Lorenzo Presbitero, a priest had lived in this place, growing different kinds of plants.

Antro also appeared in 1265 in “Saggio di un glossario geografico friulano dal VI al XII secolo” by A. di Prampero, published in Venice in 1882, and it’s called like this because of its similarity to cavern - “spelonca”. So Jacopo Valvasone of Maniago in 1565 described the small village that has “… in the nearby mountain a rather spacious grotto…”

In friulano it is called Z. Zuan di Landri and in Slovenian Svet Ivan u Čelè.

To get there from Udine, take the S.S. 54, which goes to Cividale del Friuli, and continue until you get to San Pietro (Špietar). In the area of Tiglio (Lipa), turn left, pass Tarcetta (Tarčet) and you reach Antro, which is in the municipal district of Pulfero.

From the small parking square of the church of San Silvestro, go along a small road on foot, part of it is a dirt road and part of it is covered in slabs of stone (photo 1). The scenic walk unwinds across bushes and precipices, in an environment ideal for a future botanical garden. This path leads us to the foot of the most important historical and naturalistic monument of the valleys of the Natisone, famous for it’s rare beauty in which art and nature melt into a striking interlacement.

The grotto 348mt above sea level opens inside a rocky wall, partly constructed externally, which now can be reached by walking along an external steep flight of stairs, that has 86 stone steps next to the precipice (photo 2). In ancient times you could only go up using ropes and wooden ladders, and when necessary were removed and became inaccessible.

At the top of the external flight of steps, the landing of the grotto gives you an ample view of the precipice and the low-lying river valley. Then one enters into something, similar to an entrance-hall, in which two distinct entrances lead to the inner cavity. The first one is similar to a tunnel made in blocks of stone, and runs under the church floor, and one enters by climbing up a few steps. The second one is the natural opening of the grotto, on the left it has a scenic terrace, in a hollow in which there is an ancient oven to cook (photo 3). The short staircase, narrowed on the right by a wall on which there is a holy-water stoup, leads you to the main grotto (photo 4). Higher up from a natural crevice of the vault, a small bell hangs (photo 5). At the end of the staircase, on the wall on the left hand side of the grotto, perhaps by a local unknown artist in ancient times, the head of Christ similar to the image of the Holy Shroud was painted (photo 6). The initial part of this grotto has wall works with the natural ravines that form a terrace, a small loggia most probably of Lombard origin, a sacristy and the presbytery of the chapel. The architectural lines of this unique sanctuary with walls and vault formed by the rock harmonize the natural structure


Foto N. 24 - Percorso speleologico interno. - Notranjost jamskega rova. - Weg der Höhlenforscher. - Internal spelaeological route.

of the big entrance. It is said that in ancient times the grotto was a religious centre of pagans of the waters; in absence of archaeological data the consecration of the chapel to San Giovanni Battista and to San Giovanni Evangelista, during the Early Christian period was followed by the divine pagans linked to water.

In 1477 a complete restoration of the chapel by maestro Andrea di Lack was established, master constructor from OEkofja Loka. They rebuilt it using the standards of the late gothic influenced by Praguians indirectly from Slovenia, respecting the original one, the presbytery from the ceiling in gores with an octagonal shape. Most probably the terrace in front was enlarged and the cryptoporticus was built to favour the down flow of flood waters (photo 7). Two subsequent restorations led to the present conditions of the wall works. The suggestive church is presented like a bold construction in which the master showed all his cleverness. The solution of the ceiling and the opening of the two windows on the southern wall appear interesting. On the landing of the chapel, at the top on the right hand side of the wall, a beautiful tombstone stands out, with the names of the master and his helper Giacomo in small gothic letters (photo 8). The difficulty of this undertaking is that it required the aid of a capable and trustworthy person to share in the construction and the carving of the stones and anthropomorphic shelves, this too of late Gothic influence, with changes that interpret local style.

At the temple (photo 9) one enters through a wide simple ogival arch, in grey limestone blocks, shaped with octagonal faces interrupted by capital-corbels. On the right there is a very ancient historical document: it is about deacon Felice’s tombstone, carved by himself during his hermitage.