Jakob Aljaž

*July 6, 1845, Zavrh pod Šmarno Goro, † May 4, 1927, Dovje na Gorenjskem.

Jakob Aljaž was born to Anton Aljaž, a small property owner from the Zavrh pod Šmarno goro village, and his wife Elizabeta, or Špela, Jarc as the sixth of ten children. After finishing the People’s School in Smlednik, he continued his education at the normal school in Ljubljana and then at the German grammar school, also in Ljubljana. In 1866, he went to study in Vienna, where he focused on old languages (Greek, Latin and Old Church Slavonic). He wanted to become a professor, but his ambitions were thwarted by his father’s death, as the family could no longer financially support his studies. Respecting his mother’s wishes, he entered the religious service and was ordained as a priest on 31 July 1871. He first served in Tržič until 1880, then became a parish priest in Dobrava pri Kropi, followed by his last position in Dovje, where he stayed until his death in 1927.

Aljaž was very important for the development of Slovenian mountaineering. He became interested in mountains at a very young age, exploring the tops of Blegoš, Kum and Storžič as a student and conquering Begunjščica as a chaplain in Tržič. In 1880, he became the parish priest in Srednja Dobrava pri Kropi, were he was surrounded by the peaks of the Julian Alps. Franc Skumavec – Šmerc led him to the top of Triglav, Slovenia’s highest peak, where they stayed the night at the Dežman lodge. In 1889, Aljaž became the parish priest in Dovje, where he became an active mountaineer, having learned about the nationalistic character of the German-Austrian Alpine Society (Carniola Section).
jakob aljaž, portret, zavrh pri medvodah


Jakob Aljaž long contemplated the idea of building a small tower on top of Triglav to serve as a shelter for mountaineers. In the winter of 1894/1895, he designed the tower in the parish room, drawing it on the floor with chalk. As a parish priest in Dovje and as a mountaineer, he bought the top of Triglav for one gulden, ensuring the legality of building a modest shelter on top of Triglav, which was called the Aljaž Tower. Aljaž trusted the construction of the tower to Anton Belc from Šentvid pri Ljubljani. Anton Belc made the tower in six parts, which were brought to the Mojstrana village below Triglav by train, then carried to the top of the mountain in a week by 6 mountaineers. The tower was built in five hours on 7 August 1895. All costs of the construction – 300 guldens – were covered by Jakob Aljaž. The purchase of the land and the construction of the tower put Aljaž in legal conflict with German organisations, who accused him of destroying an underground class 1 trig point when building the tower. The aim of these charges was to force the demolition of the tower, but Aljaž denied all accusations. The hearing procedure took six months and involved interrogations of farmers, mountaineers, hunters and mountain guides. Aljaž claimed that a wooden pyramid was built on top of Triglav by a civil engineer but was soon destroyed by the weather. His story was corroborated by Janez Klinar - Požganc and Gergor Legat and confirmed by the court. The final verdict was that a box with a parchment should be buried under the tower to serve as an actual trig point. This would put the tower under the protection of the Emperor. Later, Jakob Aljaž gifted the tower to the Slovenian Mountaineering Society.

Jakob Aljaž was also the instigator and builder of other Alpine constructions: The Aljaž lodge in the Vrata valley, the chapel and lodge on Kredarica, the protected hiking trail from Mali Triglav to Veliki Triglav and the Tominšek trail from the Vrata valley to Kredarica. The Stanič sanctuary just beneath the peak of Triglav is also one of his works. In September, after the tower had been opened, Jakob Aljaž again climbed Triglav, this time searching for a suitable area to build a lodge. The story goes that during the descent, Jakob Aljaž sat down to rest on Mali Triglav and saw two chamois goats on Kredarica – and this is how he decided to build the lodge on Kredarica. On 9 September 1895, he signed a purchase agreement with the municipalities of Dovje and Mojstrana, paying 5 guldens for several acres of land. The lodge opened its doors with a ceremony on 10 August 1896. The chapel by the lodge was dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes. The construction of the lodge and the chapel led to new lawsuits by the Germans, who again lost the proceedings.

The lodge in the Vrata valley was built in the same year as the lodge on Kredarica. Both were financed by the Slovenian Mountaineering Society. The lodge in the valley was intended as a sanctuary for those who wanted to reach the top of Triglav via Prag. His well-rounded interests included musical composition. His best-known songs include Oj, Triglav, moj dom (Oh, Triglav, My Home), which he set to music in 1896 and published in his book of songs Slovenska pesmarica II in 1900. The lyrics of the song were written in 1894 by Matija Zemljič, a priest from Gornja Radgona, and published in the same year in the theological publication Lipica in Maribor, where he served at the time. Another song by Jakob Aljaž is the Silent Night Christmas carol, translated from German to Slovenian. He also set to music some poems by Slovenian poet Simon Gregorčič.
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