Dušan Buran – Eva Hasalová
Luxurious textiles on gothic panel paintings
Only a few medieval liturgical clothes and textile fragments have been preserved up to this date from our territory. This is just a tiny fraction in relation to other artefacts, such as golden liturgical items and altars, whose materials, in combination with artistic technologies, made them more resistant to ageing. The majority of historical textiles could not last long because of their material characteristics and specific function. But nevertheless: the less we know of them from real life, the more it seems crucial to decipher their depictions on historical paintings that have been preserved in quite substantial numbers. The authors of the article selected several late-gothic panel paintings of Spiš provenience, or eastern Slovakia from 1450 to 1520, from which they can study various textiles and their functions. They examine the use of the fabric and decoration in relation to the depicted theme and try to identify what kind of textile it used to be in real life.
The work from Spišský Štvrtok that the Nuremberg’s Master of the Tucher Altarpiece created around 1450, which depicts the scene of the Death of the Virgin Mary, represents an artistic import. One of its key motifs is the cover of the Virgin Mary’s bed – probably a brocaded velvet of Italian provenience interlaced with metallic threads and fibres with a figural motif of a deer in the rain, which evokes Psalm 42 that talks about a soul searching God the way deer searches for a water spring. The liturgical robe from Košice was made of similar fabric. The altar triptych of St. Stephen and St. Emeric of Matejovce (after 1456) also offers several textile examples – a fabric carried by a trio of angels can be identified as silk with metallic fibres and oriental patterns, dominated by poppy heads, flowers and birds. The Italian weaving workshops focused on rare fabrics, such as samite, lampas, damask and tabby that had spread all over Europe since the early Medieval Ages. However, not even fragments of these luxurious textiles had been detected in Slovak territory. Despite the fact that this area had its own important centres of textile production (Bratislava, Košice, Bardejov), it is very likely that the Hungarian royal court and high church dignitaries also used the imported fabrics. Examples of these textiles have been preserved in the neighbouring countries of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland.
The showy structures of rare textiles added the sign of luxury even to less pretentious altar paintings. This is, for instance, documented in the central panel of the Triptych from Strážky from the middle of the 15th century, as well as the panels of a former main altar from Spišské Podhradie that was made a few decades later and depicted brocaded velvets of clothes with the patterns of pomegranates in the scene of Annunciation. The images on the main altar at St. Elizabeth’s Cathedral in Košice provide a real panorama of using textile patterns in late gothic paintings. The most illustrative is the legend of the titular female saint, where the painter illusionary depicted the structures and folds of luxurious fabrics. More modest textile aesthetics can be seen on the wing paintings of the altar of St. Barbara from Bardejov from between 1460 and 1470. This is an import from the renowned Krakow workshop of the Master of the St. Trinity Altarpiece at Wawel. Another example are the wings of the altar of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary in Fričovce from the end of the 15th century, where even the richly folded garments of female saints had no decoration.
The best depictions of luxurious fabrics are the scenes of the Adoration of the Magi from the altar of the Virgin Mary of Snow in Levoča, completed in 1496, as well as a panel with the same theme from a no longer existing altar of St. Catharine in Banská Štiavnica, which entered the Palais des Beaux Arts collections in Lille in the 19th century. Unique, are the various types of fabric (especially the brocade) and primarily the clothes, jewellery and royal presents used as attributes illustrating the unreachable wealth of their owners. The question, however, remains to what extent can we regard these depicted textiles as the visuals documenting the then era.
Bridge and toll-house across the river Váh in Sereď
The toll house and bridge in Sereď (originally built in Šintava) were part of the town’s history since medieval times. The toll was levied between Sereď and Šintava before the origin of the Hungarian Kingdom. It was used to maintain the wooden bridge across the river Váh, which was one of the largest constructions of its kind in our territory and its annual up-keep was very expensive. Maintained by the landlords from Sereď, the bridge not only guaranteed safe crossing for salesmen and tradesmen through Slovakia’s largest river, but also helped to boost the economic prosperity of the town and its citizens.
The written records of the toll collection in Sereď, which are preserved in the agenda of the Nitra county, explain the local right to levy a toll since the second half of the 18th century. They help to examine the economic advantage of this kind of business for the Sereď estate and its lords. The author of the article also describes the construction of the toll bridge, its maintenance and toll fees, which have not yet been researched in Slovakia.
The right to levy tolls (ius telonii) on bridges and roads, was one of the “smaller” regal rights of Hungarian kings and its existence is documented from the last third of the 11th century. The toll money was used for maintaining the good condition of public roads and bridges. Part of the income was used as a retirement payment for the keepers and as a financial compensation for building bridges in complicated places.
The toll collection in the town of Sereď was necessary for maintaining the crossing place and wooden bridge across the river Váh, as this was situated on a strategic business place, on the border of the Bratislava and Nitra counties, where the so-called Czech Route crossed and connected Buda with Moravia and the Czech Republic. The river crossing, toll house and bridge across Váh was first related to the water castle of Šintava, the residence of the county administrator. The original toll crossing over Váh, between Šintava and Sereď was located north from today’s Sereď bridge, at the eastern side of today’s manor house (the part of town called Old Bridge). In between the 12th and 14th centuries, due to the change in the river Váh’s course, the Šintava castle and toll house appeared on the Bratislava side of Sereď. The importance of the river crossing and toll house in Sereď increased as it became a crossing point and market place.
Earlier, the toll between Šintava and Sereď was collected on a maintained river crossing. In the Middle Ages, the transit through this place was improved by a wooden bridge, which became known as the Sereď bridge, since the 15th century. The first written record about the wooden toll bridge is in the income register of Šintava castle from 1508. Since the end of the 17th century, several records about the toll and bridge in Sereď can be found mainly in the documents of the Nitra and Bratislava counties. The Sereď bridge was destroyed by ice blocks on the river Váh in the 1740s and a raft ferry was used to help the transition across the river. A substantial part of the written evidence about the Sereď toll in the Nitra county agenda comes from 1797 and 1823. The last preserved document about the Sereď toll is the toll panel from 1851.
Milan Thurzo – Pavol Jančovič
Concealed stone monuments of Horná Mlynská dolina in Bratislava
Mlynská dolina (literally Mill Valley) used to be a favourite relaxation destination for the Bratislava citizens at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. While the southern part of Mlynská dolina almost succumbed to the technical and constructional adjustments of the modern era, its northern part that runs from Červený most (Red Bridge) to the buses’ turning point at Železná studnička (Little Iron Well) has preserved some of its natural beauty and rare technical monuments up to this date. Also known as Horná Mlynská dolina (Upper Mill Valley) and unofficially as Vydrická dolina (Vydrica Valley), it is still home to mill-wheel water race-ways, ponds and two reconstructed mills – the eight (Klepáč) and ninth.
In many places of the valley one can find preserved stone monuments of old Bratislava (before Pressburg, Pozsony), either boundary stones or old milestones While the milestones near roads have been a common part of communications from long ago, the boundary stones were only installed in designated places. They were mostly made of “Bratislava granite” – granodiorite.
The author of the article describes individual boundary stones and milestones preserved in Horná Mlynská dolina, which used to be the border between Bratislava and the neighbouring, originally separate municipality of Lamač, which is now a city part of Bratislava. The boundary stones with the symbol of the town or initials SP (Stadt Pressburg, which meant City of Bratislava in German), did not only mark the Bratislava frontiers but also divided the city forests from private locations near the Vydrica stream. These sites in the valley were numbered from north to south.
Three examples of the so-called boundary marks with the date of 1833 were preserved that determined the neighbouring town and private areas. Non-typical are the two three-boundary stones between Bratislava, Lamač and Záhorská Bystrica with the mark G, possibly suggesting German terms Gemarkung, Gemarkungsgrenze, Grenze, Grenzstein (boundary stone) or even Gespanschaft (county). Also interesting are the two types of milestones, smaller rounded ones and larger square ones. Only a few larger square milestones were preserved in their original places. Some of the discarded milestones can be found in the Vydrica stream.
Katarína Nádaská – Kristína Zvedelová
Synagogue at Zvonárska Street in Košice
The new synagogue was built at the place of an older sacral structure from the 1840s, when more space became available after demolishing the town walls. The Jewish orthodox community, which concentrated around Zvonárska Street, decided to build the new synagogue in 1883 as the membership increased. The reason behind that could also have been that the original sacral building was destroyed by fire on the 13th of May 1883. Architects Ján Molnár and Jozef Novák designed the construction plans. They show the synagogue as a rectangular building, with a longer façade facing the street and built according to orthodox regulations.
The constructional development of the synagogue culminated at the end of the 19th century, when the building received its current look. Ján Balogh is the architect of the construction plans from 1899. The city council granted a building permit to the orthodox Jewish community on the 27th of January 1900. The main orthodox rabbi Šimon Scharman wrote to the city council on the 24th of August 1900 to inform them about the synagogue completion and asked for the final approval of its usage. The newly-built orthodox synagogue is a rectangular building with the entry from the western façade that vertically faces Zvonárska Street. The building’s facades in an eclectic style encompass a rectangular hall with a gallery on three sides. The existing architectural details reveal the producer of the cast-iron columns, as they bear the name of the Hungarian foundry HISNYOVIZ from Chyžnianska Voda. The maker of the tiles can also be identified. It is the Košice ceramic factory, run by the Upper Hungarian stockholder building company in Košice.
Apart from the window and door panels, other accessories that have been preserved from the original interior up until today include the balustrade of matroneum and Aron-Ha-Kodesh receptacle, based on which we can assume the central positioning of almemor, the platform from where the Torah was read. Fragments of painting, with dominant geometric-vegetative motifs have been preserved from the primary construction phase. The synagogue had gone through the growth of the community up to the disturbing war and post-war period. It was used as a book store during the communist era. In 1981 it was declared a cultural monument. It has been undergoing renovation since the 1990s and occasionally hosts cultural events.
Monuments of wooden architecture in Tatranská Javorina
The municipality of Tatranská Javorina is situated at the foot of the Belianske Tatras mountains, at the beginning of the Javorová valley, near the Polish border. The historical built-up area compiles bungalow log houses of workers, arranged alongside the road. The three monuments that are considered the architectural dominants of this forest municipalty include the hunting lodge, church and to a certain extent the former headquarters building, all of which relate to the German magnate, Prince Christian Kraft of Hohenlohe-Oehringen, Duke of Ujest (1848 Öhringen – 1926 Somogyszob).
Prince of Hohenlohe was the third most wealthy aristocrat in Prussia. He became rich with the development of the mining industry in Upper Silesia, as a follower of his dad’s mining business. He was also politically active. He was a member of the Imperial Council. Apart from his political and business activies, he also had a few hobbies.
At the end of 1879 he bought the Tatranská Javorina and Lendak estates from Aladár Salamon (1839 – 1910), spreading over 11,945.5 hectares. He invested enormous finances into the modernisation and equipment of this vast forest property. Apart from his own area, which also encompassed the Bielovodská and Javorová valleys, he also rented several surrounding hunter’s grounds. Gradually, he had built up a large game park, where he raised the original breeds and also attempted, though less sucessfully, at introducing exotic game.
Tatranská Javorina was the headquarters of his properties in then Hungary. He started his construction activities in the High Tatras in 1883, by building houses for his workers and his own residence. Vienese architect Jean Leyendecker (1846 – ?) designed his hunting lodge and Ján Lipták (1843 – 1899) from Poprad-Veľká built it in cooperation with the Czech architect Karl Líman. The complete interior furniture was supplied by the imperial-royal court’s upholstery maker Franz Iwinger from Vienna. The expensive building was ceremoniously completed on the 20th of July 1885. The hunting lodge became the place of grandious game hunting and meetings of prominent members of the high European aristocracy.
Another significan investmen of Prince of Hohenlohe was the construction of the new church. Even though he himself was an evangelist, as the owner of the municipality and patron of the church he built the Roman-Catholic Church of St. Anna on the gentle slope above the road leading to the nearby lodge. The church replaced the chapel from 1795 with the same patronage. In 1900 Prince of Hohenlohe asked the Poprad builder Ján Bliszner (1850 – 1916) to construct the church in Tatranská Javorina. However, because he was not happy with the original project, Prince of Hohenlohe then approached another, local architect Karel Klimm (originally from Wroclaw, 1856 – 1924), who amended it to the required Swedish style. Peter Meyer from Poprad-Veľká created the altar. Pavol Schwing from Kežmarok supplied the tower clock. The bells were cast at Fridrich Hönig’s workshop in Arad. Karl Rockbeck from Vienna made the window panels and the Viennese company Zambach & Müller, Atelier für Kirchen Paramente delivered the liturgical items. The church was ceremoniously sanctified on the 24th of August 1903.
The third significant building of Prince of Hohenlohe in Tatranská Javorina was the headquarters building of the noble properties. The building commenced in 1908 and most probably was completed and began to be used the following year.
The story of the monument of Svetozár Hurban Vajanský
It was practically impossible during the Austria-Hungary existence to publically pay respect to a member of the Slovak national movement with a sculpture, monument or naming a street after him. This situation changed after 1918, when the new state of the Czechoslovak Republic was established. Monuments were one of the instruments that helped to form the new collective memory. The newly revived institute of Slovak cultural heritage, Matica slovenská, actively joined this transportation of public life and began to install sculptures and memorial panels commemorating the “famous Slovaks”.
The writer and politician Svetozár Hurban Vajanský (1847 – 1916) had during his lifetime been a recognised personality, mainly in Martin, which was the centre of the Slovak national movement. The intention to erect a monument dedicated to him came soon after his death, but the Matica committee only approved the proposal at the start of 1923. They asked the Czech sculptor František Úprka to create a grave monument in the National Cemetery in Martin. A year later, the Matica committee decided on the sculpture that was to be installed on the poet’s grave. The sculptor Úprka intended to prepare quite a monumental gravestone. Since the family of Vajanský did not agree to erect the sculpture at his grave, Matica had to look for another suitable place. The large area in front of the second building of Matica slovenská not only offered enough space for the sculpture but also for public and mass meetings. The ceremonious unveiling of the monument took place on the 29th of August 1926, as part of the Slovak National Festivities.
The architects and artists who mainly criticized the institution’s new building also directed their attention to the Vajanský sculpture. With the approval of the Matica committee, it was moved: first it adorned the new building of the institute and then, in the 1960s, it was transferred to the back yard of Matica’s first building, where it has remained until now, concealed from the public eye, despite being only several metres away from the large square named after Svetozár Hurban Vajanský.
Tracing the Upper-Hron iron moulders
Metallurgic traditions of the ironworks in the Upper-Hron region go back to 1840. Several traces of this manufacture can be found along the upper part of the river Hron, in the names of the places, as well as preserved monuments.
The 1890 Roman-Catholic Church of St. Stephen the King in Podbrezová manifests the application of ironwork on sacral interior solitaires and decorative elements. Many of them were made in the Hronec iron foundry. They include parts of banisters and consoles, galleries, caps of columns, but mainly the main altar of St. Stephen the King made of pressed and shaped iron-sheet decorated with cast-iron embellishments. The local experts also casted the three original bells in the church. Similar traces of iron moulders can be found in nearby churches in Lopej, Valaská and Beňuša. Clear signatures were also left on decorative and functional details of small sacral and secular buildings in the wider area (e.g. ornamental detail on St. Philip’s Church in Pohorelská Maša, belfry in Pohronská Polhora and Vaľkovňa, cast-iron crosses near roads).
The Calvary in Hronec has a cast-iron cross with the corpus of the crucified Christ, from 1845. A cast-iron pavilion was later added there. Today, we can only see its 1996 reconstruction, because the original pavilion was destroyed by a wind storm. In the place of the first Hronec iron works stands a renovated belfry from 1835 with the bell from 1850 casted by Banská Bystrica bell maker Adalbert Littman. The Hronec iron workers were the first to cast bridges in former Hungary. This is manifested by the arched construction of the cast-iron bridge from 1810 that is now exhibited as a monument in front of the current building of the iron foundry.
Continuing in the traces of the Upper-Hron iron moulders we can also see commemorations of the founders of iron factories – a cast-iron obelisk is a symbol of a prosperous company in Bujakovo near Brezno. The text on the pedestal honours its owners P. Würsching and A. E. Prihradný, and manager G. Kellner. Since 1841 the cast-iron pavilion in Pohorelská Maša commemorates the memory of Ferdinand Coburg, the founder of a private iron-making complex prospering in the 19th century in the Upper Hron region.
More monuments relate to the Upper-Hron iron moulders in the places of former iron-works and the larger area. These mainly include cast-iron grave-panels, crosses and fences of burial places on local cemeteries. The workmanship of moulders is best represented on the cemetery in Pohronská Polhora, which was added to the Central Register of Monument Fund in Slovakia in 1999.
The Upper-Hron Museum in Brezno has been collecting cast-iron items for more than 30 years. It has acquired around 300 items. Their variety, state of preservation and aesthetic value make it a unique collecting set of its kind in Slovakia.
Daniel Hupko – Ivana Janáčková
Wedding portrait of Natalia Vogel of Friesenhof rediscovered
The collections of many Slovak museums still contain a large number of portraits of unknown people. This is mainly due to the events that accompanied the transfer of aristocratic property into state ownership after the Second World War. The National Cultural Commission for Slovakia took the buildings of former noble residences with their interior furniture under its administration. Despite its undisputable help in rescuing these items, the negative aspect of its activities was the inconsistent evidence of the acquired items, which so often fell into oblivion.
This meant that the portraits that were thus recorded as anonymous, had their educational and information value depreciated. The identification of a portrayed person is a very long process and not always successful. Luckily, they celebrated a triumph in the Slovak National Museum-Museum of Červený Kameň in Častá, when detecting the portrait of Baroness Natalia Vogel of Friesenhof (1854 – 1937). This oil painting, catalogued in 1983 as the Portrait of a Bride, pictures a young female in long white wedding dress with train and veil, standing inside the (neo)gothic church. The portrait came to the museum’s collections along with other items from the Town National Council of Partizánske in 1975. These items used to belong to the gothic-renaissance house in Šimonovany (which can be found today in the historical part of the town of Partizánske). Originally, the portrait was part of the picture gallery of the yeoman family of Simonyi de Simony et Vársány, who owned this aristocratic residence.
A coincidence helped the identification of the portrayed woman. During the visit at the Slovak National Library-Slavic Museum of A. S. Puškin in Brodzany in summer of 2010, the co-author of this article noticed the image of Baroness Natalia Vogel of Friesenhof as a bride on the wall of one of the salons. This half-portrait helped to unambiguously identify the unknown bride from the museum’s collections at Červený Kameň with Baroness Natalia.
The authors of the article describe the origin of the Natalia’s portrait, which was most probably painted from a photograph, as well as the place where the wedding took place (Church of St. Trinity in Vienna in 1876). They also state the family genealogy. What remains missing is the identification of the yet unknown painter of the portrait.
Jozef Múdry – Peter Szalay
Green Frog swimming pool in Trenčianske Teplice
One of the most significant monuments of functionalist style in Slovakia, the Green Frog swimming pool, was reopened last summer after 15 years of deterioration. The public enthusiastically welcomed the colossal renovation of the summer pool, however, the experts expressed their doubts. The authors of the article helped with the research and methodical coordination of the renovation and therefore prepared a document describing the restoration process, which was a result of a complicated dialogue between conservationists and the pool’s owners.
The Green Frog swimming pool in Trenčianske Teplice was closed in 2000, because of a crack in the pool. Despite the efforts of the Regional Monuments Board in Trenčín, the then owner did not repair it and the years of neglect only worsened the construction-technical condition of the area. The new owner began to work on its reconstruction in 2009 – 2010. Prior to that an inventory control was carried out to record valued architectural details. The project for the construction permit included a condition stated by the conservationists to preserve as many original elements as possible. However, the realisation project from 2013 led to a large dispute, as it proposed replacement of the original windows, doors, balustrades and flooring. Taking into account the planned deadline of July 2015 for completion of this project financed through EU funds, the renovation started in October 2014 after a considerate concession from the conservationists, but with the condition that the project would be approved in phases during the construction work.
The negative aspect of the renovation was the large reduction in original architectural-constructional and artistic-technical elements. This was due to the natural aging of materials beyond their lifespans as well as the change in the pool’s original function from summer to all-year attraction. This transformation was pushed through by the investor. The positive trait is the preservation of the original function of the monument’s are: the main and children’s pool, outdoor changing rooms and social facilities, including the keeping of the wine-room in the basement and the restaurant with a café on the third floor. The overall panorama of the area set into the natural environment was similarly untouched. The renovation also succeeded in revealing the original coloured composition of the swimming pool’s surfaces, which were designed by architect Bohuslav Fuchs in the style of the period’s modern theories.
Waterman’s club Tatran– shipyard in Bratislava
The Waterman’s club Tatran Karlova Ves can be found in Bratislava’s city part of Karlova Ves, in the place where the Karloveská inlet flows back into the main course of the Danube river. The club’s area with the dominant shipyard building spreads over the tip of the embankment, between the inlet and the Botanic Garden of the Comenius University. The shipyard is complete with a keeper’s house, small “senior” club room and former bowling rink with a sauna.
The shipyard was mostly built by the club’s members, following the project of architect Eduard Mikulík. It was ceremoniously open on the 24th of August 1935 and declared a national cultural monument in 2007. The architecture of the wooden shipyard building followed the then principles of functionalism – it suggests a deck of a historical sea ship with utilitarian disposition. It has a rectangular shape of 36m x 10m and a pitched roof, which extends at the west above the balcony and patio. The patio can be accessed by an outdoor open staircase from the north.
The shipyard has clearly defined functional zones. At the ground-floor of the building, as if in the ship’s hull, is the stockroom for kayaks and canoes called the “hangar”. Upstairs holds the changing rooms with 200 cubicles for men and women. The social club room with the access to the large patio is closed with the western façade. The eastern side houses a ground-floor workshop with a single-pitched roof. The downstairs and upstairs are joined through an inner staircase.
The building of the shipyard is built of pine wood and stands on a foundation of concrete strips. The supportive framework is built of wooden columns and crossbeams. Horizontal slats coat the building in the style of a board flooring, without any other thermal insulation layers. The yellow colour is characteristic of the oiled wood coating, with features highlighted in a contrasting red colour. The simple interior design is in the changing rooms enriched with original inbuilt compact cubicles. The hygiene facilities (toilet, showers, sauna and emergency changing rooms) are situated in the nearby former bowling rink, which was originally built as an additional function of the shipyard.
The shipyard was hit by floods in 1954, 1965 and 2002. The waterman’s club was trying to secure money for its reconstruction since 2010. The works, along with research, finally started in 2014, after the last flood in 2013. The Slovak Culture Ministry awarded the renovators with the Phoenix – Monument of the Year 2014 award in December 2015.
Memory of Bratislava city as a complex memory portal
When the digitalisation era started and the databases of individual memory institutions and resort databases were created, the idea emerged to build a joint database for museums, archives, galleries and libraries. This process still involves only a small number of experts from universities and academies and no private collectors and public. The users of the memory portals at the same time not only have their own ideas, but also acquire a large volume of memory units.
In the attempt to try a more open conception, an idea of a complex memory portal was created, where the user is not primarily interested in where the memory unit is stored, but looks for the most complex information about his/her interest. The prepared Bratislava portal PamMap that is running as a pilot project, does not only contain digitizers with metadata (the principle of database) but also short technical texts (the principle of an encyclopaedia). The portal is dedicated to all types of historical sources and the digitizers are GIS-oriented, which means the user can see on the map where the memory unit is stored. Apart from the state, or public institutions, an individual can also join in with 20 photographs or one document.
The complex memory portal Memory of Bratislava City (PamMap) is a side product of the series of book monographs entitled Bratislava History 1 – 5. When acquiring the image material, the main editor and author of this article, realised that the books can only hold a fraction of the collected material. He therefore started working on the idea of PamMap, with the initial working title Genius loci. Thanks to the Bratislava Community Foundation, the project received the finances needed to start and in August 2015, began to run as a test on www.pammap.sk.