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Churches with paintings by Tone Kralj

Paintings with sacral motifs and a patriotic message are valuable Karst heritage.

Tone Kralj (1900–1975), the Slovenian painter, graphic artist and sculptor, is famous for his distinctive painting style in the tradition of monumental realism. He is famous in Slovenian culture as a great patriot of the Primorska region, who skilfully depicted his resistance to fascism in his painting motifs. Many nationally conscious priests from Primorska invited him to paint such motifs in their churches. Part of his artistic opus can also be seen in certain churches in the Karst.

The Church of St. Martin in Slivje

The big parish church in the Slivje village is dedicated to St. Martin. It was built in 1697, mostly in the Roman style. It features an oblong nave, with two side niches. Its peculiarities include paintings on the ceiling and the walls in the middle of the nave, painted in fresco by Tone Kralj. The artist painted the church in 1943 and 1944. He boldly portrayed negative figures from biblical stories as fascist and, in the round reliefs of the Way of the Cross, depicted the horrors of the war and the suffering of the Slovenian nation.

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The Church of St. Michael in Lokev

The Church of St. Michael, the archangel, was built in 1118. It is said to have been built by the Knights Templar. It was rebuilt in 1613 on the remains of a previous church and, next to it, a bell tower was erected in 1658, functioning also as a portico. The inscriptions reveal it was completely renovated in 1876. The church is decorated with frescos painted by Tone Kralj during World War II.

The Church of St. Nicholas in Avber

The Church of St. Nicholas in the Avber village is eye-catching for its green, onion-shaped copper belfry; a unique example of such architecture in the Karst.  Although a record about the existence of this sacral building in 1450 supposedly exists, the church was most probably built between 1633 and 1634. The sculptural ornaments reflect the baroque period, while the eastern façade reveals some gothic elements. The main altar and the marble pulpit were brought from the pilgrimage Church of Sveta Gora near Nova Gorica that was pulled down in the 18th century. The church interior was rearranged between 1927 and 1940. During that period, the church was painted by Tone Kralj, who created one of the most impressive paintings within his artistic opus. With his artistic expression, he encouraged the people of Primorska during the period of fascism to persist in the hope for a proper solution. With support of the parish priest, Tone Kralj boldly included in one of the paintings here that show sinful souls drowning in a storm, the Duce of Fascism, Benito Mussolini himself. His portrait is easily recognisable, even if skilfully hidden behind the altar.

The Church of St. Andrew in Gorjansko

On the place where the parish Church of St. Andrew stands today in the Gorjansko village, a small gothic church once stood. A new one was erected in 1896. The former gothic presbytery is these days a vestry. The church has a free-standing tower bell built in the Aquileian style. Between 1955 and 1963 the church interior was renovated and the walls painted by Tone Kralj. His most famous painting in this church is the Way of the Cross, including an image depicting the martyrdom of St. Andrew and Christ, holding a golden laurel wreath.

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