In Malečnik near Maribor there is a special place that reveals secrets from the past. To the right of the church of St. Peter in Malečnik is a purpose-built entrance with the inscription, “God takes pity on the faithful Christian souls in purgatory 1857” At the top of the stairs is an ancient tombstone with images of death and symbols of Mary. Descent of the nineteen steps leads to the catacombs (tombs or crypts) that are unique in Slovenia and were completely renovated in October 2020.

The catacombs were constructed by Dr Janez Sittich in 1730 who was parish priest in Malečnik from 1724 until 1759. They are 12 metres long and 4 metres wide. At the front there is a stone altar dedicated to the Holy Cross with built-in reliquaries, the metal parts of which are decorated with marbling.

It is an inspiring thought that Christians from that time were buried in specially designated areas near or even under the house of God. The floor area of the catacombs is almost identical to that of the church above. Around all four walls there are as many as 64 burial niches of which 14 are sealed into the walls. Priests, local dignitaries and those who had special roles within the parish are buried here. Just behind the altar is a place of honour with ten burial niches. That these were the burial places for priests is shown not only by the Latin inscriptions on them but also by colourful paintings of skulls with red and black birrettas (headgear worn by priests).

In these niches rest the mortal remains of the following priests:

Janez Ferdinand Knecht Knechtelshofen (+ 6.7.1708), from a noble Maribor family.

Janez Jurij Barthalotti (+ 6.12. 1724)

Urban Vincencij Böchaimb (+ 22.7.1730) from Jarenina

Dr Janez Krstnik Sittich (+ 4.1. 1759)

Jožef Dornik (+ 14.7.1868)

The inscription on Barthalotti’s tomb ends with the following words: ‘Quod bene fecit, habet’ which means ‘All the good that he has done, he has.’

At the end of Sittich’s tomb inscription we read: ‘reqVIesCat teMpLI reaeDIflCator,’ which translates as ‘Let the builder of this church rest.’ The highlighted capital letters from this inscription are also Roman numerals (chronogram) which give the year 1759, the year of his death (6 + 100 + 1000 + 51 + 501 + 1 + 100 = 1759).

As far as is know the following are also buried in these catacombs:

Georg Schmuz (+ 1724)

Filipp Knecht (+ 1743)

Margaretha Bratschgo (Bračko) (+1730)

Lucia Purgan

Helena Piebek

Margaretha Siebenbürger (+ 3.3.1740)

Originally the entrance to the catacombs was located inside the church, to the right of the altar dedicated to St John of Nepomuk where the first step can still be seen on the floor. Emperor Joseph II ordered that all crypts with an entrance inside the church to be sealed off. Consequently in 1857, while Canon Mark Glaser was the parish priest in Malečnik, the thick church wall was broken through, at great cost and effort, and on the outside wall of the church an extension and new entrance was constructed using stone from the parish of St Barbara in Slovenske gorice (Korena), known as ‘barbarški’ stone. That it is stone from the parish of St Barbara is confirmed by the fact that there was already a quarry there at that time. From this quarry Hum stone (Lithuanian limestone) was extracted and due to its durability was also used to build roads. It is called ‘Hum stone’ because it comes from the hamlet of Hum in the region of Zimica.

Special features on the right-hand side of the catacombs of Malečnik are the relatively large ossuary and a mysterious tunnel. As yet it has not been discovered where the tunnel leads. It has been suggested that it passes under the river Drava to the other side of the city of Maribor or even leads to the pilgrim church of Our Lady on Gorca in Malečnik.

The Catacombs are open to all visitors. Write to our e-mail for further informations: