Beside the river Bistra a small settlement existed, perhaps already in the Roman period. Evidence for this was provided by archeologists, who excavated a few Roman tombstones and a very interesting inscription, consecrated to the god of Neptune. The origins of the monastery are closely related to the Carinthian Duke Bernard Spanheim, who around 1220 invited the first members of the Carthusian order to the Carniola region. In 1255, through a benefaction, Bernard’s son, Ulrich Spanheim, secured the foundation of Carthusia Vallis Iocosa, as the abbey came to be known. Reaching its peak of power and influence during the 14th century, Bistra’s monastery was – besides Žiče (1160), Jurklošter (1170) and Pleterje (1407) – one of the four estates of the Carthusian order on Slovene territory. The National and University Library in Ljubljana keeps a number of important illuminated manuscripts which were produced here, notable amongst which is a transcript of Aurelius Augustinus’ De Civitate Dei dating from 1347.
Throughout the centuries numerous natural disasters, earthquakes and conflagrations afflicted Bistra. Although not a great deal of the original medieval structure survives, save a portion of the little cloister (1449), much of the basic configuration of the original monastery is still apparent. 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 are long gone and in their place today is an open park.
During the 16th century Bistra was complemented by a number of farm buildings, which were erected near the stream, while the two-storey arcades encompassing much of the erstwhile little cloister quadrangle, are part of the 16th and 17th century reconstructions and additions. The Baroque Chapel of St. Joseph, which stands in the western tract of the complex beside the main entrance, boasts 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 thus expelled from their monastery, and their land and property were turned over 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 founded in order that a fitting record of Slovenia’s industrial heritage might be kept. Its mission was – and is – to collect, preserve, protect and exhibit moveable elements of heritage pertinent to and symbolic of the historical development of this nation’s indigenous crafts, trades and industry. Such a broad-set objective and the shortage of display and depository sites led to the creation of specialist exhibitions at various other locations across the country. Over the years many of these semi-autonomous operations expanded and extended their collections to such a degree that today they are independent museums in their own right. Here, special mention should be made of the Blacksmith and Foundry Museum in Kropa, the Idrija Municipal Museum (with its specialist mercury mining collection); 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 at Bistra were opened to the public in 1953. Today, across more than 6,000 m2 of exhibition space, there are permanent exhibits encompassing agriculture, transport, forestry, woodworking, hunting, fishing, textiles and electrical engineering. In addition to these, there are a number of dislocated collections in different parts of the country, including the Museum of Post and Telecommunications in Polhov Gradec, together with Wagensberg (Bogenšperk) Castle with its graphics and printing workshop as well as cartographic exhibition. Mention should also be made of the the Soteska and Pivka open-storage depot.
Take a look at the animated history of Bistra: