Just 200 metres from Residence Soča stand the lovely St. Joseph Church, whose classical exterior does not let on that its walls and ceiling are adorned by unique murals by Slovenian famous painter, sculptor and illustrator Tone Kralj (whose surname literally means king).
Born in 1900, Tone Kralj is considered one of the most important Slovenian modernists of the 20th century. After World War I, when the Littoral was annexed to Italy, he fought fascism and Nazism in a unique and extremely brave way. In the period between the two wars he painted more than 50 churches from Višarje to Trieste, including in his murals many hidden Slovenian national symbols and antifascist messages. He often imbedded the faces of Hitler, Mussolini and other prominent fascist figures into the images of devils, snakes and dragons. His symbolic paintings outlined the ethnic borders of the Slovenian people who had remained on Italian territory after the first war. His works are a unique artistic phenomenon in European history and beyond.
One of his most famous murals is in St. Joseph’s Church in Soča. Adorning the middle part of the ceiling is the image of Archangel Michael wrapped in the colours of the Slovenian flag as he is sleighing a three-headed dragon. Looking closely you will notice that one of the dragon’s heads has in fact the face of fascist dictator Mussolini. His head is surrounded by a glowing sun, a symbol of Japan, while the second head has the image of a German Nazi eagle and the third has the image of a Roman – later fascist – eagle. On the walls you will also notice images of Slovenian and Slavic saints, which is very uncommon for Slovenian churches and is therefore considered another very special feature in its own right.
This church is most certainly worth visiting, as it represents an extremely eloquent part of this area’s history. What is more, fascist images embedded in typically Christian murals are something that you won’t be able to find anywhere else in Europe. As our guests you will be able to visit the church even when it is officially closed. All you have to do is ask our friendly receptionists.
After visiting the church we suggest you take a stroll to the World War I Austro-Hungarian cemetery, where over 1,400 soldiers of different nationalities were buried after losing their lives at the hard-fought Soča Front. The cemetery is adorned by a big stone cross, and several remains of tombstones can be found that bear witness to the number of the deceased.