The Pilgrimage Church of St Lawrence on Smuk has a long history. Centuries ago, the Lichtenberg Smuk lord of the manor appreciated the beautiful view and tranquility on Smuk. He therefore built a castle chapel near his castle, which Valvasor already mentions as the Church of St Lawrence on Smuk. The famous Smuk pilgrimage route leads to it. It used to be visited en masse by people from all over Bela krajina and Croatia. The fact of the church being a pilgrimage church is revealed by a shed in front of its entrance.

Above the entrance to the church of St Lawrence on Smuk is a stone plate built in with the year 1687. Its Latin inscription states that Count Lichtenberg built a temple in honour of the Mother of God then. The Lichtenbergs chose it as their final resting place, as evidenced by a stone tombstone with their coat of arms, built into the paving stone of the presbytery.

It is not known exactly when this church was consecrated to St Lawrence. It is also difficult to determine when the pilgrimages to the Mother of God began here. This most likely happened when the chapel was enlarged and rebuilt into a church. The worship of Mary of Smuk in the Middle Ages grew into a true folk pilgrimage and has remained so to this day.

The main pilgrimage get-together is on a Sunday around St Lawrence (10 August). This day is an important holiday for many generations of Semič people, the locals call it the Smuk Blessing (Smočko žegnanje). Believers then recommend themselves to Mary of Smuk and entrust her with their burdens.

The Church of St Lawrence on Smuk does not have an abundance of valuable works of art, but it is an interesting and special custom to worship two saints at the same time. After honouring St Lawrence at the altar, they cover his statue with a picture of Mary of Brežice and pay homage to her as well. Believers also pay homage to the famous statue of Mary of Smuk in the church.

People used to make pilgrimages to Mary on foot, but the more affluent ones by horse cart. They took a snack with them in bundles and baskets and ate it with their family in the shade of a nearby grove after a mass.

The Smuk Blessing (Smočko žegnanje) has a special significance for Semič, because in addition to the religious content, it also enables people to socialise pleasantly and preserve the old tradition. It is visited by many pilgrims even today.

Foto: Uroš Novina