Sveti Martin na Poljanah

The most powerful among all the churches in Poljane was the Baroque church of St. Martin, construction of which began in 1710 according to the plans of the local architect Matija Maček from Žabja vas near Poljane. It represented a new spatial architectural type of a church with a nave in the form of an elongated dodecagon, embedded in a hexagonal outer outline. It measured 44 m in length, 24 m in width, and 28 m in height. In the years 1761–63, a 50 m high bell tower was added. The church served its purpose until World War II when the Germans expelled the priest Matej Tavčar, and the rectory and church were turned into a German gendarmerie station. In 1944, partisans first set fire to the rectory, then dynamited the church. The bell tower, a large part of the presbytery with the main altar, the vault, and the roof above the church nave were destroyed. Most of the interior furnishings were also ruined.

Since 2008, protective archaeological excavations have been taking place in Poljane above Škofja Loka. In the process, architectural remains of churches from the Romanesque to the Baroque phases were discovered. The local community aims to revive the area of the former church as a posthumous architecture of still-living memories of a sacred building.

Buildings, as fundamental elements of society, space, and culture, mark our past, which cannot be simply erased. Human beings are constantly evolving, and their process of change is more dynamic than the process architecture can absorb. This is especially true for historical buildings, which are important bearers of our social and cultural identity.

The architecture of the new monument reflects a multifaceted understanding of space and its history. The presentation of archaeology creates a new program for the once-sacred structure, showcasing the cultural heritage of local significance and contributing to social and cultural identity. In the design process, we are developing a concrete program with museum content that generates emotional experiences on broader levels of consciousness.

The proposed name for the new space, the Chamber of Memories, aims to evoke emotions in people through architecture, light, sound, volume, and materials. The goal is to replace the loss of identity witnessed by the Church of St. Martin. The space is envisioned as a chapel of memories, where architecture stimulates human emotions such as longing, sadness, curiosity, joy, and others, in a balance between real and fictitious contemplative experiences.

We intend to preserve the area of archaeological remains and reliefs found, as well as the foundations of the church, covering them with a new monolithic structure that will give sacred space a standing height. The space would be purified using a narrow range of materials, such as stone, concrete, and water, with special emphasis on light. Light should penetrate through the gaps and openings, accentuating the connection between the existing structure of the church enclosure and the new structure of the ceiling. External representation is limited to a sculptural level and personal interpretation by individuals.

We propose that the new space becomes the “Chamber of Memories”, which, through architecture and emotions, revives the memory of a once significant church.