Finding of the medieval fresco in St. Emeramus Cathedral in Nitra
The dominant feature of the Nitra town, has for centuries been the Nitra Castle, the history of which has been closely connected with the existence of the Nitra bishopric since the 11th century. The part of the castle complex is the Cathedral of St. Emeramus, which consists of three interconnected buildings – the so-called Upper Church, Lower Church and St. Emeramus Chapel. The cathedral’s continual construction development of almost eight centuries was completed in the middle of the 18th century with a richly decorated baroque reconstruction, which covered the older developmental layers.
The baroque decoration of the Upper and Lower churches has for six years, been the subject of one of the largest restoration projects that have recently taken place in Slovakia. The final restoration works, currently taking place in the Lower Church’s interior, will complete the entire renovation project. The restoration revealed a remarkable discovery of medieval wall paintings of the Lower Church, which were covered by newer historical layers. A medieval fresco, Deposition from the Cross, from 1662 (described in Monuments and Museums No. 4/2012), was identified underneath the early-baroque stone altar. Thematically as well as formally, the Nitra fresco is one of the most valuable medieval monumental works in a transalpine region. It is the work of a painter representing the fresco production of the Italian Trecento.
The intention of the monument’s administrator, the Roman-Catholic church – Nitra Bishopric, is to present this rare finding within the overall renovation of the Cathedral, as an inseparable part of architecture in its original place and to move the altar Deposition from the Cross to an alternative place.
Jewish Community Museum in Bratislava
The Jewish Community Museum is the result of the long-term politics of Bratislava’s Jewish religious community for preserving its rare monuments. The first project was the construction of the Chatam Sofer Memorial, completed in 2002. The gradual renovation of the synagogue at Heydukova Street and ceremonial hall at the New Orthodox cemetery started in 2006. In 2008, the community took care of Eugen Bárkány’s collection of judaics. The Jewish Community Museum, which represents rich cultural heritage of Bratislava Jews, is the teamwork of collection curator Jana Švantnerová, photo-documentarist Viera Kamenická and project leader Maroš Borský.
The first phase of the project (2008 – 2009), saw the documentation and registration of one thousand, one hundred and twenty two collection items, as well as professional treatment of the most endangered pieces. The second phase of the project (2010) focussed on the detailed research of the collection items and preparation of a curator’s concept of the future museum. It was at that time, when architect Martin Lepej joined the team. He designed the exhibition rooms, graphic identity of the exposition, and visuals of the web page and publications.
The constructional and technical adjustments of the museum’s future exhibition rooms took place in 2011. This part of the synagogue had not been used for a long time, it was a women’s gallery with an adjacent staircase, which served as a storeroom for old furniture and books. The renovation of these rooms was completed at the end of 2011 and in the spring of 2012 they installed exhibition showcases and panels, illumination and other necessary technical equipment for the exposition. The central part of the museum’s exposition is the permanent exhibition entitled Jews in Bratislava and Their Cultural Heritage, which is installed in the main hall.
Mednyánszky from the collection of Dr. Leo Ringwald
The exhibition Mednyánszky | From the Collection of Dr. Leo Ringwald, which took place from 3 May to 1 June 2012, in the exhibition rooms of the SOGA auction house in Bratislava, had literally became the cultural event of the year. Symbolically, as well as realistically, it brought back to Slovakia, quite a large collection of over 140 works by Ladislav (or László, in Hungarian) Mednyánszky (1852 – 1919), which until recently were thought to be lost. The oil paintings, aquarelles and drawings, were originally privately owned by the lawyer Leopold Ringwald and by a coincidence of his life journeys and historical factors they found themselves abroad.
The collection originated in Slovakia, in the town of Trenčín, where it remained until 1939. Doctor Leopold Ringwald (1888 – 1968) was Mednyánszky’s lawyer and a respectable art collector. Fearing the fascism and racial pursuit, he emigrated to Great Britain with his family in 1939, carrying with him a large part of his collection. He took the works abroad officially, with the approval of the Monuments Preservation Department in Slovakia.
The interest of Slovak theorists and art historians in Ladislav Mednyánszky goes back to the 1950s, however, the presentation of Ringwald’s collection could only be accomplished after another half-century. It was not until Ringwald’s heirs offered part of the collection for sale at the Dreweatt’s auction house in Donnington in 2009, that Hungarian art dealers managed to buy it, and then the representatives of the Bratislava’s SOGA auction house focussed all their negotiating efforts on gathering the works already partially dispersed to other private owners and displaying them for the first time in Slovakia.
Kuffner’s commercial complex
A group of amateur enthusiasts in Sládkovičovo (Diószeg until 1947) have been working for years on preserving the most significant buildings of the local sugar-mill, founded by Baron Karl Kuffner de Diószegh in 1867. They also asked conservationists to join them in their activities as their aim is to enlist the Kuffner’s commercial complex in the Central Register of the Monuments Fund. Considering that devastation and demolition of buildings goes faster than the process of state registration of monuments, the experts suggested they add this unique set of industrial buildings to the list of Sládkovičovo monuments in 2006. The representatives of the local council, however, have not yet agreed to this proposal. In 2012, the Slovak Ministry of Culture accepted a repeatedly submitted request, for a grant from the programme Let’s Renovate Our House.
In the first phase of the project, a wider team of historians was formed, including Peter Buday, Monika Chalmovská, Petra Kalová, Naďa Kirinovičová, Alžbeta Rössnerová, Róbert Sekula, Eva Sudová, Lóránt Talamon and Jana Váňová. They picked out 57 buildings of the Kuffner’s commercial complex worth salvation. Several buildings were surveyed and technical documentation and maps of individual building phases of the sugar-mill were made. The commercial as well as accommodation buildings with adjacent additions were divided into five groups based on how well the buildings were preserved. Unfortunately, the well-kept or professionally reconstructed ones, such as the sugar-mill’s administrative building, Small Manor House, Pfeffer Villa and church, represented the lowest number. The most devastated was the workers’ colony, which in the 1990s was still decorated with flower gardens of the sugar-mills’ workers.
The historians collected 34 entries about the most interesting buildings of the Kuffner’s commercial complex, including production facilities of the sugar-mill, cannery and cold-storage room, machinery workshop, storage of spare parts, granary, garages, water management, infrastructure, administrative building, Casino, gate-house and accommodation facilities – apartment house, director’s villa (so-called Small Manor House), Pfeffer Villa, Wollner House, Doctor Pongrácz House and Pharmacist House. A separate group encompassed the workers’ colony and workers’ hotel, mills (Maria mill), apartment house near Maria mill, steam mill and water mill (a small hydroelectric power plant). The wider area of the complex also included buildings in the town – manor house estate, mausoleum, park of the manor house, granary in the park, Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, Column of the Most Holy Trinity, Roman-Catholic elementary school, nursery, First World War memorial and Jewish cemetery.
The result of this phase of the project is the publication, Kuffner’s Commercial Complex (176 pages, with over 300 pictures, 2012) and travelling panel exhibition. And at the moment culminates the preparation of proposals for declaring the most valuable buildings national cultural monuments.
Wall paintings in the presbytery of St. Jacob’s Cathedral in Levoča
The restoration of wall paintings and stone features inside the presbytery of St. Jacob’s Cathedral in Levoča was completed in 2012. The Regional Restoration Studio in Levoča worked on it for three seasons from 2010. This challenging restoration project represents quality advancement in the evaluation of the wall paintings. They are painted in several bands and date to the middle of the 14th century. In 1889 – 1890, Franz Storno renovated them by completely repainting them and adding new images. During the restoration of the main altar in 1952 – 1954, the Kotrba brothers uncovered the original painting of stone articles of the sanctuary and vault.
Apart from preserving the historical work, the restoration mainly helped in specifying the iconography of the depicted saints and scenes known until recently. It also impressed by uncovering and presenting older gothic layers, in a minimal scale, underneath the secondary painting from the end of the 19th century. Restorer Peter Hric led the team of workers of the Regional Restoration Studio in Levoča on this challenging task. They restored the wall paintings covering the whole enclosure of the presbytery, including the vault and stone architectural and decorative features with the tower tabernacle.
The first phase (2010) consisted of surface cleaning, the removal of secondary retouches, agglutination of damaged places and cleaning of figural decoration on the wall paintings. It was important to preserve the primary coloured layer. The second phase of the works (2011) focussed on unifying the presbytery colours. They removed the Storno’s re-paints on the presbytery’s northern wall and reconstructed the vault’s ribs based on the found fragments.
The third phase (2012) completed the removal of re-paints to the oldest gothic layer at the south-eastern wall, which presents a scene from the Moon Works cycle. It also corrected the faulty Storno’s re-painting of apostles, by which he disturbed the rhythm of arranging the figures during his renovation process. The renovation of the wall paintings restored the authenticity of selected parts in individual scenes and improved the legibility of the whole work. The Expertise Section of Creative and Artistic-Technical Monuments of Slovakia’s Monuments Board decided to present the paintings with some of the interventions and additions from the end of the 19th century.
Painting decoration of garden pavilion in Trnava
The national cultural monument at 5 Kalinčiakova Street in Trnava, also known as Spiegelsaal, is one of the few buildings preserved outside the medieval town centre that were erected before the 19th century. It was built by a nobleman and businessman of Croatian origin, Jozef Skolonič, who settled in the village of Vydrany, and centralised his business activities in Trnava during the last decades of the 18th century. He moved to Trnava in 1789, after he bought a farmstead with garden, near a Franciscan church, behind the western fortification, from the Bishop and Canon Imrich Okoličáni. Skolonič later enlarged this residential-farm area with a smaller but richly decorated building.
The classicistic garden pavilion was first mentioned in 1791 as an unfinished construction. It was completed the year after, as states the dating above the main entrance. During the course of the 19th century, the area had several owners. Since 1875, for almost seventy years, it was in the hands of the Krausz family. In 1942, Otto Krausz sold it to Jozef Hulík, whose intention was to knock the whole area down and build a factory for producing smoked meat. The District Office, however, directed him to repair the residential part with the old tower, the so-called Spiegelsaal, in the rear part of the site. Thanks to this, the unique building remained standing up to this date; despite it being used as storage and left to deteriorate since the second half of the 20th century.
The renovation of the pavilion was discussed in 1979, after the geodetic survey was carried out and photo-documentation collected for the monument restoration. By the end of the 1980s the roof was repaired and the building insulated. The works were brought to a halt by the property restitution and disinterest of the owners to invest in the building. The rescue arrived with new owners, who started the exterior renovation in 2006. After assessing the existence and scale of the preserved classicistic painting decoration in the interior, they initiated the restoration of the painting in 2012. The work of an educated, but unidentified painter depicts an illusionary wooden garden architecture, a garden house, which has no known analogy in Slovakia. The work was restored by Peter Koreň, Martin Vojtko and Juraj Gregorek. The restoration of this typologically unique small building from the end of the 18th century, co-financed by the Trnava town, is part of the overall monument renovation of the area that is to be completed in 2013.
The series of documentary films, Celluloid Country, was made in a coproduction of private company Punkchart films, Slovak Radio and Television, and Slovak Film Institute. Directed by Marek Šulík and Ivan Ostrochovský, it was broadcast on the Slovak Television in 2012 – 2013. It maps the history of documentary film in the current territory and context of Slovakia, in nine episodes. The series shows a concept of audio-visual recollection, in which, through the portrait of documentary film, one can see the “face of the country”. It tries to interpret the late and ambiguous beginning of the Slovak cinema, which originated on the background of two totalitarian regimes and has carried this legacy up to this date.
Epitaph of the Spilenbergers
The East-Slovak Museum in Košice was founded in 1872 and is the second oldest museum in Slovakia. Some of the collection items of this museum cross the region’s borders with their artistic, documentation and historic values. This is also the case of the painted sheet-metal epitaph from 1656, which is part of the Century in Art exposition. The museum acquired it from the Roman-Catholic parish office of St. Elizabeth’s Cathedral prior to 1920, which suggests that the epitaph was originally located in that church. In the time of its origin, the cathedral belonged to the Evangelists and the Catholics only received it back during the re-Catholicisation in 1671.
The epitaph was probably stored in the basement of the parish church. The museum received it in a very bad condition; it was practically illegible. The item was neither registered, nor closely described in older accession books. It was kept among the non-identified items until 1996, with the evidence number S 1757. This year, however, the museum managed to find money in its budget for its restoration and thus its new story began.
An epitaph is more or less just a memorial text, but it can also be an artwork. Along with the memorials and tombstones, posthumous portraits and procession flags, it belongs to the group of so-called mortuaries. The difference between a tombstone and epitaph is mainly in the fact that the tombstones were always located primarily on the crypts and graves, while the epitaphs served as a memento of respect to the deceased ones in churches, sometimes even far away from the actual burial place. Some, like in this case, could have even been dedicated to the remembrance of several deceased people. They used to have various forms, ranging from a simple cartouche with texts, through pictures with biblical scenes, to complex architectural works, reminiscent of altars with rich woodcarving and painting decoration. They all had dedication texts as well.
The central motif of this epitaph is the Crucifixion with the Virgin Mary, St. John, and a third figure at the background, which might be Maria Magdalena. The work documents partially completes the fate of the large family of Spilenberger (or Spillenberger, Spillenberg, Spilburger). The collection item had been until recently, wrongly registered as the epitaph of Samuel Spillenberg, because that was the only name, which was kind of legible, with the dating of 1659. The reconstructed translation of the dedication text says that the epitaph was created “in the name” of Doctor Samuel Spilenberger Sr. (1572 – 1654, who was born, lived and died in Levoča), in memory of his five dead children. It was made “in his name” because in 1656, the correct year on the epitaph, he was already dead for two years. It is his older son Samuel, who was still alive at that time, who is attributed for the production of this work. The author of the article describes the fates of the individual members of the family in the 17th century.
Cathedral Church of Košice Greek Catholics
Difficult times of struggle for the existence of their own church community, preceded the origin of the Greek-Catholic parish in Košice. The local Roman-Catholic priest took care of the Greek Catholics in the 18th century, who later, thanks to the growing number of believers, joined the administration of the Greek-Catholic parish in Zdoba. A Greek-Catholic vicarage originated in Košice in 1787, but after several years was moved to Prešov, due to a low number of believers. In 1797, the Mukachevo bishopric promoted the Košice branch to an independent parish, but several years later, the first Košice parish was rejoined with the parish in Zdoba. This was to be the case until the Greek Catholics living in Košice took care of administrating the needed church, parish building and wage of the cleric themselves. Zdoba as well as the Košice branch were under the auspices of the Prešov bishopric until the second half of the 19th century.
The first independent Greek-Catholic chaplain of the Košice church community, Michal Mihalits (1813 – 1889), built a chaplain’s house, on 15 August 1851. The proper parish was built in 1871, when Matej Bräuer became the first Košice priest. The priest who came in 1879, Július Viszlóczky (1832 – 1907), initiated the origin of the new church. Mikuláš Csoma (1863 – 1922) continued in the work of his predecessor until 1922. Then, the priest Pavol Rokiczky (1892 – 1952) took the post. During his time, the central political authority in Czechoslovakia officially abolished the Greek-Catholic church and handed the parish, along with the church, over to the Orthodox church.
The construction of the Greek-Catholic church started in 1882. The land was purchased from the Košice stonemason and master builder Andrej Kriszt in 1851. It originally lay behind the town’s wall, where the water moat used to be. The plan of the double-tower church was designed by the constructor Viliam Kolatsek and was built together with Ľudovít Schmidt. The shortage of finances meant that the cathedral was built in 1886 but without the upper parts, it lacked the towers with bells. Count Dionýz Andrássy donated a significant amount of money to complete the towers in 1895 and 1896. Two years later, the parish installed three new bells in them. However, the church lacked the important and typical part of the Byzantine church interior – iconostas. The parish asked the local sculptor Juraj Urr, who also built the new ambo, to do the job. The twenty-eight icons on the iconostas were purchased from the Dymet and Urban company in Lviv (Ukraine). V. Mihályi painted the four fundamental images of the iconostas. Jozef Király painted the inner walls of the church in the Byzantine and Neo-Romanesque style, in which the entire church was also built. The church, which is forty-four metres long, twelve metres wide and seventeen metres high, was completed in January 1902. In the 1980s and 1990s, the entire interior as well as the exterior underwent reconstruction. Currently, it is a listed building used for liturgical purposes. In 1997, the Košice Greek-Catholic Church of Birth of the Holy Mother of God was promoted to a cathedral, since it became the seat of the exarch and later eparch (bishop).
Historicism in Košice and house of Michal Répászky
Historicism in the second half of the 19th century and its various architectural forms are an inseparable part of the architectural monuments preserved in the City Monument Reservation of Košice. This rich architectural layer, however, is still an “unknown” value not only in Košice, but also in Slovakia. The house of the architect and constructor Michal Répászky at Štúrova Street, which in Košice architecture completes the development at the end of the 19th century and opens the 20th century, portrays the late historicism.
Košice underwent rapid change in the second half of the 19th century in several aspects. The increase in industrial production, the opening of a railway in 1860 and the overall economic development of the city were accompanied with significant construction changes. The typical feature of Central-European towns, which invited progress, was the abolition of town walls and the use of the free space for new building activity in a wide spectrum of architectural styles of the 19th century. In Košice, the process of gradual abolition of three rings of walls from medieval to baroque period took half a century, running intensively from the beginning of the 19th to the middle of the 20th century.
The local as well as foreign architects created a modern, up-to-date functioning urbanism of a typical Central-European city with a re-modelled medieval centre, enclosed by a ring of 19th century buildings, which included city “palaces” such as tenement houses and monumental public buildings of a theatre, museum, military headquarters, schools, spas and purpose-built complexes of barracks.
The creator of historicist architecture Michal Répászky (1834 – 1909) with his building company, significantly participated in this rebirth of Košice. His son Július Répászky (1870 – 1925) later followed in his activity. Among other works, the Répászky company took part in building the Košice museum, theatre, court and pretentious city house, the so-called Andrássy Palace at 81 Hlavná.
The architect’s house, built between two Košice streets of Štúrova and Grešákova, originated in 1901 – 1903, as part of the gradual building in the former southern suburb of Košice. The free site neighboured the land purchased by the Jewish community, who gradually built three synagogues there. The historic photograph calls the house Répászky-palota, and shows the building as a solitaire, even though its smooth gable walls suggest the preparation for accepting the neighbouring buildings. Two house typologies meet in the Répászky palace, the city house and villa, which was typical for historicism. The fact that Michal Répászky is the designer of his own house, is questioned by the rumour that runs in the family, according to which, his son, Július (Gyula) Répászky built the house as a gift to his father. The lately identified projects from the family inheritance do not support either of the versions, as they are not signed. The later, purpose-built addition to the eastern wall of the house is undoubtedly the work of the son. It was mainly built for the practical reasons of running the household.
Viera Kladeková – Kamil Alezár – Radoslav Mokriš
Barracks – Kulturpark
In the second half of the 19th century, Košice strengthened its strategic geopolitical significance not only as an administrative but also mainly as a military centre. It followed the tradition, which originated in the 16-17th century, when it was an important centre of Upper Hungary, forming the anti-Turkish defensive line of the Habsburgs. Several grand-scale barrack complexes built in the Košice territory influenced the character of the city. These large areas required technical and material rooms. For these purposes, the city also built supply food storehouses with a bakery and water-station on its premises, which were later called the Barracks of Captain Jaroš.
In Alžbetino mesto (Elizabeth Town) at the southern periphery of Košice, in the area called (Šafranová záhrada) Saffron Garden, a bakery was built around 1880 to become the first building of a specialized complex. Immediately after that, other buildings followed, which jointly formed a large built-up area on an irregular pentagonal ground plan. An area defined in 1912 encompassed five bigger and five smaller buildings, out of which seven originals were preserved. Despite the service character of this complex, suggesting military strictness, it is surprising to see a liberal architectural intention carried out in the spirit of classicism. The historicist approach of the constructors, works well in the nobleness of the urban structure, the composition of buildings and look of façades, interiors, as well as craftsman features.
The complex of specialized military buildings in Košice, is neither included in the Central Registry of Monuments Fund, nor is it located in the monument’s zone. The city of Košice preferred its adaptation into a multimedia and interactive centre, Kulturpark, which is one of the key investment objectives in the project Interface 2013/Košice – European Capital of Culture 2013.
Cinemas of Košice architect Oelschläger – Őry
Same as in other bigger Slovak towns, the key architectural projects for Košice after 1918 were state commissions for administrative buildings, schools and accommodation. The growing number of inhabitants resulted in an urgent need for improving infrastructure. This meant building new roads, railway tracks, an airport, as well as modern facilities for sports, social and cultural events.
The voluminous work of the Košice architect Ľudovít (Lajos, Ludwig) Oelschläger – Őry (1896 – 1984) could not omit the significant phenomenon of the era, a modern cinema building. The architect not only designed but also ran the cinemas; he was their owner or co-owner. Ľ. Oelschläger designed the Forum cinema, which sensitively joined the original historical built-up area of Košice, in 1926. It was completed in 1927. The cinema building perfectly fulfilled the expectations of the time: it was safe, comfortable and elegant, inspired by expresionistic cinemas of Berlin as well as Czech Rondocubism. The period press called it the most modern and most sophisticated cinema in the then Czechoslovakia. Its quality construction was built by the local company of Hugo Kaboš, and the unique interior and exterior stucco decoration was made by Košice sculptor – stonemason Július Kristóf.
The Capitol cinema in Michalovce, which has a similar original exterior design and architectural features of the Košice Forum cinema, oscilates between a sculptural and architectural concept. The project of the cinema probably originated at the end of 1926 and was completed by Michalovce constructors Jozef Strömpl and Rudolf Sutter in 1927. The Košice sculptor – stonemason Július Kristóf most probably created the exterior and interior stucco decoration in this cinema as well. Oelschläger designed, ran and in the end also owned the Scala cinema in Mukachevo, which seemed to have been built a little later than the Košice and Michalovce cinemas. The architect’s works from the 1920s can be characterised as monumental, expressive-purist architecture with cubistic detail and originally crafted architectural features in art deco style.
By continuously drawing inspirations from the past, which Oelschläger then originally combined with modern trends, created the dynamic shape of a neo-baroque inner layout of the former poly-functional cinema and cultural house in Sabinov. This resulted in a surprising contrast with the modern exterior design. Inseparable parts of his projects, for example, his unrealised Levoča cinema and Tatra hotel, were a theatre, social hall, restaurant, coffee house, billiard room and bar.
Terasa housing estate in Košice
The circular-radial urban model of Central-European towns reached the point of perfection in the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. It accepted the medieval centres and naturally obstructed non-conceptual building in future. Košice, as a former administrative centre of Upper Hungary, had its circular boulevard around the so-called Inner City, defined since the 19th century. But a more interesting fact is, that a hundred years later, in the time of “real socialism”, the urban planners were able to continue in this tradition.
The first attempts of businessmen to rebuild the historical core into a shopping centre, began to appear in the city planning at the beginning of the 20th century. The regulation plan designed in the second decade of the 20th century, which was fortunately only built in fragments, was one such experiment with the vision of a modern town. The first project of the general extension plan of Košice from 1952 can be considered as a textbook example of rational and an artistically sensitive regulation of the city. Its design was initiated by the construction of Hutný kombinát metal manufacture (HUKO, later Eastern-Slovak Ironworks, today US Steel Košice). The planners drew on the experiences of European cities intensively developing most in economically active areas – they envisioned the layout of functional areas, proportion of services, and structure of transportation as well as recreational places. This project never contemplated the demolition of the historical centre, as used to be the case in the then Czechoslovakia.
The aim of the new urban conception of Košice was to create a quality residential environment. The construction of the Terasa (Terrace) housing estate, then called New Town, started in April 1962 with the industrial panel technology. The average annual production was almost 3,000 flats. The project was designed by a team of architects, namely Viktor Malinovský, Ján Kurča, Berthold Hornung and Ján Gabríni, and built by the Stavoprojekt company. This socialist housing estate was an exemplary work of modern urbanism. For instance, the mature plants planted there, made the estate look immediately green. The sculptural works placed in individual zones (Luníks), were created at the international biennial symposiums of metal sculpture works in Košice during the 1970s, and up to this date adorn the environment.