At an altitude of 1611 meters, the Vršič Pass is the highest Slovenian road crossing, connecting the Sava and Soča Valleys. Along the road to the mountain pass, stands a symbolic chapel, known as the Russian chapel on the Vršič Pass. This monument and symbol of peace was erected in the memory of the hundreds of Russian captives, who suffered and lost their lives in the area. You have, by now, probably started to wonder about the background story of this historic building. If you would like to know more about it, keep reading.
The Russian Chapel on the Vršič Pass is located not far from the Trenta Valley, a historical and botanical gem of the Slovenian Alps. Let me start by explaining a few details about the story behind the construction of this place to help you better understand its power and symbolism. Before the outbreak of World War I, the Austrian army decided to make a mountain road across the mountain Vršič so that they could deliver the supplies to the soldiers on the Soča Front during the war. But, because of the shortage of workforce, numerous Russian captives had to build the crossing. The work began in the autumn of 1915, and in the winter of 1916, nature showed its power and the smallness of men. A massive avalanche erupted, deluging and killing many prisoners and their guards. When burying the victims, the remaining people came up with the idea of building a memorial. That is how, in the year of 1917, the Russian Chapel was constructed with the voluntary work of the surviving Russian captives.
A staircase will lead you to the doors of the chapel and the tomb next to it, where most of the tragically deceased Russians are buried. A pyramid-shaped monument with the inscription in Russian, translated as "to the sons of Russia", is set above the tomb. The chapel includes a central building with two towers on each side. These towers were specifically designed and built in the style of domes, typical for the Russian Baroque architecture. The interior is modest and small, a lot of it is painted white. An altar, made out of tree rounds and decorated with small icons, is also located inside. Along with this, candlesticks, forged chandeliers, and photographs from the ceremony and the official opening of the chapel are decorating the inside walls.
The fact that Slovenia and Russia are not only economically, but also historically connected, is best emphasized by the traditional ceremony at the Russian Chapel on the Vršič Pass. The event is thrown each year to remember and honor the brave deceased Russian captives and to remind us of the horrific events, which took place there. On the 100th anniversary of the event, in 2016, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, attended and said a few words at the ceremony. Nevertheless, the chapel has survived for hundreds of years until today, serving as a symbol of humanity and peace, born on the ruins of war.
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