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Kropa's Old Town

The village of Kropa, the cradle of Slovene iron-forging, lies hugged in a narrow valley beneath the Jelovica Plateau. With its authentic and unique iron mill owners’ architecture, roaring waters, preserved technical heritage, and stories of the hard-off life of iron forgers, it is certainly well worth a visit.
The present-day layout of the village of Kropa was shaped by its age-old iron-forging tradition. The constant roar of the Kroparica Stream, which has its source above the village, creates a special atmosphere in Kropa. Beside it, on both banks, there are a series of iron mill owners’ houses from the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries hugging the slopes.

The architecture here speaks for itself: large houses with numerous small windows, portals made from green tuff, wrought decorative window bars, chandeliers and signboards. During the summer season, the windows are further adorned by flowering red carnations.

The market town of Kropa developed on the banks of the Kroparica Stream in the Lipnica Valley. The early days ofthe iron industry go back to the fourteenth century; by the fifteenth century, Kropa already had two foundries where iron ore transported from the Jelovica Plateau was smelted and spikes were fashioned from it in special forges (also called ‘vigenjc’). The spikes, which represented the main products made by the local blacksmiths, were disseminated throughout the world, mostly from Trieste and Venice. 

This centuries-old tradition started to decline during the nineteenth century, but has been preserved until today. In the twentieth century, Kropa became synonymous with wrought ironworks and developed as the centre for the trade in Slovenia. Master Joža Bertoncelj (1901–1976), a native of Kropa, took his place in history as the Slovene master of wrought ironworks. The tradition is maintained by some individuals and the UKO Kropa wrought-iron company.

The square in the central part of the village comprises a memorial to the victims of the National Liberation Struggle (NOB) and features several wrought-iron sculptures, made in UKO Kropa.

Above the houses, Kropa is guarded by two churches which stand on opposite slopes. On the left bank of the Kroparica Stream stands the parish Church of St Leonard andon the right bank the Church of the Mother of God, which is referred to by locals as ‘the Chapel’.

Kropa’s substantial technical heritage has been preserved. At the entrance to the old part of the village lies a beautifully restored pool of the lower foundry and, higher up, water channels with locks can be seen throughout the village. The most representative technical heritage building is the Vice Spike-Forge which serves as a museum today. The Slovene Furnace, which was in operation until the middle of the fifteenth century, is the oldest preserved iron ore foundry in Slovenia. It is located in the upper part of Kropa, by the road to Jamnik.

Owing to its preserved architectural and technical heritage, in 1953 Kropa became the first settlement in Slovenia to be protected as a cultural monument.
 


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