Škofja Loka was first mentioned as a market town in the year 1248, and in 1274 it was already categorised as a town which began to develop into an important trade and economic centre on the intersection of the merchant route between Styria and Italy.
Škofja Loka was a private town under the subordination of the Bishops of Freising. Its residents were personally free. They payed tax to the landlord, while they enjoyed free use of the land under a hereditary lease with little obligation under city law.
In the Middle Ages the town folk of Škofja Loka feared three ruinous things: fire, the plague, and enemy attack. They were protected from enemy attack by the surrounding walls, while they prayed to protect themselves from the plague, and began to build stone houses to protect from fire.
The Zgornji (Upper) and Spodnji (Lower) Squares
Zgornji trg, also known as Mestni trg (Town Square) or Plac, began to develop in the 13th century beneath the castle. Spodnji trg was erected in the 14th century as a result of overpopulation.
The centre of Mestni trg – Plac – was the heart of the social and market area intended for the town’s main activities – trading. Only townsfolk had trading rights, while farmers were allowed to sell only their own products. It was particularly lively on Saturdays and on market days, when small dealers arrived with carts full of goods. The main goods traded were iron, Loka linen and wooden sieves. The butchery trade was particularly well developed, as was milling, catering, the furriers and blacksmiths trades.
Most of the trading that took place was through exchange. Iron and iron products, particularly nails, were transported from Škofja Loka and Železniki, on the return journey mainly oil and, most probably, salt were transported to Škofja Loka.
The landlord was also involved in trading. Income from the sale of products was primarily aimed at some of the levies which far exceeded the needs of the day-to-day maintenance of the manor. He mainly sold cereals and cheese, which were stored in the granary. He sold grain in the winter and towards spring, when prices were most favourable for the dominion. When the granary was opened, all other trading of this kind was stopped in the town so that the landlord could dictate the prices. Cereal prices generally fluctuated greatly and were higher than in the normal market.
Wealthy townsfolk lived in Mestni trg. Their houses were built of stone prior to those in Spodnji trg, and they were taller and more intricately decorated. The ground floors of the houses were used as sales areas and workshops, while the living space was on the first floor and their helpers and apprentices occupied the upper floor. The houses in Spodnji trg were mainly owned by poorer residents; the majority of houses being single-storey.
In addition to shops, trade began to develop over time in the town, which was enabled thanks to the water from both distributaries of the Sora river – there were various mills, sawmills, tanneries, slaughterhouses, and blacksmiths’ workshops.
Transport in Loka
Transport to and via Škofja Loka predominantly took place in the form of freight. Horses transported crates, bags and barrels that weighed up to 175 kilogrammes. The first building, which was directly behind the surrounding walls, was, of course, a guest house. On arriving at the town weary travellers/merchants could hardly wait to have a rest, get something to eat and drink, give their animals water, and share any fresh news.