Revue Pamiatky a múzeá - Summary 3/2007
The monuments of Žilina and its surroundings
Next year commemorates the 800th anniversary of the first written document about Žilina, a town situated in northwest Slovakia. The chronicle of the Nitra district administrator of 1208 mentions a smaller settlement area entitled Terra de Selinan. The first reference about Žilina as a town dates from 1312, although the original was lost. Probably the most famous document, which in the Middle Ages solved national disputes over the city council membership between the German and Slovak ethnicities, was the Privilegium pro Slavis issued by the Hungarian King Louis I the Great in 1381.
The historical core of Žilina is the quadratic Mariánske Square with a network of streets, which began to develop in the 13th century. The market square with a customary built-up area came about after the German settlers arrived at the beginning of the 13th and 14th centuries. The square is framed with storied houses with saddle roofs and brick shields. Open arcades (the so-called laubne) can be found on the ground floor of the houses, which sometimes run together in two side streets, creating an unforgettable genius loci. The construction of a Jesuit monastery and church in the middle of the 18th century partially violated the original medieval urban landscape of the square, but on the other hand, it enriched its architecture with a new dominant feature. The baroque sculpture of the Virgin Mary (Immaculata), erected in the middle of the square in 1738, celebrates the successful end of re-catholicisation. Its base features a relief of St. Florian, who was there to protect the town from frequent and destructive fires. The fires in the 19th century, especially the one in 1886, caused architectural changes in the style of the period’s eclecticism. The first third of the 20th century witnessed a significant alteration to the square with functionalist buildings. More important changes followed in the 1990s.
The sacral buildings in the town’s historical core include the parish Roman Catholic church of the Holy Trinity, St. Paul’s Conversion church and St. Barbara’s church. A bit further from the centre, a younger building of the former Jewish synagogue can be found, a functionalist evangelical church of Augsburg confession and only one and a half kilometres distant is the oldest town building, the church of St. Stephen the King. The rare wooden church of St. George, which is the westernmost wooden sacral building in Slovak territory, stands in the town’s suburb of Trnové.
There are quite a few medieval castles to be found, several kilometres from Žilina, all being among the most attractive monuments of the upper Považie. The castle ruins of Varín and Strečno, which stand on the former border between the Trenčín and Turiec districts, are the gate to Žilina’s hollow basin. Protruding high above the river Váh and overseeing the narrow Strečno canyon, they used to guard an important business route. Budatín Castle is one of Žilina’s important architectural monuments. The nearby ford crossing, at the crossroad of business routes from Hungary to Silesia, determined its strategic position on the confluence of the rivers Váh and Kysuca. A watch- and later residential-tower dominated the castle at the end of the 12th century, around which stood buildings serving accommodation and representative purposes. Two farmhouses and a naturally landscaped park completed the existing area. Today’s neo-renaissance look of the castle is the result of a complex reconstruction after the First World War. Lietava Castle was one of the largest castles of the former Upper Hungary. This romantic ruin, built on the verge of the 13th and 14th centuries, is one of the most beautiful medieval fortified monuments in Slovak territory. Several kilometres in a beeline from Lietava are the two ruins of smaller medieval castles - Súľov and Hričov. Their architecture, however, is difficult to ascertain due to the surrounding rock terrain.
New archaeological discoveries in Žilina
Much archaeological research, helping to clarify the oldest history of Žilina, has taken place in recent years. Between 1995 and 2005 the Corpus Christi chapel in the St. Stephen the King church was gradually researched, as was the church itself and Mariánske Square, where several brick and wooden items were found. Also the parish church of the Holy Trinity and the medieval ditch surrounding the historical centre of the town were explored. The Žilina chronicle recorded a lot of news on the Corpus Christi chapel in 1423, 1489 and 1508, but until recently nothing was known about its location. The terrain adjustments performed south of the St. Stephen the King church disrupted a building measuring 5 by 4.8 metres, with a small apse on the western side (2 by 1.6 m). They identified 80 graves under the building’s foundations and in the vicinity and estimated the building’s origin to be between the 14th and 15th century. It most probably existed until the first half of the 16th century. When they pulled it down, they used its material to build a new chapel, which is standing there even now. A unique bronze ring with a Latin text from the 12-13th century was found in one of the graves. The chapel’s inner space was filled in with skeleton remains from other disrupted graves; they had been placed there at least from the beginning of the 13th century up to the beginning of the 20th century.
The St. Stephen the King church is one of the oldest sacral buildings. Archaeological researches date it to the beginning of the 13th century, which corresponds to the first written record about Žilina from 1208. The church was built in Romanesque style and survived without great change until the middle of the 18th century (1762), when the large Baroque reconstruction took place. The entrance was shifted from the original southern to western side and the initial flat ceiling was replaced with a baroque vaulting. The Romanesque windows remained walled under today’s roof and have been substituted with large windows. In the church’s nave, mainly its northern half where the research took place, only graves from the 18th century were found. The St. Stephen the King church is situated in Dolné Rudiny. Six or seven medieval settlements, dated by ceramic findings between the 10th and 13th centuries, were found in its surroundings at a range of between 0.8 and 2.3 km.
During the archaeological research of the town’s historical core in 1995, three bricked buildings were discovered right in the centre of Mariánske Square. At least five other wooden items, which probably served the foreign salesmen for storing their goods, were found around them. The Žilina citizens had been granted the right to organise regular markets (fairs) since 1357. Therefore, there can be no doubt that the objects discovered at Mariánske Square served those participating in the markets. Also a system of water distribution that was built in 1613, using wooden pipes, was discovered. After it was broken, the citizens built two wells in the square, which worked until the beginning of the 20th century. During the square research, two levels of the original paving made of flat river stones were detected. It can be assumed that by the end of the first third of the 18th century, in connection with erecting the Immaculata sculpture (1738) at least part of the square was paved.
The church of the Holy Trinity is situated east of Žilina’s historical core. The first written document comes from 1423. The archaeologists searched the construction phases of the older church, which had a square presbytery. Sixty-three graves, dated by coins from the beginning of the 17th and the end of the 18th centuries, were examined around the detected foundations. The current church is a three-nave basilica with a polygonal presbytery, the northern side of which features lilies from the time when the Anjous held power in Hungary (1308 – 1387). It is possible that the church had already stood there in the 14th century, even though it is specifically mentioned in the first third of the 15th century.
Žilina in the Middle Ages
It can be assumed that there has been a settlement in Žilina since the period between the 5th and the 6th centuries, which is some seven centuries earlier than the oldest authentic written record that has been preserved. One cannot exclude the possibility that the continuous settlement is even older because of the preserved pre-Slavic name of the region. When looking at Žilina’s geographic location, this consideration comes as no surprise. Žilina lies on the confluence of one big river (Váh) and two smaller rivers (Kysuca and Žilinka), which join at Žilina’s regional border. The water flow is interconnected through peaks and troughs but in the main with the large massif of Hradisko. The road network has developed there since ancient times; Žilina serving as a natural junction from four different directions. Historians consider St. Stephen the King church, with its late-Roman and early-Gothic elements from the first third of the 13th century, to be the oldest historical evidence of Žilina. Nevertheless, it has been proved that the northern part of the medieval town had been continuously settled in since before the beginning of the 13th century. Back then the Old Žilina had already been the centre of the region, and most probably also a market place. The boundary customs stations of the Hungarian kingdom were built at that time and one of them was situated near the border with Silesia in the wider Žilina area, another one being found at Budatín. In the 13th century, the settlement of southern Silesia (the Tešín area) thickened, which increased the frequency of movement on the old route joining the Hungarian kingdom with Silesia, making it more significant economically.
New settlers came this way to Žilina with German (Magdeburg) rights from the Tešín area, including the heredity reeve. At the beginning of the 14th century Žilina functioned as a town and the town court already worked as an appellate court for older as well as newly established villages, which followed Žilina (initially Tešín) rights. Along with the heredity reeve, there was the community of townsmen, who received first rights from the King Charles I of Hungary (also called Charles Robert, Carobert and Charles I Robert) on July 12, 1321, during his stay in Žilina. Apart from economic privileges, such as freeing the town from paying road tax, craftsmen and fishermen were granted the mileage privilege, which was still a rare thing in Slovakia. Wealthy Žilina townsmen worked as locators – founders of new villages. Following the ban by the Hungarian King, Luis I, to use Tešín as an appellate jurisdiction, their battle ended with Queen Mary’s Privilege issued on June 2, 1384, stating that Žilina was to use the appellate jurisdiction of Krupina from now on. This privilege discloses further details regarding Žilina’s legal and economic situation. It used to be the so-called free town despite being headed by a heredity reeve, whose rights were partially restricted, mainly when it came to a property’s taxation. The heredity reeves of the 14th century in Žilina were those people of noble origin, some of who also served significant state functions. Throughout the 15th century Žilina townsmen tried to redeem themselves from the heredity reeve legacy. They finally succeeded in 1509. Before the battle of Mohács (1523), Žilina was no longer a royal town. It became a town of aristocracy and remained so until the end of feudalism.
Žilina – the crossroad of business routes
A castle was erected on the verge of the river Váh in the second half of the 13th century. A settlement developed underneath, which gradually became a significant crafts centre for the larger surrounding area. The mileage privilege boosted craft development. It stated that only Žilina citizens could perform crafts at a distance of one mile from the town. The privilege of Luis I from 1357, with the right to organise markets, also helped Žilina’s development. And it was Luis I again, who helped Žilina to link up with more distant trade. He ordered the building of a road from Košice to the Váh valley in 1364, on which a toll was collected at several places, including Žilina. Sigismund of Luxemburg freed Žilina from paying taxes and tolls in 1414. Matthias Corvinus of Hungary granted the town the privilege of holding an annual market on the day of St. Michael, in 1458.
After Matthias Corvinus’ death and thanks to feudal anarchy, the town finished up in the hands of the Strečno castle lordship. In the second half of the 16th century, the town’s owners realised the significance of its economic privileges and increased tax income. Žilina drapers received the right to sell drapery from King Maximilian in 1569. A year earlier, the king granted Žilina the right to organise annual market at St. Blaise. The Žilina drapers experienced a boom in the 17th century. The privilege of Matthias II from 1610 helped it, as it enabled free trading with cloths of all colours at home as well as abroad. Matthias II also granted the town commercial privileges – the right of holding a market at St. Lucie (1609), and he freed the Žilina citizens from paying tolls throughout the entire Hungarian kingdom (1609). The town received more privileges during the reign of Leopold I: in 1657 he permitted cattle markets to take place and in 1659 he granted the right of “wet toll”, which enabled Žilina citizens to collect tolls not only on the bridges across the river Váh and Kysuca but also at the raft stations, built in case the bridges were torn down by the water.
Charles III granted the townsmen the right to hold market on the day of St. Stephan The King, in 1712. In the 18th and 19th centuries the town was left to deteriorate and lose its dominant position. New Žilina development started with the construction of the Košice-Bohumín railway at the beginning of 1970s. The most important medieval road at the town’s territory was the royal route to Silesia, which led through a bridge above the river Váh. The wooden bridge is mentioned for the first time at this place in 1499. The road continued from the bridge in the direction to the town, to the suburb of Kálov. The Kysuce road today follows the initial road’s line, along with its radius. The upper part of Kálov (today’s Street of J. M. Hurban) ends at a small square before the Lower Gate, which was demolished after the fire in 1848. The Považská road, heading west, used to join the Silesian road in front of the Lower Gate. The so-called magna via or Košice road used to lead to the town from the eastern side. The merchants entered the Žilina cadastre next to the salt warehouses and royal customs house (from 1763) with a rafts’ dockyard. The current street managed to preserve its shape thanks to a cemetery built for the plague victims in its southern area in 1679. This has been the town’s cemetery since 1707. The road continued right towards the town’s fortifications and turned north before reaching them, in front of the Franciscan monastery, where it joined the Silesian road. The local road heading to Rajec entered the town from the south. At the place of today’s large roundabout, it joined the town’s road leading to the municipality of Závodie and from there it headed to a circuit around the town’s fortifications. The circuit joined all four mentioned business roads.
Franciscans in Žilina in the 18th century
The arrival of the members of the Order of Friars Minor – Ordo Fratrum Minorum, OFM – to Žilina and its surroundings is connected with a strong re-catholisation, which was led by Jesuits in the town since the first half of the 17th century. The confession situation in Žilina in the 17th century was affected by the battle between the evangelical sacral community, mainly represented by townsmen, and Catholics, who found their support in aristocrats. The parish church of the Holy Trinity changed hands between the Evangelists and Catholics. Jesuits temporarily settled in Žilina in 1686 and worked there until the order was abolished in 1773. The Franciscans stayed in Žilina between 1704 and 1734. They first lived at the town’s square and later moved to suburban houses donated by nobleman Paul Esterházy and later George Erdődy. Since Jesuits were already in town, the Franciscans wanted to be closer to the people outside of the town’s fortifications. A church and monastery was built at the Lower Gate, sacrificed to St. Barbara. The town definitively allocated the territory to the Franciscans in 1721. The church was built in 1730 and then the building of the monastery started. The Church of St. Barbara is a one-nave construction with rectangular presbytery and sacristy. It is the first baroque sacral building in Žilina. A main altar from 1730 dominates the church. All altars are of baroque style with original sculptures, however, without the original altar paintings. Those come from the end of the 19th century and are the work of friar Konrád Švestka, a painter, woodcarver and restorer. Calvary was installed in 1734. The Church of St. Barbara with its underground crypts served as a place for burying Franciscan and secular priests, as well as significant townsmen who asked for it, until 1778. The church organ consists of two instruments – the large organ, which is placed above the church’s entrance and was finished in 1734; and the little organ, which sits on chorus minor and is younger, as the choir started to be built only in 1739. Both are the work of leading organ-builder Peregrín Verner.
The number of monks stabilised at 40, in 1782. The registers talk about friars-craftsmen – working as woodcarvers, carpenters, cooks, bakers, gardeners and tailors. It is also necessary to mention leading musicians in 1741 – 1750, such as the mentioned Peregrín Verner. Baroque composers Juraj Zrunek and Edmund Paška also worked there. Some Franciscans were historians, such as Vojtech Gazda and Hugolín Gavlovič. A wooden sculpture of St. Barbara placed above the monastery’s entrance in 1748 was replaced by a stony one in 1773. After the St. Barbara church was built, the monastery functioned as a small farm. There were granaries, storage for cereals, farm buildings and stables. A tailor’s workshop is mentioned in the records from 1773. A fruit and vegetable garden was also part of the monastery.
Evangelical church of Augsburg confession in Žilina
The Evangelical church choir of Augsburg confession in Žilina was founded when the Reformation began to spread through Slovakia. The majority of the inhabitants confessed to Protestantism in the 17th century. The arrival of Jesuits to Žilina in the middle of the 17th century and the establishment of their first mission station in 1686 began to gradually change their dominant position. Life had significantly worsened for them, when Paul Esterházy, a keen re-catholisation promoter, became Žilina landowner a year later. He forced the evangelical citizens to accept Catholicism with strict regulations. When approving candidates for the reeve’s office he made sure that there was always a catholic in the town’s leadership.
When Evangelists were banned from meeting in the parish church, they built a small wooden house of worship in 1704. The history sources reveal that in 1709 they built another wooden house of worship. In June 1710 Paul Esterházy decided to allocate premises for Žilina Franciscans and after pulling down the second house of worship in 1719, the Franciscans most probably used the construction material for building the new St. Barbara church.
The intensive work of the two catholic religions in the town meant that the number of Evangelists was dramatically lowered. Only a few dozen believers confessed their evangelical faith in Žilina in 1730 and almost nobody in the middle of the 19th century. It is not surprising that in such conditions the evangelical church choir in Žilina perished completely and the town became explicitly catholic. It was not before the end of the 19th century, when the situation of Žilina Evangelists gradually stabilized, that their number slowly increased and the efforts to repeatedly create an independent church choir became real. The church convention decided to construct a cathedral and a parish building at its meeting on June 13, 1895. In 1903 they built a simple house of worship and vicarage. In 1921 new priest Fedor Fridrich Ruppeldt (1886 – 1979) came to Žilina, emphasising the need to build a bigger church. In 1930 he asked the town to allocate him a piece of land free of charge. However, because the town’s representatives were not keen on the idea, they sold him the land twice as high as they would have to other private owners. The Evangelists later found a more suitable and larger place near the town’s cemetery. Getting the necessary permission for the lands’ interchange, along with court delays, was to last until May 1934. Nevertheless, the church had put up a post for an architectural design of the church as well as a vicarage one year ahead. From four proposals, they selected the project of the contemporarily famous architect Milan Michal Harminc (1869 – 1964). The construction works on the church finished on October 10, 1936 and in October 1938 they started building the new parish in the same functionalist style as the church. After long and strenuous efforts, Žilina’s Evangelic choir of Augsburg confession had thus finally managed to built a textbook example of the architectural modern style in the first half of the 20th century.
Marián Mrva – Andrej Ferko
Považské Museum 3D online
The uniqueness of the traditional Slovak tinker’s craft has made it an interesting subject for documentation and presentation. The first tinker exhibition took place in Dlhé Pole at the end of the1930s. It formed the basis for a specialised museum established in Žilina in 1942. This was the first step towards creating a worldwide centre for documenting and researching the craft of the tinker, in today’s Považské múzeum in Žilina. The real expansion of documentation and research, however, did not begin before 1989, when the tinkers’ fund dominated the museum collection for some time. Over 6,000 tinkers’ artefacts, in more than 135,000 collection funds, represent only a small portion. Nevertheless, it is the largest collection of its kind in the world (the second largest is in France, in private hands).
Apart from the exhibition and ensuing publicity, the international meetings of tinker masters were an important element in the propagation and research of the tinker’s work. Since 1990 these meetings became the place, where a tinker’s craft and art were adapted to the period’s requirements and where the wire as a material came to the fore. The year of 1992, when the first scientific conference entitled Tinkery as a Craft, Art and Business took place, was an important milestone directing tinker documentation to a new quality. At the same time a new exposition was opened to public at Budatín castle, which introduced the history of tinkers in an untraditional way. The penetrative arrival of computers in the first half of the 1990s gave the museum workers the idea of building an electronic databank – a large information database about tinkery. It was to include a list of collections and documents, masters’ names, literary sources, articles and artistic works with a tinker theme, as well as other notes about the craft’s history. It was to serve as an information centre for specialists, students, tinker enthusiasts as well as the general public. The museum’s strategy for attracting mainly young visitors was via a multimedia presentation of tinker memorabilia using high tech information systems. The project of an applied research, Považské Museum 3D Online, is co-financed by the Education Ministry of the Slovak Republic. The first public presentation took place at Nostalgia Expo 2006 exhibition in Bratislava, where the first Slovak interactive virtual multimedia museum was exhibited. The interactive multimedia kiosk with a touch screen was developed at the Comenius University in Bratislava in technical cooperation with the Prover Company and is to be installed in publicly accessible, roofed, guarded and heated places. The kiosk can be attached to an Internet or data projector and used for a group of museum visitors to operate the projection.
The story of rescuing Lietava castle
Lietava is one of the most valuable of Slovak castles. This is mainly due to the good condition of the ruin, mounted into the picturesque surroundings of the Strážovské hills. The castle was built shortly after the invasion of the Tartars in the second half of the 13th century. At the beginning of the 14th century, the castle ended up as the property of Matthew Csák III of Trenčín and became the centre of his province. In 1360 King Luis of Anjou donated Lietava to the country’s judge Stephen Bebek. His descendants owned the castle until the end of the century, when King Sigismund of Luxemburg took it away from them. Duke Ctibor temporarily owned Lietava at the beginning of the 15th century when the Bebeks’ gained it back. In the 14th and the first half of the 15th centuries, the castle was enlarged with new residential buildings, a small courtyard and a rectangular palace, which was joined to the older castle with a fortification, which ran around the cliff’s edge. Paul Kinizsi became the castle’s owner in 1474. He significantly enlarged and reconstructed it during the 20 years it was in his ownership. Probably before the end of the 15th century Lietava ended up in the hands of the influential Zápoľský family, who donated it to their supporter Nicolaus Kostka in 1512. Farm buildings and a chapel with a late-gothic vaulting were added to Lietava in the first half of the 16th century. After Kostka’s death, the royal chamber donated the castle to Francis Thurzo. He unified the complex of the upper castle into a large exhibition palace, which he extended with another residential floor. The castle had at least 90 rooms in the 17th century and its roof was covered with shingle. Another layer of fortification, with a substantial entrance gate building, a corner cannon bastion and a smaller semicircular bastion on the northern side, was built during the second half of the 16th and first half of the 17th centuries.
In 1621 the estate was divided into four parts, which weakened its maintenance interest. The castle was only a storage place for grain at the end of the 17th century. The mobiliari went missing at the beginning of the 18th century, only the archive remained. The castle slowly turned into ruins; neither repaired nor conserved. Despite all that, Lietava castle was found as a compact ruin at the start of the 21st century, the value of which increases with its authenticity. Attempts to rescue the castle started in 1999, when the Association for the Lietava Castle Preservation was formed. Works on the castle started in 2003. Thanks to realistically set goals and close cooperation with conservationists and experts, this special volunteers’ initiation in Slovakia will restore the castle to its original form.
Annual Prize of the Monuments and Museums review for 2006 in the Discovery – Finding Category
Karol Pieta – Peter Roth
A princely tomb from Poprad-Matejovce
When constructing the Poprad-Matejovce industrial park, an archaeological research was performed by the Podtatranské Museum in Poprad (led by P. Roth). In spite of regular investigations in a seemingly fruitless area, the largest discovery was revealed coincidentally. A wooden rustic house built of well-preserved massive timbers was found 250-300 centimetres deep, in groundwater. On account of the uniqueness of the discovery, the museum invited archaeologists from the Slovak Academy of Sciences (T. Kolník, K. Pieta) to explore the construction in detail. Furniture parts were found at the eastern wall and when lifting the beams covering a chamber, a wooden-frame construction, with a destroyed saddle shelter, was found inside. Samples were taken on site for archaeological-botanic and dendrological analysis, as well as radiocarbon dating. The Leibnitz-Labor für Altersbestimmung und Isotopenforschung, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel (Germany) assessed the year of the circuit log-house’s sample at 380 ± 27 years AD.
The outer construction had rustic walls from chiselled wood, which were isolated from the sub-base with a filling of beech wooden coal. Carefully worked beams reached a size of 25 by 15 by 380, or 280 cm. The joints were made with simple notches. Timbers of 440 cm covered the chamber. The log-house stood on a platform of 12 half-rounded beams placed next to each other at a depth of 495 cm (673.52 metres above see level) from the original ground level. Identical with the tomb’s axis, it lied in a north-south direction. The inner tomb’s chamber (sarcophagi), measuring 170 by 290 cm, featured a frame construction with corner columns and central wall cross-beams, which covered very precisely chiselled boards embedded into the notches of joining beams. This construction was made of larch.
The significance of the princely tomb, not to mention the quite unusual terrain conditions in Central Europe – working with wood and brittle organic material in a wet environment – imposed extra demands on the procedure and organisation of the research, which lasted for four months and finished in November 2006. An international commission decided on its working process and goals. The experts also reached agreement on a vital issue: this unique tomb cannot be preserved in the place of origin. When the rescue works finish, it will be dismantled and after conservation, presented in a protected museum space. The international research commission, together with the head of the research and fellow conservationists, proposed cooperation from the associated museums in Schleswig (Germany). This significant European institution has adequate laboratories and experts. It is also capable of conserving a large volume of exceptionally demanding findings.
In Slovakia’s archaeological experience, even the construction-technical dismantling of basically fully preserved 1600 years old wooden architecture, as well as the primal treatment and special wrapping of the construction parts and individual artefacts, was quite unusual. The initial rescue of this rare monument was only possible thanks to the financial support of Slovakia’s Culture Ministry, with cooperation from the self-government region of Prešov. All organic materials from the tomb, estimated to weigh 10 – 12 tonnes, were transported to laboratory halls and freezing boxes in Schleswig on November 22, 2006.
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