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A drop of mercury

Photo: Tomo Jeseničnik

The mercury mine in Idrija, which now houses a museum, is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

Idrija Mine  is a former mercury mine in Idrija.At one time it was the second largest producer of mercury ore in the world. Today part of the mine has been converted into a museum and has become Idrija's biggest tourist attraction. The heritage of mercury in Idrija is today inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List. 

The discovery of mercury ore undoubtedly contributed to the development of the town of Idrija. According to legend, it was a local bucketmaker who discovered natural mercury in the Idrija area in 1490. Another story still told about the mine involves a goblin called Perkmandeljc, who was said to live there.

The digging of ore in Idrija is believed to have started in the last decade of the fifteenth century. The fact that the town's Holy Trinity Church was built in 1500 would appear to confirm this theory. To begin with the miners found little mercury in the ground, but in 1508 a rich vein was discovered in St Anthony's Shaft. The Idrija mine is one of the oldest in Europe. Its oldest section – St Anthony's Shaft – is today opened to visitors. 

Another notable sight in Idrija is Gewerkenegg Castle , above the old part of the town. Built between 1522 in 1533 for the needs of the mine, it was mainly used to store mercury and as living quarters for the mine's managers. Today it houses a museum.

Text by Tanja Glogovčan