Welcome to the web page Lace Club of Polhov Gradec.

Polhov Gradec is a small village, but has a rich past. It is situated 16 km west of Ljubljana, the Capital of Slovenia. A literal translation of the village name is the Dormouse Castle. Dormouse is a lovely small forest animal, much like a squirrel. There is an old legend explaining the origin of this name.

History of our village dates back to the Roman age and excavations brought up some of the most beautiful artefacts of that period ever recovered on the territory of our country. Polhov Gradec was the site of a Roman settlement and the fine pieces of art have been excavated from the remnants of a villa rustica.

The first known mention of the present settlement dates from the year 1261.

There are two dominant buildings in the village. The first one is the parish church of Mary's Birth, built between 1728 and 1736 on ruins of an older church from 11th-13th century, destroyed in a fire. It is known for its magnificent baroque altar with 57 statues of gilded wood manufactured in 1746 mainly by the local sculptor workshop of the Facia family. It was carefully restored between 2007 and 2010. This masterpiece of the baroque church art is the largest gold altar in our country.

The castle of Polhov Gradec is the other significant building. The oldest castle dated back to the 8th century. The first known mention of the present building dates from 1315. The castle of Polhov Gradec was home of noble families for centuries. Members of the last family were closely connected to the local people and were highly appreciated by them; the daughter of the last countess was a teacher in the village elementary school. But historically, Count Richard Ursini of Blagay (1786-1858) was the most outstanding personality of Polhov Gradec nobility.
He was even the first mayor of Polhov Gradec, and was specially noted for being the first one to use Slovene language in communication with the German speaking authorities. He possessed best of contemporary agricultural knowledge and spread it among local farmers. Botanics was his special hobby. He is remembered for his discovery of a new species of a flower found on the mountain above his castle. He sent the plant to dr. Henrik Freyer, a botanist who was custodian of the Land Museum in Ljubljana. Dr. Freyer named the newly described flower after count Blagay as Daphne blagayana.

In May 1838 the new flower was presented to Saxon King Friederich August II, himself a dedicated botanist, who was on a botanic tour in the south of Europe. He immediately decided to visit Polhov Gradec to see the flower by himself. Count Blagay erected a marble obelisk at the foot of the mountain near the castle to mark this special event.

Blagajka, daphne blagayana or king flower is one of two flowers protected by federal law already in 1898. This lovely flower is a famous member of the Slovenian flora, a rather rare plant, and is a symbol of Slovenian's nature conservation efforts. This delicate flower with strong, but lovely smell was later found at a few other places in Slovenia, as well as on some mountains of the former Yugoslavia, in Romania, Bulgaria and Greece.

Outside the castle, on a small garden, one can see the statue of Count Blagay, made by artist Edo Dolinar from the nearby village.

The Castle was richly furnished until the end of World War II when the owner's family was forced to leave their home. The castle was robbed of all valuables and demolished but fortunately not set on fire, as many others were during those days. During the following decades the deserted building almost collapsed, until some local people invested a lot of their enthusiasm, time and efforts to its restoration. Today a large part of of the building is occupied by a Museum of Post and Telecommunications. Besides there is a small local history museum, local library, and a salon used for marriages. In the first floor there is a room in which our club sets lace exhibitions. In the same room one can see some old original castle items.

The castle has a chapel with a richly decorated ceiling. The altar painting has a remarkable history. It was thought to have been destroyed at the end of World War II, its appearance being preserved only on an old black and white photograph. However, the wife of the reconstruction architect incidentally remembered having seen the painting in an office in Ljubljana, where nobody knew its actual origin. The chapel was renovated a few years ago and the painting has been put back to its original place.

Several other important persons were born, lived and worked in Polhov Gradec. Such was Gregor Rihar, composer of sacral music (1796-1863).

In front of the castle there is a renovated fountain, dated to 1696, with Neptune surrounded by 4 nymphs; The park in front of the castle was full of exotic trees, beautiful bushes and other plants until 60 years ago. Only two trees escaped destruction after the World War II - a big linden tree, because the vandals didn't have sufficiently big saw to cut it, and a cypress. Both are still in good condition.

Finally a few words about us, lace makers and lace lovers. Our lace club was the first of its kind in Slovenia, established in 1996. A lace school was in operation at Polhov Gradec between 1906 and 1948, with teachers coming from Idrija, the centre of Slovenian lace. Marijanca Yartz, the President of our Lace club, was one of the last students.

Our village is part of the geographical area where Idrija lace were made in the past. For this reason we are entitled to use the trade mark of Idrija lace (if made according to the Idrija tradition). Unfortunately, there does not seem to be much interest in the present management of the Polhov Gradec Elementary School to popularize lace making skills among children, as is the case at Žiri, Gorenja vas, Železniki and Idrija.
We are 24 ladies and 1 gentleman, our dear ”uncle” Max. He is over 80 years old and due to his poor health he is unable to make lace any longer, but still manages to produce some beautiful pieces of embroidery in his own special style.

Only about one-half of our members are really active lace makers.

We are proud that Mrs. Marijanca, our President, was appointed as one of the 8 experts in lace making in the international, EU-funded Leonardo da Vinci project, which was finished in 2010. We are trying to promote manual as opposed to machine sewing in of lace.

We are trying to promote manual as opposed to machine sewing in of laces. Our lace club was the first of its kind in Slovenia, established in 1996.

During the past years we prepared 13 exhibitions, each one with a leading theme, for example the heart, table cloth and table settings, book marks, fashion items, lace in the past and today, cushions.

With the generous help and support of various small local businesses and companies we have been able to produce an artistic wall calendar for the year 2006, at the 100th anniversary of the Lace School at Polhov Gradec and the 10th anniversary of our Lace Club. It presents not only Idria lace, but also a German and a Bruges lace - to remind us that our Slovenian lace is part of the European Treasure of Lace. We also printed some postcards.

We are gathering on Fridays in the ”lace room” of a private home.

There is a small permanent exhibition with some contemporary lace in one of the castle rooms. Also on display are some documents about our village lace school. Unfortunately only a few escaped destruction.

Copyright © 2009 Mirjam Gremes
Website: mirjamsworld.com
Dormouse - lace made by Marijanca Yartz, the President of the Polhov Gradec Lace Club
Daphne blagayana - lace made by Marijanca Yartz, and Angelca Cankar
Statue of Count Blagay, made by the artist Edo Dolinar, Briše, Slovenia
Marijanca Yartz, Angelca Cankar and Bogdan Oražem, the Parish Priest of Polhov Gradec on solemn blessing of the renovated chapel in May 2008.
Our Club Members