Where the Julian Alps descend towards the Ljubljana basin, at the foot of the Škofja Loka hills, the settlement that is today known as Škofja Loka was established more than a thousand years ago. Archaeological finds, however, testify to the presence of settlements in the Škofja Loka area from at least the 20th century BC. During the great migration of peoples, Slavic tribes settled here, and the names of the settlements bore Slavic names before the land was granted to the Bishops of Freising.
Škofja Loka started to develop in the natural centre of the Loka feudal estate at the confluence of two rivers: the Poljane Sora and the Selca Sora. Several names for the town can be traced through historical documents, these include Lonca, Loka, Lak and Bischoflack. Towards the end of the 13th century, in 1274, the settlement was given its present name.
A natural terrace above the confluence of the two rivers, and the foothills of Lubnik, made possible the building of a magnificent medieval castle, under which the town began to grow. In 1318 a defensive wall with five town gates was built to provide protection for Škofja Loka. On top of the Krancelj hill, right above the castle, a fort with a tower was erected in the 12th century; however, an earthquake levelled it on 26 March 1511. The remains of the tower were later used when the building of the present Loka castle began.
The ground plan, the town layout, the panoramic view, and the rich heritage of the buildings, place Škofja Loka among the best-preserved towns in Slovenia. Škofja Loka also represents one of the most interesting and important examples of historical town planning and architectural development. With two deeds of donation, in 973 Kaiser Otto II granted the broader area of Škofja Loka, a part of the plain of Sorško polje, the Selca Valley and the Poljane Valley to the diocese of Freising, Bavaria. Thus, the town of Škofja Loka became the administrative, economic and cultural centre of a large feudal estate. After 1803, all links with Freising were broken, and after 830 years, the territory was annexed to the Austrian Empire.
The plain of Sorško polje, which stretches east of the town, provided good conditions for farming, while the hills of Škofjeloško hribovje were ideal for stockbreeding and forestry. The favourable natural position and the power that could be derived from the river gave rise to different trades: milling, wood sawing, leather crafts, linen manufacturing, and others. In the 15th century, the craftsmen and tradesmen of Škofja Loka formed guilds. Their documents, seals, signboards, banners and guild chests are exhibited in the Loka Museum.
THE ŠKOFJA LOKA STAMP
(SIGILLUM CIVITATIS LOK)
In Škofja Loka there is a legend about Prince Abraham, the first feudal lord from Bavaria, who was travelling up the Poljane Valley with his black servant. While walking through the bushes, they ran into a bear. Prince Abraham froze in his tracks, but the black servant calmly drew his bow and shot dead the bear. When they returned to Loka Castle, Prince Abraham ordered that, as an acknowledgment, the face of the man who saved his life should be depicted in the coat of arms. Since then, the Škofja Loka coat of arms has featured the black servant's face.