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Statenberg - A House Worth Saving
Štatenberg Manor and Garden (Makole)
Member Name: fizzywizzy
Štatenberg Manor and Garden (Makole)
Advantages: Beautiful frescoes; lovely grounds; near the sculpture trail
Disadvantages: Only small section open; little information
Slovenia can be described as a country of castles, though one can make the distinction between a fortified castle and something more like the English 'manor house'. A fortified castle is a 'grad' and a manor house (the description 'palace' is sometimes used), known as a 'dvorec', however, the terms are not rigorously adhered to. I've seen Statenberg referred to as both a grad and a dvorec but if we're going to be accurate, the current Statenberg is most definitely a dvorec (though its previous incarnation was a grad).
Statenberg is in the Stajerska region which covers the eastern central region of the country; it's often described as being in the environs of Ptuj though it's just as easily accessed from the cities of Celje or Maribor. It is possible to get there using public transport though you'd probably need to make a day of it because the village of Makole, the nearest place of any size, is connected only at key commuting/school times. Parking is available and free of charge.
I'd wanted to visit Statenberg for some time since I'd seen the name on posters promoting a large music festival which was to be held in the grounds; I didn't get the opportunity until recently when I was out with some friends who were taking me to see an old monastery which is being restored nearby. Statenberg is open to the public though it's not really run as a full time visitor attraction.
One of the problems of having so many castles (and the Stajerska region probably has the largest concentration of any part of the country) is that they are expensive to maintain and, as Slovenia is a very small country, there are not really sufficient public funds to look after all of them. In the south of the country, right on the Croatian border, Mokrice Castle has been leased to a wealthy wine family with the proviso that they restore the castle and ensure its survival while other castles house five star hotels and conference centres. Of course, there are only so many companies or private individuals with the necessary means to restore and maintain such buildings and too many wonderful buildings are falling into semi ruin; the government has spent money on ensuring that many at least have a roof that will afford some protection, while it waits for buyers to be found.
While Statenberg certainly can't be described as being in ruins, it's obvious that the owners have concentrated on fixing those areas of the castle that can generate an income which, one would hope, they would later plough back into making more of the remainder. The present owners only took over the property in 2011 so they still have a lot to do. Like most Baroque castles and mansions in Stajerska there is a painted knights' hall which is used for weddings, while part of the ground floor houses a restaurant which has some outdoor tables which allow diners to enjoy some wonderful views across the countryside as they eat.
According to the national tourist board's website guided tours of Statenberg are available but there was no such opportunity when we visited. In fact, tourist information for Statenberg is actually based a few miles away in the town of Slovenska Bistrica and casual visitors like ourselves who just stop off while passing by have to make do with some leaflets left in the covered part of the courtyard entrance. An honesty box sat on a table with some postcards of depictions of the house in various media, and two plates of delicious grapes proved a temptation none of our party could resist.
Statenberg comprises one main building with three smaller wings which are arranged around a pretty courtyard planted in a semi-formal English style. The house was built for Count Ignaz Maria Attems sometime just before the end of the seventeenth century. We were enjoying a stroll around the courtyard when a member of staff came from the restaurant and asked if we would like to see the hall and the upstairs rooms: naturally we accepted the offer.
Except for the knights' hall the rooms are largely unremarkable though worth seeing if you have time and you are interested in old houses; that said, the painted ceiling is one of the most memorable I have seen with the colours being wonderfully vibrant and Statenberg can boast four rooms with such frescoes. Exactly who painted the main hall is not known though the names of Joseph Sereni, Jozef Quadri and Joannecky, artists who had painted similar halls in central Europe, have been suggested. The paintings inside the ornate stucco framed panels depict scenes from mythology and have an overarching theme of science, as illustrated by the four elements.
There are a few peices of furniture though generally the rooms are quite sparse. One thing our party did discover was a mutual appreciation of the big old ceramic stoves that were used to heat rooms in these grand old houses and the ones at Statenberg are some of the most decorative ones I've seen.
We weren't able to visit the small Baroque chapel in the west wing but I would be interested in doing so on another visit, if possible.
The courtyard and the gardens surrounding the house made me feel very much at home as they were landscaped in the English style not long after the house was built. The courtyard is divided into six parterres and the two nearest the gates and the two nearest the main entrance to the house have been edged with low hedges. As you come off the road a chestnut promenade leads to the house, with a pretty fishpond on the right. A traditional Stajerska wind rattle stands at the junction.
I imagine you could extend your visit quite nicely by eating in the restaurant and visiting when a tour is taking place but the draw for me is the nearby Forma Viva trail. Forma Viva was a Slovenian sculptural symposium established by two Slovenian sculptors Janez Lenassi and Jakob Savinsek who wanted to create a forum for an exchnage of ideas among sculptors while at the same time producing a number of works to be displayed in the open air. The first symposia took place in 1961, one just outside the coastal town of Portoroz, the other at Kostanjevica na Krki near the Croatian border. So far there have been more than 300 sculptures created by 150 international artists and over fifty years after its inception, Forma Viva is still a biennial event making it one of the oldest sculpture symposia in the world. There are Forma Viva parks and trails in lots of Slovenia towns and cities so wherever you choose to visit, you are usually near a piece of Forma Viva art.
The Forma Viva Makole Trail is seven kilometres long and an information leaflet and map which can be picked up at the manor house will guide you to the location of more than 30 sculptures. We didn't have time to follow the path on this occasion but plan to do so in the spring. It is not essential to follow the trail to see some of the pieces as a couple of them are just outside the house at Statenberg or on the lane leading to the house from the main road.
We all really appreciated the opportunity to see the interior of Statenberg, especially as there were only four of us. Naturally we made a contribution to the honesty box as a mark of gratitude and I do hope others do the same because it would be brilliant to see more of the house restored. The grounds are not extensive but they are very pretty and there is the added bonus of having the Forma Viva trail pass nearby.
I can't say that it's worth going out of your way just to see Statenberg manor house but as part of a day spent in the area it is certainly worth an hour of your time.
Statenberg mansion stands on a small hill along the regional road Ptuj-Poljcane Makole in the municipality. From Ljubljana or Maribor to the castle can be reached by road Slovenian Bistrica Makole-or-Slovenian Bistrica Poljcane-Makole.
Due to the age of the building and the fact that it is only partly restored, the house is not wheelchair accessible
Summary: Handsome Baroque manor house in south eastern Slovenia
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