History of Bistra


Next to the river Bistra there was a small settlement, perhaps already in Roman times. Evidence of this was provided by archeologists who excavated some Roman tombstones and a very interesting inscription dedicated to the god Neptune. The origins of the monastery are closely related to the Carinthian Duke Bernard Spanheim, who invited the first members of the Carthusian order to the Carniola region around 1220. In 1255, through a benefaction, Bernard’s son, Ulrich Spanheim, secured the foundation of Carthusia Vallis Iocosa, as the abbey came to be known. The Bistra monastery, which reached its peak of power and influence in the 14th century, was – along with Žiče (1160), Jurklošter (1170) and Pleterje (1407) – one of the four estates of the Carthusian order on Slovenian territory. The National Library and University Library Ljubljana preserve a number of important illuminated manuscripts that were created here, including a transcript of Aurelius Augustinus’ De Civitate Dei dating from 1347.

Over the centuries, Bistra has been struck by numerous natural disasters, earthquakes and fires. Although not much remains of the original medieval structure, with the exception of a part of the small cloister (1449), much of the basic configuration of the original monastery can still be seen. A number of rooms and annexes led off from the little cloister, on the eastern side of which was a single-naved church (demolished in 1808). Beyond the church was the great cloister, around which the monks’ cells and dormitory quarters were arranged, and at its centre was the monastery cemetery. The church, great cloister and cemetery have long since disappeared and in their place there is now an open park.

In the 16th century, Bistra was complemented by a series of farm buildings built near the stream, while the two-story arcades, which cover much of the former small monastery square, are part of the 16th and 17th century reconstructions and additions. The Baroque Chapel of St. Joseph, which stands in the western wing of the complex next to the main entrance, is decorated with some exquisite ceiling stucco-work as well as late-18th century frescoes by Anton Cebej.


In 1782 Emperor Joseph II decreed the dissolution of the monasteries across the Habsburg Empire. The Carthusians were expelled from their monastery and their land and property were given to a state-controlled religious foundation. In 1826 the merchant and industrialist Franc Galle acquired the Bistra estate. He and his successors endowed it with the countenance of a fine manor, characteristics which indeed still remain to this day. At the end of the Second World War, the estate was nationalised and in 1951 Bistra became the headquarters and first permanent home to the TMS.


The TMS was established to adequately document the industrial heritage of Slovenia.  Its mission was – and still is – to collect, preserve, protect and exhibit moveable elements of the heritage that are relevant and symbolic for the historical development of the nation’s local crafts, trades and industry. Such a broad-set objective andthe lack of exhibition and depository sites led to the creation of specialized exhibitions in various other places throughout the country. Over the years, many of these semi-autonomous enterprises have expanded and developed their collections to the extent that they are now independent museums in their own right. Of particular note are the Blacksmith and Foundry Museum in Kropa, the Idrija Municipal Museum (its collection specializing in mercury mining); the textile collection, which forms part of Kranj’s Regional Museum, and the Jesenice Ironworks Museum.

The first forestry and hunting collections of the TMS in Bistra were opened to the public in 1953. Today, permanent exhibitions from the fields of agriculture, transport, forestry, wood processing, hunting, fishing, textiles, electrical engineering and metalworking machinery can be seen on more than 6,000 m2 of exhibition space. In addition, there are a number of dislocated collections in various parts of the country, including the Museum of Post and Telecommunications in Polhov Gradec, together with Wagensberg Castle (Bogenšperk) with its graphic and printing workshop and a cartographic exhibition. Also worth mentioning are the open-air magazines Soteska and Pivka.

Take a look at the animated history of Bistra:


History of Polhov Gradec Castle

According to the first written records Polhov Gradec Castle, it was built in 1315, although this date cannot be proven. It was originally made of wood, and the first stone work probably dates from the 14th to 15th centuries. The height of the original castle probably reached at least the height of the present first floor, while the second floor was made of wood. Apart from its external appearance, the wooden interior ceiling and the stone portals are particularly noteworthy.

The appearance of the castle has been preserved in the copper engravings made Anton Trost and published in Valvasor’s Contemporary Topography of the Dutchy of Carniola (1679) and the Glory of the Dutchy of Carniola (1689).)

The size and volume of the castle building during the Renaissance, was defined under the proprietorship of the count Jurij Khisl, a descendant of the owner of the Fužine glassworks in Ljubljana. At that time, all windows in the castle were glazed, and the blown glass panes found during the archaeological excavations prove this fact. By the end of the 17th century the castle façade had become symmetrical, and the main entrance lost its Renaissance pediment, which was still identifiable on the copper engraving. The eastern loggia was also paved with rounded river cobbles. According to contemporary sources, Mark Anton Kunstel Baumgarten, who in 1658 became the owner, renovated the castle, and during that time had the chapel built, added the belvedere with a clock and placed Neptune’s Fountain in the yard.

In the late 18th and early 19th century, the Northwest wing was added to the castle. This was also the period when the present day main entrance was constructed and all windows on the front facade gained uniform stone mullions.

Following the Bilichgraetz family line, in the first half of the 19th century the estate transferred to the ownership of Ursini Blagaj, of the Carniolan nobility. In 1808 the count Rihard Ursini Blagaj (1786-1858) married the seventeen-year old baroness, Antonija Polhograjska (Antonia of Polhov Gradec), the co-owner of the castle, and moved into Polhov Gradec. In his time, the castle became the meeting point of followers of the Enlightenment. Count Blagaj, who managed the estate for fifty years, supported and promoted the development of agriculture and cottage industry. He was an advocator and patron of the arts and contributed to the general development of the locality. The Count was also the first Mayor of Polhov Gradec and was deeply involved in mineralogy and botany. In 1837, a local farmer brought him an unknown plant, which he immediately sent to his colleague Henrik Freyer, a natural historian and botanist to the then Estate Museum of Carniola in Ljubljana. Freyer later named this newly discovered plant Blagajev Volčin (Daphne blagayana or ‘Blagay’s daphne’).

In 1875 the estate was bought by Luiza Urbančič from Preddvor and the last owner was Ana Delago. After the Second World War the castle was nationalised and plundered. There followed a period of housing a primary school (until 1969), after which the castle was left to decay until it was restored and renovated in the 1990 by Restoration Centre of the Institute for Protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia. In 1999 it was declared a cultural monument of national importance together with the park and the Neptune Fountain, and in 2008 the Ministry of Culture handed it over to the management of the Technical Museum of Slovenia.

The Technical Museum of Slovenia in 2012 managed to obtain funds from the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport for the return of the original statues of the Neptune Fountain to the Polhov Gradec castle. Statues were restored by the Restoration Centre of the Institute for Protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia. The opening of the new exhibtion took place on 7th December 2012.

The Neptune Fountain in the courtyard of the Polhov Gradec manor house is one of the most interesting cultural monuments of the 17th Slovene century because of its unique shape. A rectangular pond is surrounded by four corner pillars, richly decorated with plant ornaments, on which four nymphs stand. The central figure, the mythological deity Neptune, rises on the central pillar.