SHINE ON, LITTLE LIGHT, FOR THE TRŽIČ SHOEMAKERS

Description

Description

It is part of the tradition of Tržič to set up stalls on the first Sunday in September for the Shoemaker Festival. On Shoemaker Sunday, the streets of Tržič are filled with masses of visitors in town either to buy shoes or just to have a good time. Shoemaking may have changed considerably in recent times, but the memory of the shoemaking workshops of old, scattered around Tržič and the local area, is still alive. On the desk in every workshop you could find not only tools, samples and materials, but also a specially-designed lamp; as the days grew shorter, the shoemaker was able to continue working by its light. This is the story of the shoemakers' lamp.

Also known as a gallows lamp because of its shape, it was the loyal companion of every shoemaker, from St. Michael to St. Gregory. Round glass flasks were filled with water or alcohol, projecting light on to the shoemaker’s worktop as if through a lens.

The lamps could usually be seen immediately when entering the workshop, signifying the status and quality of each shoemaker. “The master or workshop owner would sit facing the largest flask. His assistants would face the two slightly smaller ones, while the apprentice was allowed to use the smallest flask as a special honour,” explained Jernej Kosmač, a shoemakers’ lamp expert and maker of replicas. According to him, the best light comes from flasks filled with “schnapps” or “the green spirit” – and the merrier shoemakers were experts at making the most of it. “As soon as the master left the workshop, they would treat themselves to a little taste. When the master noticed that the flasks were considerably emptier than before, he would know immediately what was going on,” said Kosmač.

A unique specimen of a Slovenian shoemakers' lamp is exhibited in the Tržič Museum. (Foto: Milan Malovrh)

The lamp brought together not just shoemakers but their families as well; more often than not, the workshop was situated on a low platform in the kitchen. There was never a dull moment with a shoemaker around – they worked hard, but they certainly knew how to have fun.

In memory of the old shoemaking workshops ...

As the days grew longer, the lamps were no longer needed, so they would be thrown (symbolically) into the water. To this day, the tradition has been preserved in Tržič: on the eve of the feast day of St. Gregory, the Tržiška Bistrica river is alive with “St. Gregory’s lamps” or “gregorčki”, neat little handmade houses and other vessels carrying a burning candle.

The children of Tržič are actively involved in making St. Gregory's lamps, which include some veritable masterpieces. (Foto: Alja Gladek)

The gallows lamp came close to being forgotten, but years ago it gained an enthusiastic admirer who has given it a new life. Jernej Kosmač and his son Matej have found worldwide success with their replicas of the shoemakers’ lamp. Their lamps are even exhibited in museums in Tokyo and Los Angeles.

Jernej Kosmač and one of his shoemakers' lamps.

Although the shoemakers’ lamp lost its original purpose with the advent of electricity and is now used merely for decoration, it still fulfils part of its mission – bringing people together.

Foto: TD Tržič, Tržiški muzej

TURISTIČNO DRUŠTVO TRŽIČ

Trg svobode 18, 4290 Tržič

E: info.tdtrzic@gmail.com

www.trzic.info

TRŽIŠKI MUZEJ

www.trziski-muzej.si

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  • Category
    Proudly Slovenain, Heritage
  • Location
    Gorenjska