsequent backfilling these arcades are now significantly too low, because their pillar-holders are almost totally filled-up with dirt. Embedded on the courtyard-side in the floor of the wing is a big gothic keystone from the church arch, decorated with relief of an ox, symbol of the Evangelist Luke, next to a copy of a plate with latin inscription in gothic writing, which tells that in 1165 Margrave Ottokar of Styria has founded this first german charterhouse.
On the western front of gothic wing the remains of wall painting are visible. This fresco is until today only preserved medieval painting monument in entire charterhouse. Carthusian order did not allow rich artworks in their monasteries and this prohibition later became one of the rules of carthusian order. Fresco portrays Crucifixion with Mary and John the Evangelist and figures of John the Baptist and St.Christopher added at the sides.
Among all ruins that were discovered and presented to this day there are many more not yet excavated. Greater part of monastery is still hidden from us. All the voluminous space, which extends north from small cloister and all the way to upper defence wall and round tower, was once big cloister. It was a big rectangular place with the lawn in the middle and surrounded by covered corridor, around which cells were located as individual and visually completelly separated houses with small garden inside defense wall. Each cell had entrance only from cloister, and a small window closed with small doors through which monk was getting food and everything else essentil for living. Even the oldest rules of Carthusian order specify that monk cannot leave his cell, his main task was to be in peace an solitary of his cell.
Completely preserved cemetery chapel with year 1469 carved above sun dial declares in 15th century and is a real treasure of mature gothic architecture.
In the middle of former big cloister, probably south from chapel, a cemetery for all members of order was located. Each grave was marked only with a wooden cross with no name, because carthusians are burried amongst equal. Only prior's grave was marked with his monastic name on the cross.

Žiče Charterhouse ranks at the top in the area of this special architecture, even on European scale. Quiet and humble people, barely understood in our times, once lived here. They came voluntarly, renouncing the world and create this buildings, only to find their peace and personal happines in them. And that is the most we can acomplish in life.

A group tour with guide or individual tour of Žiče Charterhouse is possible. At the time of my visit of charterhouse southern wing was closed for visitors, but my camera could not resist. Before of ater tour we must not forget to visit the oldest inn in Slovenia "Gastuž" and taste a meal prepared by their medieval recipes. Current reconstruction works are financed by Department of culture of Republic of Slovenia and municipality of Slovenske Konjice, professional supervision is assured by "Zavod za varstvo naravne in kulturne dediščine Celje" (Organization for protection of natural and cultural heritage Celje). Construction works are done by Drago Ratajc S.P. Also a folk band KARTUZIJANI which performs folk music, was established in Špitalič. Interesting fact: Charterhouse is full of stonecutter's signs!

Literature:
TD-ŠPITALIČ: "Dolina Sv. Janeza Krstnika", broshure
Zadnikar, Marijan, Dr.: "ŽIčKA KARTUZIJA", 34th notebook of collection "Kulturni in naravni spomeniki Slovenije" (Cultural and natural monuments of Slovenia", 1973
Contact details:
Turistično društvo Špitalič
Špitalič 2
SI-3215 Loče
Slovenia
e-mail: tdspital@siol.net
www: www.unisoft.si/spitalic
Web links:
Tourist society Špitalič
Construction company Ratajc (many photos of reconstruction works)
www.slovenskekonjice.si (Municipality of Slovenjske Konjice)
Žiče charterhouse (gremoVEN.com)
Shows and entertainment:
Bonfire night on the eve of name-day of St.John the Baptist, meeting of herbalists of Slovenia on last saturday in June, Walking along the paths of the Blessed A. M. Slomšek - June 25th, (weddings?).
GPS coordinates:
N 46° 18.672' E 15° 23.556'

back

Many paths lead to charterhouse, one of them is walk-way from direction of Konjice; view from east side from where the oldest inn in Slovenia "Gastuž" is visible
Close-up view from east
Gastuž
Two paths lead to the inside of charterhouse; if you take one path entrance fee must be payed, on the other path a fee can be avoided
Tower at the confluence of both streams, it was rearranged into a chapel in 17th century, which was also available to women
View of ruins from south-west
Forcibly breached entrance through ruined defence wall, once only a small door were located here
Fish tower
Great monastic church
Ottokar's chapel, which holds to great church; inside remains of snail-stair are visible, which concealingly led to first floor, where the library was located
View of a great monastic church from northern direction; in the lower part of the church a romanesque construction is still visible
In its eastern corner we will find preserved corridor where snail-stairs were located
Preserved fragment of snail-staircase
Inside of southern wing before reconstruction, once here were living and agricultural quarters (now it is a place for an exhibition)
Corridor in souther tract, north wall (before reconstruction)
Baroque-style stairway, north wall of southern tract (before reconstruction)
Light and arrow-loop next to present entrance to charterhouse
Southern tract
Southern trach, continued
Inside of this part of south wing we will find (subsequently embedded, brought from?) gothic portal
The window of the great church
Outflow hole in Ottokar's chapel, I could not determine its purpose
Carrier pillars of great church, Ottokar's chapel in the back
Upper part of western wall of great church, entrance
Cells, in which monks lived alone
Re-placed arches, burned with domestic lime
Inside of the great church
View to northern defence wall
Ruins of some object, upper round tower is visible in the back, view towards north
View of charterhouse from north
Gothic cemetery chapel from year 1469, build on octagonal ground surface
On its south side we find sun-dial
Fresco on the wall of cemetery chapel - cross
Model of charterhouse in glass box inside the chapel
Portal in the chapel
Gothic arcade floor wing, which in ground-floor opens towards courtyard with semicircular arcs, next to former kitchen
Millstone
Corridors between cells
Semi-circular late-gothic portal with cut edges
Another late-gothic portal
Lonely simple decoration of in circles carved rosettes on garland wall
Vegetable garden at present entrance to th charterhouse
Once monastic, now parish church in Špitalič, with a cemetery around
Romanesque portal above which not long ago a window was located!
Capitals in the left wall of the main portal
Souther wall of the church, where a modest entrance for monks from the "lower monastery" is visible, they had their rooms at the south courtyard
Limetree that gives nice, cold shadow and a resting place (at a church entrance)
Great church in watercolor from 1867
Žiče Charterhouse - graphics from 18th century
Žiče Charterhouse, G. M. Vischer (1681)


back