The Local Community of Cerkno: a hilly shelter in the area of Primorska at the edge of the Alps

Is the gold still waiting?


The Local Community of Cerkno is comprised of the settlements Cerkno, Labinje, Poljane, Čeplez, and Planina. The historical memory of the area it covers goes as far back as ancient history, when these places were ruled by the Romans. Around the year 600 A.D. Slavs penetrated into what is the Cerkno region today. There was an important trade route that went through these places in the Middle Ages. It connected the Littoral, Friuli, Tolmin, the Baška Grapa valley, the Cerkno region, Škofja Loka, Kamnik, Celje, Ptuj, and the Kingdom of Hungary.

A little bit of history, not too much

Cerkno was first mentioned in 1299, Labinje in 1320, and the other villages during the 14th century as well. Of course, the first mention does not mean that the villages were only just formed at that time.

Control over this area was exchanged through different periods between the cathedral chapter of Cividale, the counts of Gorizia, the Republic of Venice, and the House of Habsburg, if we name only those that stayed here the longest. The Cerkno region was always a “small area in the periphery”, since it remained part of the Tolmin and Gorizia region or its extreme eastern part for centuries up until WWI. Life in this area was of course very hard and nature was often harsh and merciless on its inhabitants. The eternal struggle with the hills and valleys shaped the character of the people in the Cerkno region as well. They often seemed unapproachable, mistrustful, and of few words in the beginning, but inside they were soft, kindhearted, and generous in spite of everything.

An important historic »achievement« of the Cerkno region under Austrian rule to be mentioned is the first reading society in the area of Gorizia (1869), which was proof that the residents of Cerkno started participating in the process of raising national awareness and becoming aware of their national autonomy.

The village of Planina was breaking new ground in farming by founding the first dairy cooperative (1898). It even proudly bore the title “first” in its official name. This was completely justified as it really was the first in the Cerkno region.

After WWI the Primorska region was occupied by Italy. The Cerkno region was truly liberated from the fascist oppression only after the capitulation of Italy in September 1943. This was of course already the time of WWII. The residents of Cerkno were joining partisans in large numbers then and supported the Liberation Front both morally and with material means.

In the postwar period the devastated Cerkno region was in need of renovation. There weren’t any prospects or possibilities for earning money in this area at the time, so people started emigrating. It was only stopped by the founding of the factory ETA and its first big successes.

The Local Community of Cerkno had 1,612 residents at its foundation in 1965, of these 1,225 lived in Cerkno, 120 in Labinje, 103 in Poljane, 118 in Planina, and 57 in Čeplez. According to the last official count it now has 1,961 residents altogether, of these 1,579 in Cerkno, 92 in Labinje, 74 in Poljane, 141 in Planina, and 75 in Čeplez.

Famous residents

Many important men were born in the Local Community of Cerkno in the past, of whom we can be rightfully proud. Among them were the famous mathematician Dr. Franc Močnik, the bishop of Gorizia and Gradisca and Metropolitan Franz Borgia Sedej, the choirmaster, composer and tireless cultural worker Peter Jereb, aviator and inventor Viljem Peternelj, and Jaka Štucin – Cvetko, who was born in Poljane and was the organizer of the Liberation Front in the Cerkno region.

Gold underneath the Labinje village?

In the Local Community of Cerkno there is a considerable number of historical and cultural monuments. Quite a few of them are sacral, and four of them are especially worth pointing out – the two in Cerkno, dedicated to St. Anne and St. Bartholomew, the Church of Holy Trinity in Labinje, and the church in Planina, dedicated to St. John the Baptist. In Labinje you can still see St. Nicholas’ tower (Slov. Miklavžev turn), which is actually a remnant of the former miner’s church of St. Nicholas. Copper was being mined in the village already in the 17th century. There are quite a few tales and legends connected to the former church and mining. One of these was written down in a German newspaper almost one hundred years ago by the explorer Anton de Mailly. According to the legend there was a gold altar in the church, which belonged to a certain religious group living close to Labinje, but not in the village itself. Venetians dug silver in the vicinity of Labinje for a while, but they eventually stopped.

After a while, three foreign riders appeared in the village and asked people where the mine used to be. The riders then went into this abandoned mine and returned after a while, heavily laden with not just silver but gold as well. Then they disappeared. Who knows, maybe some of the gold in Labinje is still waiting to be dug out!

However, this tale has a mystical origin and is most certainly connected with the former, already forgotten times. Lots of interesting stories and legends can be found in the other settlements of the local community as well.

Among the important memorials is also the monument on “Brce” above Cerkno, which together with the memorial site on the Lajše hill represents a tragic chapter in our history from the time of WWII. The same time period is commemorated also by the tomb with a monument at the cemetery, in which lie more than 900 fighters, who fell as partisans in the Cerkno region, and the monument of a partisan mother in front of the library.

Another interesting part of local heritage is the rural architecture: rural farmhouses, hayracks, fruit-drying kilns, hay barns, and more. These structures can be found in all the settlements within the local community. Many of these traditional objects have completely changed their intended use. Many are also falling apart, so it would be necessary to take care of them in the near future.

When mentioning different sights, it is not possible to leave out our intangible cultural heritage. We must point out our dear carnival custom “laufarija”, which has its home in Cerkno, but its significance reaches far beyond the borders of our local community as all residents of the Cerkno region identify themselves with it.

Life and work in the local community today

At the beginning of 1950s the residents of Cerkno still had their own municipality, but in 1958 after administrative changes it became part of the Idrija municipality. The local community was established in 1965 and was comprised of the same settlements as today. The location of the authority was always in the center of the municipality, where the confluence of the Cerknica and Zapoška rivers is as well.

The Local Community of Cerkno doesn’t have the finances for major investments, so it cooperates with the Cerkno municipality on every major project. In the past these were projects connected to the Cerkno elementary school, Cerkno kindergarten, the center for school and outdoor education, the multi-purpose center, and Hotel Cerkno. Many financial resources are used for the renovation of the sewer system. The sewer network in the Local Community of Cerkno is quite old and worn, so constant maintenance is necessary. A lot of investments are necessary for the maintenance of the water supply network (restoration and additional work) and for the asphalting of the roads and access routes.

Among the projects and works undertaken by the Local Community of Cerkno recently, the following are especially worth mentioning: the renovation of the sewer system and water distribution system in Mostanija and asphalting of the road from the company ETA to Mostanija. Together with the Cerkno municipality, from which the local community gets good and exemplary cooperation, it also financed the waterworks at “Maln” in Cerkno. In addition to this it also helped with the asphalting of the road in Labinje. It also co-financed the water distribution system in Čeplez. Aside from taking care of the infrastructure, the Local Community of Cerkno also co-organizes events, e.g. the yearly visit of Grandfather Frost and the handing out of presents for children in the merry month of December.

There are many plans in the Local Community of Cerkno. There are of course many more wishes than there are financial means. Among the biggest projects is the construction of the sidewalk from the old building of the company ETA to Mostanija. Since this is quite a dangerous section for pedestrians, a sidewalk in this location would be more than welcome. This is a long-planned investment for the benefit of pedestrians.

It is planned to create a recycling bin area at the apartment block in the Cesta OF street and in “Strana”. Since the firefighters need the whole parking area due to the size of the new vehicle, there are plans to move the recycling bin area in front of the fire station to the bus parking area. Another recycling bin area is scheduled for Poljane, next to the Cerkno – Novaki road.

Within the scope of its financial capacities, the local community will also help the firefighters in Planina. The roof will be replaced on the multi-purpose building in Poljane, where the local community will help with the purchase of materials. The local community also helps with preparations for the project to lay stones on the lot in front of the Church of St. Anne, which is to be part of a broader urban plan of the town. The local community of course also manages the cemetery at the Church of St. Bartholomew, which means that it maintains the cemetery and the chapel of rest. There are also plans to acquire resources and draft concept designs to cover the space in front of the chapel of rest and repair the wall at the cemetery.

One of the tasks of the local community is also financial aid to societies, which depends on the budgetary restraints. The local community in Cerkno definitely tries to help with the costs associated with the activities of these societies, along with their events and more. Let us also mention that the local community in Cerkno has a wide scope of societies: from charity to sports and cultural societies. We can be rightfully proud of their achievements.