I’ll get to the charming hilltop villages and dramatic mountain skylines later. Perhaps. For now, I’d like to concentrate on some of Slovenia’s oddities.
1. The Remains of St. Deodatus
The main cathedral in Ljubljana is called the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation. If you want to see pretty pictures of it, go here. It’s a nice Baroque church with a pretty imposing altar by the Venetian sculptor Francesco Robba and an unusual pink-orange exterior. But what interested me was the open glass casket at left, which stands at the left of the main altar, under a portrait of Our Lady of Good Counsel. Inside this casket are the remains of St. Deodatus. The pamphlet available at the church information stand informs us that his remains were brought to Ljubljana in the early 18th century by a Franciscan monk, and installed in this case in 1882.
I tried, very discreetly, to inspect the remains in order to answer the burning question: is that really the carefully-embalmed, over-300-year-old body of St. Deodatus? The flesh itself seems waxy and unreal, and the eyes are pointing upwards and away from the viewer and have no pupils, which seems to indicate this is a symbolic effigy of the saint. However, there is an obvious wound on one of his arms, which seems like an unusual thing for a sculptor to add. I wonder if anyone can answer the question whether this is truly the saint’s body?
2. Mary with Saints’ Bones
I visited Slovenia’s National Gallery, which I will of course describe at some later point. It’s no Louvre, but it contains intriguing and lovely objects, including a small, surpassingly graceful sculpture of the Madonna from 1410 called "the Beautiful Madonna." But more to the point, for the purposes of this post, is this painting by Giovanni Francesco da Rimini, called the Hoška Marija (i.e. the painting of Mary associated with a place called Hoska). The painting itself is severe and elegant. But look at the frame, which is much more visible in this larger picture. It’s features 16 glass-encased apertures full of fragments of human bone. These are saints’ relics — each painstakingly labeled with small piece of paper.
3. Unidentified Oval-Shaped Object Composed of Aged Plastic.
No, I’ve no idea what this is. But you can buy it — or one of dozens of similar objects — at a shop located just west of the Annunciation Church.
4. Buried Lightning
At the National Museum of Slovenia, you can inspect dozens of artifacts recovered from the time when what is now Ljbljana was the Roman city of Emona, including a stunning gilt-bronze statue of an unidentified citizen of Emona. But what caught my eye was something in the lapidarium — the collection of inscribed marble and limestone tablets from Roman times. The object in question was a triangle composed of three slabs of marble, with the words "Fulg[ur] C[onditum]" — lightning buried. As a sign on the gallery wall recounts: "The Romans also worshipped the divine force of natural phenomena. The grave of the thunderbolt is interesting. The place where lightning struck was fenced, and the thunderbolt ceremoniously buried in order to ward off its evil effect.
There you have some of the more intriguing oddities I encountered. Of course, anyone who has a good guess as to what the oval plastic object is, or whether the saint’s body is real, is invited to contribute in the comments. In the meantime I will gradually type a few more entries about my fascinating stay in Slovenia in the coming days, along with other miscellaneous subjects…