The economic and cultural centre of Lower Carniola from 12th Century
The Cistercian monastery was established in 1135 and became within decades the religious, economic, educational and cultural centre of Lower Carniola (Dolenjska). For a period of time it surpassed in influence and standing Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenian territories.
The monastery was also a centre of learning, famous for its production of manuscripts from the second half of the 12th century. The monks produced the largest and oldest collection of Latin manuscripts on Slovenian territory. In the beginning of 15th century the famous Stična manuscript in Slovenian language was written , comprising prayer before sermon, the prayer Hail, O Queen, two formulae for general confession, some Latin-Slovenian phrases and the beginning of Easter song The Lord rose from death. This manuscripts was followed by other religious texts in Slovenian language, clearly demonstrating the ethnic identity of some monks and their care for their Slovenian flock. So the Stična monastery became one of the few places where Slovenian language was cultivated, beside the prevalent Latin and German of the ruling and educated classes. As an educational institution, the monastery offered theological studies, serving principally the preparation for priesthood. There was also a school of music, where the 16th century Slovenian composer Jacobus Gallus may have been educated.
The monastery also incorporated an early version of a medical school, where knowledge of healing properties of herbs and herbal treatments was pursued and handed down. The pharmacy which they established achieved wide renown and is still in existence today.
The Cistercian brothers also trained the surrounding populace in progressive farming methods – and the Abbey may be regarded as significant precursor of the 19th century Agricultural College at Grm in Lower Carniola. Their endeavours included the extension of cultivated land, introduction of the iron plough, improved agricultural tools and development of new varieties of cultivated fruits and cereals. They built roads and bridges and offered food and shelter to travellers, thus facilitating travel and stimulating commercial activities.
According to Slovenian art historian Marijan Zadnikar, Stična Abbey is also one of the most significant cultural munuments on Slovenian territories. Besides many works of art – paintings and statues commissioned by various abbots, it has a Renaissance basilica with the remarkable ground plan of five apses and the unique cross corridor (križni hodnik) – the only one of its kind. Marijan Zadnikar wrote that it is one of the greatest eshetic experiences offered among Slovenian cultural monuments.
At present the Stična Monastery is still occupied by the monks who are assisted in their work and continuing functioning of various workshops by lay people. The monastery has been opened to the public as a museum, which has a curator whose role is to care for the interiors, initiate the necessary upgrading and prepare exhibitions.
For the visitor, Stična Monastery offers a unique experience – a walk into the centuries-old past, productive and prosperous, with all the riches and beauties reflected in its marvellous building complexes, well maintained and decorated interiors and works of art.