At the start of World War I in 1914, Europe turned into an enormous battlefield, divided into several fronts. On 23 May 1915, when Italy declared war on the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, one of the most complex battlefields of the Great War emerged, i.e. the Battles of the Isonzo.
Due to the railway line and railway station, Štanjel became an important military base located in the hinterlands of the Karst section of the Battles of the Isonzo. The military forces operated a railway machinery centre, together with barracks and a warehouse.
Štanjel Castle was used as a military hospital. Owing to an increasing number of wounded, a field hospital was set up at the edge of the village, operating in several barracks. The field hospital was intended for lightly wounded and the castle hospital for heavily wounded soldiers.
Owing to the importance of this area during the war, Štanjel was the target of Italian air raids in the 1915–1916 period. When the Italian armed forces advanced to the Karst in 1917, Štanjel fell within the artillery range.
Most villagers fled their homes only to find their homesteads demolished or ravaged on their return in 1918. The vineyards, fields and orchards shared the same fate.
The number of casualties was very high and Austro-Hungarian military cemeteries mushroomed on the outskirts of many villages. Soldiers of all nationalities and religious beliefs of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy were buried there, including Russian prisoners of war and Italian soldiers who died in Austro-Hungarian hospitals. The largest Austro-Hungarian military cemetery in the area of the Battles of the Isonzo can be found in the village of Gorjansko. More than 10,000 soldiers of different nationalities found their last rest there. The cemetery preserved its authentic design, adjusted to the typical characteristics of the karst landscape.
Due to the vicinity of the two hospitals, a cemetery was also built in Štanjel. The design was made by the architect Joseph Ullrich, First Lieutenant of the Imperial Army. During the war an enormous tombstone was erected in the cemetery in his memory. The architect Maks Fabiani designed the fence and the entrance to the cemetery. He placed two stone columns on the axis of the temple and decorated them with the so-called Siegfried swords. The iron portal has not been preserved.
Today, the Paths of Peace winding past the remains of the Battles of the Isonzo serve as reminders of the horrors and misfortunes of the Great War. With their air of serenity, the Paths of Peace end in the village of Brestovica pri Komnu, which was completely demolished during World War I. The Grof Cave, which the Austro-Hungarian army turned into a military shelter during the war, lies in its vicinity. The surroundings of the cave hide a great many fortifications, trenches and caverns. You can visit them during the Walk to Discover Traces of the Battles of Isonzo that takes place every year.