Hail to the spring – Gregorčki is an event that commemorates the old folk custom, when craftsmen symbolically said goodbye to winter by lowering wooden boats with burning candles and rejoiced that with the arrival of spring they will no longer need lights at work. According to the old Julian calendar, spring begins on St. Gregory’s Day, March 12th. St. Gregory’s Day is also a holiday for lovers, as according to folk tradition, “birds get married” on this day.
In Ljubljana, this ethnographic custom was revived 21 years ago by the Staroljubljanski Zavod za Kulturo. On the eve of St. Gregory, March 11th, children release on Gradaščica variously shaped boats with candles, which we call “St. Gregory’s boats” or “Gregorčki”.
The event, which takes place between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. at Gradaščica on Eipprova ulica in Ljubljana, is free of charge for visitors. It is attended by more than 2,000 children and parents each year.
When designing the event, we pay special attention to the development of children’s creativity and the protection of the environment. Our goal is to make Gregorček from biodegradable and ecological waste materials. That is why we have systematically organized art workshops, in which museum curators, art and technical education teachers, kindergarten teachers and art students educate children and also help them make boats. The workshops take place in many schools and kindergartens, in the Ethnographic Museum and in the Botanical Garden in Ljubljana. Every year more children take part in them, and the quality of the boats is also improving.
At the workshops and events, we also take care of the ecological awareness of the participants. Before the event, we thoroughly clean the riverbed and the banks of the Gradaščica. Before the Gradaščica flows into the Ljubljanica, we also catch the floating boats and place them in containers intended for this purpose. The event is supported by the public company Snaga.
The spring experience will be enriched by a cultural and musical program, which this year will be provided by the Kolenc Family Theater and students of the Ljubljana Vič – Rudnik Music School.
Before the event, there will be two children’s art workshops on how to make a Gregorček:
- on Saturday, March 11th at 4 p.m., at the Slovenian Ethnographic Museum
More information: www.etno-muzej.si, email@example.com
- on Friday, March 10th at 4 p.m., in the Botanical Garden of the University of Ljubljana
More information: www.botanicni-vrt.si, firstname.lastname@example.org
Make your own boat from biodegradable materials and join us!
The venue of the event is the banks of the Gradaščica and the Trnovo Bridge, which are part of the architectural legacy of Jože Plečnik. According to known data, the Trnovo bridge is the only bridge in the world where trees grow. The following is a part of the text by the architect Andrej Hrauski, one of the greatest connoisseurs of Plečnik’s legacy.
1928-32 Trnovo Bridge
Krakow was connected to Trnovo by a wooden bridge. Due to wear and tear, in 1875 it fell under the weight of a horse-drawn carriage, which fell into Gradaščica with a carriage and a passenger. The bridge was renovated and placed on stone beams. In 1928, at the invitation of the director of the city construction office, engineer Matko Prelovšek, Plečnik began to plan a wider arrangement of Gradaščica. As part of this plan, he also designed the new Trnovo Bridge. Like all others, he envisioned this bridge as a building that goes beyond the mere function of bridging the river. On the one hand, the bridge stands in front of the church, which, due to its urban significance, requires a larger open space in front of the entrance. On the other hand, Plečnik imagined a well-kept park next to Gradaščica. From these two starting points, a wide bridge was created, which creates a square in front of the church, and at the same time is treated as a park, as trees grow on it. In a letter to his nephew Matkovič, Plečnik wrote: “The Trnovo bridge is drawn – it is over 17 m wide – so it forms a square in front of the church, etc.” For the construction of the bridge, the City Council in July 1931 chose the builder Matko Curek, who built the bridge until the following year, but pedestrians could use it as early as October 1931. The official opening was on Midsummers’ Sunday, June 24, 1932, when the bridge was blessed by the parish priest of Trnovo, Fran Saleški Finžgar. On the portal of the bridge, Plečnik planned two plaques with the inscriptions Trnovo and Krakovo, which are connected by a bridge. A special feature of the bridge is also the trees, which must be replaced. Today, birches grow on it, while Plečnik originally envisioned cypresses. The bridge fence is completed by pyramids, and in the middle of the bridge on one side is a statue of St. John the Baptist, the patron saint of the Trnovo church, the work of the sculptor Nikolaj Pirnat, and on the other side a very steep pyramid. The bridge is an extension for the arrangement of Emonska Street, which, according to Plečnik’s idea, should connect Trnovo with Vegova Street into a single cultural promenade. Therefore, we must also understand the pyramids on the bridge as part of a broader system of connected pyramids. These include the pyramid above the corner entrance to Križanke and the Zois pyramid, and the composition is completed by the Pillar of Mary on Šentjakobski trg.
Even before the First World War, there were plans to take Gradaščica into a new riverbed and thus acquire new building land. In 1914, Jože Plečnik sent a letter to his brother Andrej from Prague in which he was appalled by these plans and wrote: “There is no more beautiful place than this image of paradise. If the water is left alone and everything is transformed into a beautiful park, in and around which villas stand in an organized way, I can’t think of anything better. ” Gradaščica was arranged in parallel with the construction of the Trnovo bridge. Plečnik replaced the former wooden footbridge with a concrete Rooster Bridge and arranged the ramps that descend to the stairs where they once washed clothes. Some sources report that the space also served to wash the horses that the bog farmers wanted to clean before entering the city with them. Chestnuts had grown on the banks before, and on Eipprova Plečnik added birches. Today’s image of this Plečnik arrangement is considerably changed, but also neglected. Before the Second World War, Gradaščica was still a real river, but after the torrential reorganization it functions more like a modest stream.
(The full text entitled “Ljubljanica as one of the main urban motifs of the city – How Plečnik brought the river closer to the city” was published in the magazine Ljubljana between nostalgia and dreams, 2016.)