According to legend, the temple of the ancient Slavic goddess Živa once stood where the present Church of the Assumption is located on the tiny island of Lake Bled, Slovenia. Slovenia is a small country in central Europe just south of Austria. The legendary temple was destroyed during battles between the followers of the pagan religion and Christians.
On the island, archaeologists have discovered traces of settlements dating back to the 11th-8th centuries B.C. where 124 graves with skeletons were found. The first masonry church on the island, a three-nave Romanesque basilica, was dedicated in 1142. However, in 1465, the church was rebuilt in the Gothic style, including a freestanding bell tower and the main altar.
In 1509, it was damaged by an earthquake and was rebuilt again. Unfortunately, only the paintings in the nave and a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary were preserved from the destroyed church.
The current church dates back to the 1747 century, when it was renovated after yet another earthquake. The main altar was built with rich, gold-plated carvings and the central altarpiece highlights a seated Virgin Mary. The bell tower was renovated several times due to damage by the earthquakes as well as being struck by lightning in 1688. The present tower is 16 stories high and has three bells.
Of special interest is the ‘wishing bell’ located high above the church nave. According to its legend, a young widow who lived on the island had a bell cast for the chapel in memory of her husband. During the transport of the bell, a terrible storm struck the boat, and the bell and crew sank. The legend says that to this day the bell rings in the depths of the lake. After the widow died, the pope consecrated a new bell and sent it to the Bled Island. Visitors of the church are encouraged to ring the bell and make a wish. But there’s one rule: you can make only one wish.
The church can be reached by boat and is a working church as well as a popular visitor attraction and wedding venue. For more information, visit https://zupnija-bled.si/.