The Figure and Legacy of Preseren in The Slovenian Culture

Every country has its cultural legacy. Sometimes, it’s made by a group of people who are unknown, or the piece was transmitted from generation to generation. In this situation, it is called folk legacy. On the other hand, there are situations when a piece of a person becomes a cultural heritage for an entire nation. In such a situation, the person becomes a national figure, who will be described in the history book studied in schools and universities. The person becomes almost a national hero. Usually, it is connected to some hard times for a whole nation, such as gaining national identity or independence. 

France Prešeren became such the figure for Slovenia as well as for the Slovenian people. He created a big cultural heritage of written pieces. He brought the Slovenian language to the world. He was living in quite hard times for the country, and his poems became the symbols of the fight. His words are sung in the national anthem. 

He was the first cultural activist of such a high level that his name is used to name one of the national holidays. Therefore, every Slovene going for a day off is keeping in mind the history and the person. Let’s find out how and why it happened!

First of all, France spread the Slovenian culture around the world. The evidence of this can be the fact that his poems were translated into English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Hungarian, Slovak, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, Belorussian, Bengali, as well as to all the languages of former Yugoslavia. Moreover, he introduced new genres to Slovenian literature. For instance, he wrote the first Slovene ballad and the first Slovene epic. 

Despite the fact that he wrote only in the Slovene language, there are some of his poems in German. Because he was born in Carniola, which was part of the Habsburg empire at that time. After World War II dragged his homeland into the war, he wrote Hostile Fortune that was adopted by the Slovenians as a national myth. France had his beloved muse, Julija Primic. On the other hand, he experienced a lot of poverty and misery, he became the victim to severe drinking problems and tried to conduct a suicide two times, or even more. 

Thus, the topics he wrote about were the love towards his homeland, the suffering humanity, as well as his unfulfilled love. In general, France Prešeren became the first and the most significant Slovenian literature canon.

Prešeren’s Legacy

France was considered as the chief representative of the Romantic school in Slovenia. Undoubtedly, his pieces were full of emotions, sentiments, and deep meanings. Furthermore, he was one of the greatest European Romanticists, as he was recognized not only regionally, but as one of the developers of European literature standards. 

Nevertheless, he became famous only after his death on 8 February 1849 at the age of 48. Only in 1866, when Josip Jurčič and Josip Stritar published a new edition of his collection of poems, they spread fame about France. In that edition, Stritar published an essay in the preface, where he described the value of Prešeren’s books in the wider context of the European literature. Later, the essay was considered as one of the most influential essays in Slovene history.

It is incredible how fast he became popular after that. In 1905, he got a monument in the central square of Ljubljana. By the 1920s, all his works were cataloged, and scholars started to conduct scientific analyses on this literature. In 1945, the anniversary of his death became the cultural holiday. In 1989, his Zdravljica became the national anthem of Slovenia instead of the old one, Naprej, zastava slave. His portrait was on the 1000 tolar banknote. Now, his image is on the Slovene two-euro coin. Last but not least, the Prešeren Award is the highest Slovene award for extraordinary artistic achievements.

Prešeren Monument in Ljubljana

The Prešeren Statue is a bronze monument of the poet. It is located on the eastern side of Prešeren Square, in front of the Central Pharmacy Building in Ljubljana. France is facing the window of her muse there. Julija Primic, the muse, is also shown above the poet. She is sitting on a rock and holding a laurel branch in her hand. In its turn, France is holding his most famous collection called “Poems”. The sculpture of Prešeren himself is 3.5 meters, whereas the entire monument is 9.6 meters high. 

The entire monument is created by Ivan Zajec, while the pedestal is designed by Max Fabiani. The pedestal is made from Tyrolian granite. There are depicted two scenes from France’s poems on it. The right scene is from The Baptism on the Savica. The left one is from the poem Fisherman.

Prešeren Day

It is a public holiday celebrated on 8 February. The cultural holiday was established in 1945 in order to raise the cultural consciousness about the national identity of a Slovenian person after World War II, however, it was declared and proclaimed as a work-free day in 1991. This holiday is one of the most widely celebrated, furthermore, all the municipal museums and galleries around the country are free to enter. The holiday is celebrated in international communities in all other countries as well.

Grand Prešeren Award is the highest prize for the biggest contribution to the Slovenian artists’ life. It is awarded every year on the Prešeren Day by the Prešeren Fund. The first award was originally given in 1947, but it became an annual event since 1956. Now, the Prešeren Award and the Prešeren Fund Award are regulated by the Prešeren Fund Management Board. It consists of 15 members who are highly qualified artists or cultural workers. They are elected for a four-year term by the National Assembly of Slovenia. Now the fund is under the patronage of the Slovenian Ministry of Culture. On the other hand, the management board proclaimed that they are not under any political pressure. 

Each year the committee gets around 100 proposals from artists. The artists had to send their works with all the required references. Usually, altogether 8 people are nominated for the great award, and 24 others are given the little award. 

The list of Prešeren laureates is wide. Usually, most prizes are gotten by artists from the performing arts. On the other hand, in the music sphere, priority is given to composers and conductors. However, the only instrumentalist who got the award was the flutist Irena Grafenauer.

Prešeren’s Writing

Thus, let’s read the national hymn of the Republic of Slovenia written by France Prešeren in order, not only to read about his but to feel the power of his word:

The official translation from 1954: 

God’s blessing on all nations

Who long and work for that bright day

When o’er earth’s habitations

No war, no strife shall hold its sway

Who long to see

That all men free

No more shall foes, but neighbours be!

The more literal translation:

May all peoples thrive

That yearn (desiderium) to see the day

When wheresoever the Sun walks,

strife shall be banished from the world.

When every kinsman

shall be free

And not a devil but a neighbor shall the adjoining-land’s dweller be!

Any country needs national heroes. They are actors, writers, politicians, scientists, and so on. Moreover, this factor is a must for the newly born countries. France Prešeren became such one. He really did a lot for the promotion of the Slovenian culture.

As it was usual for the writers of those times, he did not come to the popularity. Moreover, he did not need it. It is the nowadays feature that any artist pursues fame, money, and popularity. However, France Prešeren, as a lot of his colleagues by a pen, wanted to spread ideas. This was vital in order to get worldwide recognition for their own culture.

Today is a beautiful time, because, for instance, the number of wars came to its low point, small countries are becoming more popular and more successful, people become open-minded and democratic. Today, everything mentioned above is not a deficit. On the other hand, they were at the times of France and the dependent Slovenian territories. Hence, the need was to get a national identity.

That’s why he was living in misery, alone, with the muse only in his dreams, but he was fighting. The writing was not his destination point, the writing was just the measure to reach another one. It was let the world recognize the Slovenian culture. Furthermore, France Prešeren did it.

Slovenians and Prešeren

Consequently, the Slovenian people are thankful for this. They create monuments, prizes, funds, national holidays on the name of the poet. Because, maybe, without him, Slovenia could not exist. It’s not an artistic hyperbolizing for the sake of beautiful expression. It is the critical thought with taking into consideration the references mentioned about in this article. France Prešeren did a lot for Slovenia. Therefore, it should not surprise the fact why many things are named on his honor!

Thank you for reading our article. We do our best to provide you with first-hand information about Slovenia and its wonders. We know we are not infallible though. In case you encounter any mistakes in our articles or you have any suggestions, please contact us. Let us know how we could improve. It will help us to keep our information updated and deliver to readers the most valuable possible content.  We will gladly take your suggestions!


  1. Pingback: How Many Rivers Are There in Slovenia? – Slovenia Tour

  2. Pingback: Why Christmas Lights Switch-On day is so Important for Ljubljana? | Slovenia Tour

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *