Romanesque lion from Bíňa
The motif of a lion was a frequently used theme in Romanesque stone sculpture. The only integrally preserved example from the Slovak territory is the so-called white lion (leo albus) from Spišská Kapitula. A new discovery was found in the significant medieval locality of Bíňa, where the Romanesque church of the former Premonstratesian monastery still stands, with the Rotunda of Twelve Apostles nearby. Even though it is only a fragment of the lion figure, it documents a high quality sculptural stonework and clear contiguity of style. The fragment from Bíňa was found in 2006. It laid together with two fragments from other stonemasonry articles, on the mound near the portal, southwest of the rotunda. Based on the latest findings, we can assume that the mound around the rotunda was formed during one of the reconstructions in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The fragment is the upper part of the lion’s head. The preserved almond-like eyes, arched eyebrows linked with a line in the shape of an ornamental loop, ears with ear holes outlined by drilling, as well as the mane with the hint of a middle division and arranged into streams, reveal the fine stonemasonry work. The lion was carved out of red limestone, which is also called “red marble”. When discovered, the surface of the fragment was covered with remains of mortar, which points to its secondary use as a construction material.
The recent architectural-historical research of the rotunda (E. Sabadošová, M. Havlík, 2011) assumed that the lion could have been part of the baptistery plinth, which was situated inside the rotunda. Based on their hypothesis, the rotunda was originally built as a baptistery around the end of the 10th century or first half of the 11th century. In the opinion of the authors of this article, however, the Bíňa fragment might not be related to the rotunda at all, despite the fact that it was found in its immediate vicinity. It is more likely that it was part of the architecture of the former Premonstratesian Church of the Virgin Mary in the rotunda’s neighbourhood. The Premonstratesian monastery was established in Bíňa sometime before 1217. The time of the origin of the lion sculpture, from which the fragment comes from, must be thus moved to the year of 1200, or beginning of the 13th century. Architecture that was being created in Bíňa that time, was in many ways analogical with the construction activities in the nearby royal and archbishop’s residency in Esztergom (Hungary), distanced only 21 km from Bíňa. The discovery of the lion’s fragment is another confirmation of Bíňa’s links with Esztergom. The lion sculpture could have been used in a similar architectural context as the Esztergom lions, i.e. as part of the main, western portal of the monasterial church.
Mikuláš Čelko – Mária Čelková – Ján Patsch
Church of St. Elizabeth of Hungary in Banská Štiavnica
In 2013, Banská Štiavnica commemorates the 20th anniversary of having the town and its technical monuments inscribed under the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage List. One example of the town’s renovation of a cultural monument, is the reconstruction of the Church of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, which is situated in the southern part of the town, near the road to Svätý Anton.
In the Middle Ages, towns of central Slovakia used to have hospitals and shelters for the poor built mainly in their peripheral parts, with sacral constructions devoted to St. Elizabeth of Hungary, the patroness of the poor, widows, orphans, ill and charity institutions. The Spital Church of St. Elizabeth of Hungary was founded in Banská Štiavnica at the end of the 14th century. Its predecessor and the oldest “spital” (hospital for the poor) in the town, was the hospital with a hospice near the Dominican Church of St. Nicholas with a monastery, built at the eastern edge of the town. The Dominicans cared about the town inhabitants until their forced departure in 1536, during the time of reformation.
The Church of St. Elizabeth was mainly the place of worship for the needs of the hospital and shelter. These were financed by benefactions and last wills of the town’s inhabitants. Immovable property that belonged to the hospital and shelter was often rented and the profit was used for running these institutions, which were managed by elected representatives.
The original, single-nave gothic building of St. Elizabeth’s Church was rebuilt in 1574 into the Lower Gate, which was part of the fortification that secured the town of Banská Štiavnica against Turkish danger for almost 150 years. The first graphic image of the Lower Gate is from 1676. The report on the management and property of the town, which Banská Štiavnica submitted to the Hungarian Royal Chamber on March 22, 1762, characterised the Lower Gate as an ancient (antique) masonry building, prior to that, a church (ecclesia), which consisted of several rooms.
The Lower Gate lost its defensive function at the beginning of the 18th century, after the end of the estates uprising and Turkish war. It was to be demolished in 1879, when the road was widened and a rail track built from the hereditary adit of the Holy Trinity. The presbytery was to be used as a storage room. Between 1894 and 1895, they converted it into a church in neo-gothic style. The Professor of the Mining and Forestry Academy Ladislav Fodor (1855 – 1924) designed the altar and the artistic carver Jozef Krause (1862 – 1934) built it.
In connection with the planned renovation of the church, restorer Ján Patsch carried out an interior research in August 2012. The research focused on artistic decoration of the individual historical periods from the origin of the “spital church” in the 14th century, through the renaissance conversion into the town gate, to the last neo-gothic modification in 1894 – 1895. This is the only sacral building in Banská Štiavnica, where the exterior as well as the interior have been compactly preserved with neo-gothic architecture, stained glass windows, altar and movables.
Zamoyski family and Ľubovňa estate
The Ľubovňa Castle in Stará Ľubovňa, built at the end of the 13th century, changed owners several times during its existence. The Hungarian state was its first administrator in 1772 – 1819, after its Polish security terminated. The Raisz family and town of Stará Ľubovňa owned it in the 19th century. Polish aristocrat Andrzej Przemysław Zamoyski purchased the castle from the town in 1882. The Ľubovňa estate remained in the hands of two generations of the Polish noble family of Zamoyski (de Zamość) for 62 years.
The same year, Count Andrzej Zamoyski also bought the Vyšné Ružbachy Spa and forests around Vyšné Ružbachy, Podolínec and Mníšek nad Popradom. He became one of the biggest property owners in the Spiš region. He took residence in Stará Ľubovňa. He also owned properties in the municipalities of Podzamcze and Magnuszewo in Poland. In the years to come, the value of this family’s wealth increased thanks to the marriage portions brought in by Princess Maria Carolina of Bourbon-Two Sicilies and Spanish royal Princess Isabel Alfonsa of Bourbon-Two Sicilies (Princess Isabel Alfonsa de Borbón-Dos Sicilias y Borbón).
Count Andrzej Zamoyski (1852 – 1927) married Maria Carolina of Bourbon (1856 – 1941), Princess of Two Sicilies (that time´s title of the Kingdom of Naples), in Paris in 1885. She was the daughter of Prince Francis, Count of Trapani and Archduchess Maria Isabella of Austria, Princess of Tuscany. The family relationship, with the family of Bourbon, opened doors for Count Andrzej Zamoyski to the aristocratic and political elite of Western Europe. The Zamoyski couple did not live in the castle, but in a manor house below. The administration of the castle domain was not simple; the expenses for managing the estate were balanced with the income from the Vyšné Ružbachy Spa. Maria Carolina and Andrzej had seven children: Marie Josepha (1887 – 1961), Franz Joseph (1888 – 1948), Stanislaus (1889 – 1913), Marie Isabelle (1891 – 1952), Marie Therese (1894 – 1953), Marie Caroline (1896 – 1968) and Jan Kanty (1900 – 1961). The Count took part in charitable and social activities. After the end of the First World War, when Poland gained independence, the Zamoyskis left Spiš and moved to their estates in Poland. In 1926, after the youngest son Jan Kanty finished his studies in Paris, Andrzej divided the family property. Jan Kanty Zamoyski became the heir of the Ľubovňa estate, Vyšné Ružbachy Spa and Magnuszewo estate in Poland. In 1929, he married Spanish Princess Isabel Alfonsa of Bourbon-Two Sicilies (1904 – 1985), aunt of the current Spanish King Juan Carlos. The royal dowry helped the couple rebuild the property in Stará Ľubovňa in 1929 – 1932, as well as invest into the development of the spa, which was turned into a modern Central-European recreational and healing facility.
Unknown architect Emil Brüll
Emil Brüll (1891 – 1944) worked in Slovakia in the first half of the 20th century as an architect and building contractor. His life and work have not yet been explored and the public knows only a few of his constructions. The largest of them would be the airport in Poprad. Brüll is the author of four famous buildings in Bratislava, but the study of archive documentation expanded the knowledge of his work by several other activities and buildings in the Slovak capital. The archives also supplied information on the buildings’ customers, construction market during the course of the first Czechoslovak Republic and housing of Bratislava’s middle class in the 1920s and 1930s.
Emil Brüll was born in 1891 in Bratislava to a Jewish family. In 1909/1910 he started his studies at the Royal Hungarian József Nádor University of Technology in Budapest, also known as the Polytechnic. The events of the First World War interrupted Brüll’s studies, as he had to enter the armed forces. He finished his schooling in 1917/1918, but did not receive his diploma until March 28, 1922. He established a business in Bratislava. The division between him being an author or building contractor is not always clear in his works. He introduced himself with buildings in the eastern part of Grösslingová Street, but he really captured attention with a non-standard design of the villa at 2 Bartoňova Street (project 1930) and tenement house at 14 Rajská (1933?). Brüll’s architecture also reflected the social-economic situation. Since the middle 1930s, he designed several valuable buildings in Bratislava, businessmen villas, which did not have a concern about money.
So far, it is not known where Brüll lived in Poprad, where he projected residential buildings and the airport, until the tragic end of his life in 1944. He was one of the thirty one architects born or working in Slovakia, who were killed or executed during the Second World War. The Nazis shot him and his wife during the Slovak National Uprising in Spišská Teplica near Poprad.
Empire-style portraits of the Pálffys from Červený Kameň
The collection of the Slovak National Museum-Červený Kameň Museum contains a series of Empire-style portraits, which have several things in common: the size, adjustment, painting style and secondary interventions. The basis of the compilation includes twelve portraits on a neutral olive-coloured background or with the vista of the country. Two more portraits, which are also part of the group, include an older original for one of the portraits from the series and a previously restored painting, which belongs there, with a question mark.
Names of the portrayed persons were written in pencil on the subframes of the majority of the portraits around the turn of the 19th and 20th century. These names include members of various aristocratic families – Pálffy, Kolowrat-Krakowsky, Ogilvy and Wenckheim, however, their mutual connection had not been recognised until now. It was the identification of the family relationships between the individual people that confirmed this to be a unified series. It is connected with technical parameters as well as the inscription Eig. Paul Pálffy on the rear of most of the canvases.
The portraits represent three generations of the Pálffys, living at the turn of the 18th and 19th century: the generation of Countess Antonia Pálffy, born Kolowrat-Krakowsky (she and her siblings), the generation of her parents (mother, aunt), and the generation of her descendants (sons, daughters and future son-in-law). Even though the series is not complete today, Antonia remains the central character and is probably the one who ordered and originally owned the portraits made unambiguously for Červený Kameň Castle. The last known Pálffy owner of the portraits was Count Pavol Pálffy (1890 – 1968), who definitely stored them in the Budmerice manor house. From there, the pictures returned to Červený Kameň during the war dangers, before the end of the Second World War. They entered the museum collections in 1952 and 1953.
The dating and name of the portraits’ artist is revealed in the signature preserved on the portrait of Borbála Pálffy: Paint par Jean / Nep: Drengubják / cler: Scep / 1807. Ján Nepomuk Drengubják (1781, Zázrivá – 1850, Krakow) was a Catholic priest and amateur painter, famous for his various altar and wall sacral paintings from the second and third decade of the 19th century in the churches where he worked, at the Orava and Liptov regions. He painted the Pálffy portrait series as a student; he was only ordained in 1810. He signed the pictures as a “clerk from the Spiš region” and the signature is therefore an interesting evidence of the history of the Spiš seminary, which had been formed in that period. The question about how the young seminarist got the job of portraying a significant and geographically remote count family remains open.
Bratislava on aquarelles by Eugen Bárkány and František Florians
Bratislava, with its architectural dominants as well as picturesque recesses, has been a significant source of inspiration for creative artists from long ago. It has attracted not only many professional painters and graphic artists but also amateurs – autodidacts. A collection of aquarelles with Bratislava motifs, so far practically unknown to the public, is kept in the Bratislava City Museum from the inheritance of two significant personalities working with architecture.
Eugen Bárkány, structural engineer, restorer, painter and cultural historian (1885 – 1967), known as the founder of the first Slovak Jewish museum (1928, Prešov), also painted aquarelles with ethnographical themes from the eastern and central parts of Slovakia. After his arrival in Bratislava in 1955, he was enthralled by the specific colour of the Old Town. The collections of the Bratislava City Museum contain 50 watercolour sketches by Eugen Bárkány with Bratislava motifs from 1956 – 1965. These mainly include integrated views of the former Podhradie area under the castle, as well as a number of architectural details captured from the historical town centre (portals, passages, courtyards), today mostly extinct.
Architect František Florians (1894 – 1978), also mentioned as Florian in archive materials, worked in Bratislava as an independent architect. He was also a committee member of the Bratislava Art Society. Next to his work, he also painted until the end of his life; he created several dozen drawings and watercolour paintings, which capture the atmosphere of the Old Bratislava, its streets and recesses. The Bratislava City Museum purchased twenty seven aquarelles from the artist in 1972. He was consistent with signing and dating his works. Florians’ dominant motifs are now the extinct parts of the Podhradie area around the castle, Vydrica and Zuckermandel, as well as the area of Rybné Square and Danube embankment.
Unique sacral glass
Not specifically identified glass bottle, which is now in the collection fund of the West-Slovak Museum in Trnava (licence number 6213P2), used to be part of a large collection assembled by Štefan Cyril Parrák (1887 – 1969) that formed the basis of the newly established West-Slovak Museum in 1954. The author, an expert in historic glass production, revealed interesting facts about this bottle, made of clear massive crystal glass and decorated with a dull engraving and shiny grinding. Based on the form and technique of decoration, he could place the item in the category of early baroque engraved glass. He then analysed the bottle’s iconography – a coat of arms with a standing figure of St. Stephen the Protomartyr, who is mainly depicted in the Eastern, Byzantine ritual, and identified the inscription N.Z.D.P.A.G. as a personal coat of arms with the patron St. Stephen the Protomartyr belonging to a church official, in this case the Abbot of Premonstratesian Monastery in Hradiště na Morave, Norbert Želecký of Počenice (1649 –1709). The initials on the bottle could be interpreted as follows: NORBERTVS ZIELECKI DE POCENICZ ABBAS GRADICENSIS.
The bottle likely originated in the last two decades of the 17th century and could be used for storing mass wine or holy water. It might have also been used for storing an incense burner, myrrh, rare spices, or special oil used during religious acts. When analysing the item’s provenience, regarding the assortment of the contemporary production, we can talk of Moravian as well as Czech glass manufacture, including the import from surrounding territories.
Andrej Botek – Róbert Erdélyi – Barbora Vachová
Remains of nave vaulting in Kopčany church discovered
When speculating about the pre-Romanesque appearance of one of the oldest churches in Slovak territory, the Church of St. Margaret of Antioch near Kopčany (10th century), the form of the nave’s ceiling has never been clear. It was thought to be either a timbered (Romanesque) ceiling or an open truss. The additional architectural-historical research of the nave’s gables, which took place in autumn 2011 (Botek, Erdélyi, Vachová), clarified the development of masonries and coatings, and with certainty confirmed that the church’s nave was vaulted in the early phase.
It studied the stone masonry of the gables, which was identical in character with the primary masonry of the building, the composition of mortar in the joints, the preserved coating layers and empty hollows (pockets) left after wooden elements, which could not support the ceiling but might have been part of the vault’s decking construction. It also researched the later – medieval modifications of the church gables; the construction of the ceiling however is not documented. The preserved baroque masonry layer, dating between the middle and end of the 17th century, illustrates the volume of the interior up to the flat ceiling. At the beginning of the 18th century, they demolished the ceiling in the nave and created a new ceiling, truss and roof. After 2000, when the older truss and parts of the crown of the side masonries were removed, the current truss construction was built.
The findings, which almost certainly confirm the vault’s existence in the primary phase of the church construction (i.e. around the 10th century), represent a significant piece of knowledge on the constructional methods of Slovakia’s oldest architecture in the Great Moravian and post-Great Moravian times. However, the shape of their vertical finish could not be determined based on the uncovered foundations of the buildings. Until now, it had been assumed that the Great Moravian churches were designed similarly as in the Romanesque period – with vaulted finish and flat-ceiling nave. The vaulting of the nave in this context is a surprising phenomenon, which shows evidence of advanced technology in building construction.
Zuzana Zvarová – Tomáš Janura
Manor house in Pruské
The municipality of Pruské lies in the western part of Ilavská kotlina basin, on the right bank of the river Váh, some 4 km from Ilava. A relatively small area of the municipality concentrates significant architectural monuments – the Franciscan Monastery with the Church of St. George with a late-renaissance portal from 1642 and the baroque Church of St. Peter and Paul built in 1780 – 1789, with a boat-shaped ambo that is unique in Slovakia and a renaissance-baroque vicarage and manor house with a park located next to the church.
The manor house originated at the end of the 16th century or around 1620. Based on the results of the monument research, the manor house was gradually built from the middle of the 16th to the end of the 18th century. The origin of the manor house in Pruské, which was part of the Vršatec castle estate, is connected with the aristocratic family of Jakusith (Jakusics, Jakussich). After the death of the last male heir Imrich (1692), first the Hungarian Chamber owned the estate and then Emperor Leopold I dedicated the Vršatec estate to the imperial Count K. S. Breuner in 1695, which resulted in its merger with the Ilava estate. Imperial Count K. Königsegg, Breuner’s grandson, later inherited this domain.
Following the land reform after the First World War, the Königseggs had to give part of the domain over to the state. The estate was sold to its inhabitants and the rest was taken over by the creditors. The construction history of the manor house, documents a rectangular residential building in the second half of the 16th century, which was extended with a two-storied north-western bastion and northern part of the south-western wing in 1607 – 1623. The southern bastion was added in the second half of the 17th century. The pretentious renaissance façade confirms the high artistic aspirations of the builders.
The structural development of the manor house finished in the 1780s. Between 1804 and 1818, the truss was gradually replaced, the façade changed and the no-longer existing entrance portal built with pilasters at the sides finished with Ionic caps.
The park around the manor house was established around the middle of the 19th century. It ceased to be maintained sometime after 1920, when the last owners left. The park and the garden northwest of the manor house were divided; a primary school was built there and only the orangery building remained preserved of the former park’s area.
The nuns of the Congregation of Sisters of the Most Holy Saviour lived in the manor house between 1946 and 1952. The garden school from the Franciscan Monastery in Pruské moved there in 1954 and stayed there ever since.
Visitation of the Virgin Mary painting from Višňové
Some eight kilometres southeast of Žilina is the small municipality of Višňové, known from history as a significant pilgrim place in the north of Slovakia. The recently restored large oil painting of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary from the main altar of the local Church of St. Nicholas also relates to St. Mary’s tradition. Its compositional arrangement was adjusted for the altar’s high tabernacle, in the top of which sits the miraculous sculpture of the Virgin Mary of Višňové. The construction of the tabernacle, including the radial aureole behind Madonna, overlaps the lower quarter of the altar canvas and so the painter centralised the main scene into the left part of the two upper thirds of the picture.
The main altar, created in the style of the late-baroque classicism, was together with the church, ceremoniously sanctified on September 29, 1783. It was made in Bratislava and so far, no signatures were found on the work. The altar survived in its original look for only about half a century. In 1828, that is to say, Nitra’s Bishop Jozef Vurm criticized it and asked for its more desired italico more treatment. Nitra’s woodcarver Imrich Fugert performed a large modification of the altar ten years later, probably following a model. Two parts of the older altar construction were partially incorporated into the altar, specifically the mentioned main altar painting with the scene of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary and apparently also the high tabernacle with the room for the worshiped sculpture of Madonna.
The altar painting Visitation of the Virgin Mary from 1782 by an unknown artist was made following several models. An artist from western Slovakia probably painted it, but in consideration, also comes the central Slovak mining region, especially Kremnica, from where the masters modifying the church architecture came from. The late restoration revealed its original look suppressed not only by layers of deposits but also by local repainting from the beginning of the 20th century. Their removal revealed several differences in the details of the painting, particularly in its centre. The most fundamental one was the replacement of the Virgin Mary’s straw hat with a white scarf. Other changes were detected in her clothes as well as a completely repainted face. Distinct deviations were also visible on the face and scarf of Elisabeth as well as the bridge’s architecture.
Even though this is not a masterpiece of one of the famed painters of those times, but a work of a yet unknown master with an apparent training in Vienna, the quality of the painting is quite high. At least within the Turiec region, this is undoubtedly one of the most interesting paintings from the end of the 18th century.
Kúty dispatch building
The Kúty railway station, situated on the crossroads of lines Kúty – Trnava (put into service in 1897) and Bratislava – Břeclav (1891), became too small in capacity after the transportation increased with the origin of Czechoslovakia. The new dispatch building was designed in 1920, and built in 1930. Its construction reflects the development of the railway architecture of the interwar period.
The architecture of railway dispatch buildings in Slovakia reflected the regional and political-legislative system of the country. During the origin of the first dispatch buildings (the Bratislava dispatch building of horse railway by Ignác Feigler Sr. from 1840 is the only preserved example in Slovakia), the architects drew inspiration from contemporary public buildings. But gradually, the building of state railway institutions gave form to a standardized architecture with unique elements, specific for this kind of architecture. After the origin of Czechoslovakia in 1918, new laws were adopted on railway transportation and construction of new tracks chiefly in Slovakia, as its railway network was not as dense as that of the Czech Republic and Moravia. An independent Construction Department under the Central Construction Administration at the Ministry of Railways in Prague was established to build these railways and their buildings. The new buildings of the Slovak railways developed the search for a new, “national style”.
The first plans for the new dispatch building in Kúty come from 1920. They show a patulous building with numerous little towers and carved wooden ornaments, inspired by the architecture of D. Jurkovič. The reworked plans from 1923 reduced the building’s area and significantly changed the façade decoration. These plans, were not utilised either. In 1926, the Headquarters of the Czechoslovak Railways had to rework the plans again and submit the statistics of employees and their accommodation. The third design, which further reduced the building’s area, did not pass again. A tender for the building’s construction was announced in September 1927 and finally, this fourth design converted the original dispatch building from 1891. The new building started to serve its purpose on January 11, 1930. Today it is the house of the Slovak Post.
Tugboat Šturec and idea of ship museum
The ship transportation and related activities have developed in Bratislava, the city spreading along the large European river, the Danube, since long ago. Apart from the ship traffic – the sailing, they included the transfer of goods in the harbour from vessels to road and railway transportation, and storage of various merchandise in the dockyards. Similarly important was the service activity, i.e. maintenance, repairs and reconstruction of vessels and port equipment. In the past, until around 1975, the repair works were done in the so-called Old Shipyard, which was situated in the southern pool of the Winter Harbour, where a unique dry dock was built on its western part at the beginning of the 1930s. It helped with manipulation of the river vessels, especially during the repairs of their submersed parts, reconstruction or construction of new vessels. Near the dry dock is a ship hall, where large machines and equipment needed for repairing vessels’ hulls and modifications used to be.
The intention to establish a Ship Museum in Bratislava is offered its last chance. This concerns the oldest preserved engine boat – double-propeller towing tugboat Šturec, originally built as an engine oil tanker in the Škodove závody Shipyard in Komárno. The boat was launched in 1937 with the name Štúr. During the Second World War, this cargo vessel, used for transporting oil was damaged and so it was later converted into a tugboat. It has been a while, since the tugboat stopped working and remained anchored in the northern pool of the Bratislava’s Winter Harbour. In 2011, the Slovak Technical Museum-Transport Museum in Bratislava initiated the declaration of this vessel for a national cultural monument.
When contemplating the preparation of the vessel for museum purposes, it was thought interesting to present the boat on the dry dock near the ship hall and thus preserve the entire unique area, including the nearby Sailors’ House (functionalist building from 1940 – 1942 declared national cultural monument in 2008). This would document the history of ship transport, ship-building trade and the Bratislava relation to the phenomenon of the Danube river.