Church of St. Leopold, Loka pri Žusmu
In 1871, a »glassworks« church of St. Leopold at Loka pri Žusmu was built, its interior furnishings representing a veritable museum of glassmaking. The chandeliers, decorating numerous churches in the area of Kozjansko Region, still bear witness to the beauty of glass products from Loka.
Glassmaking in Kozjansko Region has a similar rich tradition which we can witness in Pohorje and elsewhere in Slovenia. The craft developed in places surrounded by vast forest areas, providing easy access to enormous amounts of wood. Naturally, wood became indispensable for fuelling the furnaces, but it was also used to make potash which was, besides silica sand, one of the basic raw materials for glassmaking. The glassworks were usually founded by land lords who leased certain areas of the forest, and when the production of glassmaking used the approved amount of wood, the glassworks moved to another location or the production simply ceased altogether. Such forest glassworks or »glass-huts« (derived from the German word die Glasshütte) emerged in the Slovenian lands as early as the 17th century. The earliest ones were founded in the area of Macelj at Žetale (as it is documented in the contract from 1665), later ones were present in the areas of Žiče Carthusian Monastery, lordship territory of Kozje (Drachenburg), and Svetli dol near Svetina, which were operational in the middle of the 18th century. The glassmaking history is also reflected in numerous microtoponyms.
The richness of glassworks has left a strong mark in the area of the former lordship of Žusem, where the first glassworker is mentioned in 1739. The existence of glassworks is documented in the Josephian and Franciscan land register.
Johann Friedrich, the owner of the glassworks Sveti Jurij ob Taboru at the lordship of Ojstrica, asked for permission on June 24, 1836, to construct a glassworks in the area Loka (Laak) in the district of Žusem. His request mentioned the existence of three previously-operational glassworks in the same area. After the approval, he built one by the stream of Žamerk; the water thus drove the grindstone and two gravel crushers. Silica sand came from Ligist in the district of Voitsberg and from Unterdrauburg – most likely from Soboth in the Austrian part of Styria. He also signed a contract, regarding wood-cutting, with the count Harbuval Chamar; the contract was booked in the land register on February 6, 1837. According to the contract, 85,000 cords of wood were allowed to be extracted from the lordship of Žusem, meaning 1,062 cords of chopped wood per year and, additionally, 195 cords in the forest of Vodole.
The glassworks was finally constructed by Joseph Gotscher who came from the environs of Haida in Northern Bohemia, and started production in 1839. In 1845, Joseph Gotscher was engaged in legal conflict with the owner of the lordship Adolf Ritter concerning wood-cutting. The conflict even reached the Vienna court room, and was finally resolved only upon the arrival of the glassmaking expert Leopold Fiegelmüller – he travelled to Loka from Upper Austria and took over the lordship as well as the glassworks in 1860/61. In addition to him, the glassworks operated under the ownership of his brother and his son – Leopold Fiegelmüller Jr. It was operational until 1886 when it had to shut down its furnaces due to the fierce competition.
At the beginning of the 1860s, the glassworks in Loka was the third greatest glassworks in Styria. Similar to its contemporary factories, it produced, besides mineral water bottles, glass for storing medicine and provisions, drinkware, illuminants, tableware, window glass, and chandeliers, some of which still decorate the churches in Kozjansko Region. The more valuable products were decorated with cutting, grinding, and engraving. Items for everyday use were generally produced according to the principle of form follows function; despite being aesthetically simple and evenly shaped, they are still admired today.
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