A fortress church or a nave is a special type of church that is usually surrounded by a nave wall and defensive towers. Churches were walled up due to historical circumstances—Ottoman invasions. These began in Bela krajina in 1408, and nearby Metlika was one of the Turkish incursion trails to our area. 

In Bela krajina, you also find camp churches at Žeželj, near Three Parishes (Tri Fare) and Krvavčji Vrh, while the best preserved and arranged is the one in the Semič market centre. The locals took shelter with their property and livestock under the auspices of this wall when the Turkish threat loomed.

Here, you can thoroughly explore where the three defensive towers were placed in the wall, and get a sense of the thickness and height of the stone walls. A detailed information board at the church helps you with this. In the paving stones in front of the church are newly built orange lines that follow exactly the course of the former walls. Part of the defensive tower at the parish building has been preserved in its original form. With a little imagination, we can easily imagine the hard work of the subjects who built these walls without modern construction machinery.

The walls were most likely built before 1526. However, not only the subjects suffered during the invasions of the Ottoman soldiers, but also the lords. This is evidenced by the historically documented and especially cruel Ottoman invasion of the Metlika area in 1542. 

At that time, the Turkish army of several thousand persons besieged nearby Metlika, and the two hundred cavalrymen of Bela krajina nobles Albert II Semenič and his nephew Janez also set out to fight them. You can explore how bloody it all turned out in the extremely interesting monograph by a historian Janez Weiss entitled Semič and Semenič. The Noble Families of the Metlika Area (Semič in Semenič. Plemiški rodbini Metliškega).

The nave walls still give our place a very special mark, and a street named after it runs next to the church.

Foto: Uroš Novina