Mining and technical heritage

Anthony’s Shaft

The mercury mine of Idrija is one of the biggest mercury mines in the world. Its oldest part is the Anthony Shaft, bored as early as in 1500, only ten years after the discovery of autochthonous mercury. The mine entrance is also the oldest preserved original mine entrance in the world.
The Anthony Shaft is now open for tourists. Properly equipped and with a guide, the tourists begin a multimedia tour of underground secrets of the mine. They see droplets of mercury, the unique chapel of the Holy Trinity and get the feeling of what the miner’s everyday looked like.
At the mine entrance there is a renovated building called Šešltev (from German Gesellstube), which served as a registry office. Miners gathered there every morning, checked their equipment, poured oil in their lamps, took registration numbers and received notification on the arrangement and allocation of their tasks.

Water barriers (klavže)

Throughout centuries, vast amounts of wood were needed for mining purposes – for supporting mineshafts, production of coal and as fuel for furnaces and steam boilers. Due to the enlargement of the town and the mine through the centuries, more and more wood was used for providing the miners with equipment, buildings, tool production and heating of homes.

Due to the lack of modern roads and means of transport in those days, chopped wood was brought to Idrija in a brilliant way – by drifting it, using natural waterways. In order to use the Idrijca River and its tributaries that way, a complex system of structures and floodgates was needed along the river. These structures, functioning as dams, are called klavže.

Visitors can visit well-preserved klavže on the Belca and Idrijca River. A special experience is also a magnificent klavže on the Kanomljica River (65ft high), which powers the hydroelectric power plant on the Klavžarnica River.

Water bariers (Klavže)

Frančiška Shaft

The Franščiška Shaft, named after Francis II, a Holy Roman Emperor, became operational in 1792, when the quicksilver production in Idrija was at its peak. The building beside the shaft is one of the oldest and most distinctive preserved mine facilities in Idrija. A part of the building houses the technical department of the Idrija Municipal Museum, where 26 pieces of mining machinery from the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century are exhibited.

Behind the waterwheel complex, where ore used to be loaded, four railway engines and five freight cars for the transport of ore are exhibited.

Franciska's shaft

Idrija Mine House (Rudarska hiša)

The Idrija mine house (a typical, reconstructed residential house of former days) was built in the second half of the 18th century. The house leans against the hillside and glances over the landscape. The whole construction, except for its stone foundation and brick basement, kitchen and doorway, is made of wood. The disposition of rooms adheres to the established ground plan with a vestibule, an open-fire kitchen in its vaulted prolongation, a main room (hiša) and a bedroom (kamra). The ground floor pattern is replicated also on the first floor. The house is complemented with typical additional elements, such as steep stone stairs and high and steep roofing, covered with fir cover (šinklni). Its height, white façade and a large number of small windows give the impression of a magnificent, almost monumental building, which was most of the time fully occupied.

Idrija Municipal Museum

The Idrija Municipal Museum is one of the best technical museums in Europe. In 1997 it received a prestigious award of the Luigi Micheletti foundation, which awards the best museum collections of technology and natural science. The museum is located in the Gewerkenegg Castle, where tourists can see a permanent exhibition of the 500-year history of mercury mine and the city alone, a rich collection of geological rocks, fossils, ores and minerals (over 2600 samples) and a collection of Idrija lace.

Waterwheel complex (Kamšt)

The most important part of the waterwheel complex is a gigantic waterwheel, measuring astounding 42ft in diameter. It is placed in a monumental brick building in Mejca, a little bit out of the town centre. The wheel was used for pumping water out of deep mineshafts. At the rate of 4 rpm it pumped up to 300l of water from the depth of 980ft. The waterwheel was built in 1790 and was operational until 1948. Kamšt is the largest preserved original waterwheel in Europe.


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