Belec is the most beautiful amidst the most beautiful, and Our Lady of Snow is one of the most dazzling pearls of the baroque period. It all started in 1674 when Elizabeta Keglević, the widow of Juraj Erdödy, built a church in Late Gothic style in a place called Kostanjevec as her legacy. According to a document preserved in the belec Parish’s chronicle, which was the work of a tireless chronicler of that time, vjekoslav Noršić, this first structure was so poorly built that not even constant reparations could stop its decay. Thanks to Father Pavao Kunek, a new solid church was built at the site of the old one in the period between 1739 and 1741. Father Kunek’s ability to attract respectable and powerful donors to the project allowed this church to become the best-known monument of the baroque period in Croatia. In 1758 an anonymous writer left us a description of the church, which is kept at the Archives of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts.
Unusually irregular layout of the sanctuary and the side chapels suggests that the old walls of the Late Gothic predecessor were used for the new church’s foundations. Judging on it simple exterior, one could hardly say that this is a representative building. Only its atrium with baroque turrets in its corners hints that Our Lady of the Snow belongs to a line of important and famous shrines. but even if our outside impression is modest, the church’s interior opens up in its full splendor: Here we stand in awe before Atlases, Heracles, Samson dressed in lion skins, then there are four tall Corinthian columns, half-columns, pilasters, cartouches, while the middle is dominated by the statue of Our Lady of Snow surrounded by golden rays and angels. To the side are the statues of the Magi and St. Stephen the King. On the walls to the left and to the right of the altar there are angels bearing coats of arms of baltasar bedeković Komorski and his wife rozalija Somogy who sponsored the building of the altar in 1743. The most beautiful part of the altar is its top plane with the Holy Trinity, St. Helena and St. Rosalia as well as the inescapable angels.
The side altar dedicated to St. Joseph does not fall behind in its beauty. Tall volutes carry the statues of apostles St. Mathew and St. John. The right side altar is dedicated to St. barbara. The altar of St. rosary and the altar of St. Stephen the Martyr are somewhat more modest in style. Bishop Stjepan Putz consecrated the church on August 12, 1750.
The church’s pulpit stands out among many magnificent details of this shrine. Artur Schneider, a well-known art historian, said that it could stand “next to the most beautiful German pulpit in Wilhering (built around the same time), and might even surpass it.” Surrounding it are reliefs depicting a dance around the golden calf, Patriarch Jacob’s dream, and other motifs from the Old Testament. A colorful presbytery brings an image of the Tree of Knowledge whose theological message is only enhanced by the presence of the blessed virgin as well as Adam and Eve with the angels. The statues are made of wood and covered in gold. All of this, together with luxurious frescos on the ceiling, among which the ones in the chapel of St. Stephen the Martyr are particularly beautiful, makes a unique and perfectly harmonious composition. Painting task was given to the renowned Ivan Krstitelj ranger who tirelessly painted many Paulist churches such as the ones in Lepoglava, Purga, Svetice… His paintings keep the memory of the legend responsible for the title “Mary of Snow”: this is Mary’s apparition on a rome’s Esquiline Hill, which was covered in snow in the middle of summer.