The Parish of Šebrelje

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The Parish of Šebrelje extends on a plateau on the left bank of the Idrijca river. The parish Church of St. George is kept company by the succursal church of St. John the Baptist (St. Ivan) on the high edges above the valley of the Idrijca river.

The Church of St. George in Šebrelje

The original Church of St. George stood a little lower according to oral tradition, at Mlaka near the current school building. Since it was often flooded by water, the villagers decided to build a new one. During the visitation of archbishop Attems in 1762 the foundation stone for the new parish church was blessed. In 1763 the old church of St. George and the succursal church of St. John the Baptist were demolished to get the material for building a new church. The church was finished in 1765, but burnt down already in the next year, when nearby houses caught on fire and the flames quickly spread to the church across the straw roofs. After twelve years of arranging and equipping the interior the new church was consecrated in 1777.

The church is built in a traditional style and has two side altars apart from the main one.

On the left side stands the altar of Mary, which was brought from the church in Sveta Gora near Gorica. The emperor Franz Joseph II, also known as the »grand beadle of Europe«, ordered to have the church in Sveta Gora emptied and so the altar of St. Anthony was brought to Šebrelje and used as the altar of Mary. At the hundredth anniversary of the consecration of the church in 1877 the painting for the altar was made by the sculptor, carver, and painter Raspet from Cerkno. Above the altar there is a small image of St. Anthony of Padua. The painting of Mary was thoroughly renovated a few years ago and now Mary in the company of angels appears truly graceful. When you stand in front of her, you feel safe in the embrace of her coat, just like the angels that surround her.

On the right side is the altar of St. Florian that used to serve as the altar of St. John the Baptist for a while (during the time when the succursal church of St. John the Baptist was torn down). Above the altar of St. Florian there is also a small image of St. Isidore.

The church is dedicated to the martyr St. George and his painting decorated the main altar for many years. Once the fresco behind the main altar was done, the painting found its place on the wall by the main altar.

The church was furnished slowly, as much as the financial capacities of the villagers at the time permitted. The first organ was bought in 1838 and two new bells were made, which were recast from the previous three bells.

In 1883 a big new wooden altar was made by Jurij Tavčar from Idrija and in 1885 a new pulpit was made as well.

In 1938 the then parish priest started a major renovation of the parish church. The frescoes on the ceiling were renovated by Franc Peternelj from Cerkno. The statues of St. Peter and Paul were then moved from the main altar above the confessionals. In 1939 a new organ was made by the recognized organ manufacturer Valiček in Gorizia, for which the specification was made by Msgr. Dr. Frančišek Kimovec. The organ had 11 stops, two manuals and a pedalboard.

In 1942 on the feast day of St. George a new statue of Mother of God was blessed for the altar of Mary. In the same year the Italians took the two small bells out of the bell tower.

The year 1943 saw the blessing of a new monstrance, which was made by France Leban from Gorizia. The silver and gold were gathered by the villagers themselves in a time of great poverty.

A year before the end of WWII, on 7 June 1944, when it seemed that the worst was already over, the German army burnt down the village. The just renovated church burnt downalmost completely. The almost brand new organ, the big wooden altar, the benches, and the pulpit all burnt down. The tabernacle, the statues of both angels, and the altar painting of St. George were salvaged by the locals. Undamaged were also the statues of St. Peter and St. Paul, which were moved above the confessionals a few years ago.

In memory of these difficult times and the biggest ordeal for the village and the church a small knell, which melted partially in the fire, is hung below the bell tower.

Immediately after the worst was over the roof structure was renovated and the church was provisionally covered. After the war the renovation of the church, whose interior was completely smoke-stained and burnt, began again. In the 1950s, new benches, a new marble altar, and new confessionals were made, and the choir was renovated.

In 1976 a new organ with thirteen stops was made by the Jenko organ manufacturer in Ljubljana. Its specifications were made by Vladko Pirih, Jože Trošt, and the accomplished craftsman Jenko. In the two hundred years of this church’s existence this is already the third organ.

The last earthquakes also inflicted a lot of damage on the church. A thorough renovation was necessary. In 1999 architect Franc Kvaternik drafted the plans for a complete renovation of the interior, which started in the year 2000. The structure of the church was reinforced, the paving and plaster were made anew, and the church was repainted as well. Old frescoes were revealed under the whitewash above the presbytery at the time, which were then fully renovated by the restorers. The restorers also renovated the tabernacle and the altar statues of St. Peter and St. Paul and angels. A new marble altar and ambo were made and the old chandeliers made of Murano glass and the side altar of St. Florian were renovated.

On the wall in the presbytery behind the main altar, a large fresco was painted by the academy-trained painter Lojze Čemažar. The center of the fresco represents the Holy Trinity. In the middle of the circle stands the resurrected Savior rising above the tabernacle. Next to him are two people, one of them holding a chalice and the other wine. On Jesus’s right stands Mary – Mother of Mercy – and next to her the shepherds of Fatima. To the left of Jesus kneels the patron saint of the parish St. George with a spear and a palm branch in his hand. More saints are painted on the fresco: St. Monica, St. Faustina Kowalska, Blessed Anton Martin Slomšek and others. The Cerkno chaplains Ludvik Sluga and Ladislav Piščanec also found their place on the fresco in the embrace of Jesus’s coat, both witnesses of faith from the time of revolution.

After a renovation of two years, during which the parishioners attended mass at the fire station, the parish Church of St. George finally shined in all its beauty. The church is at its best when it is full of believers, which even in Šebrelje happens only on big holidays.