Gymnastic Olympus in the Museum of Physical Culture in Slovakia
The first medal that entered the collection of gymnastic Olympic medals in the Museum of Physical Culture in Slovakia was the Olympic silver from the team competition at the XIX Olympic Games in Mexico. Marianna Némethová-Krajčírová donated it to the museum in 2002. She was the only gymnast from Slovakia who competed at the games in 1964 and 1968, together with the famous Czech gymnast Věra Čáslavská.
In August 2013,the media published the information that Věra Čáslavská, seven-time Olympic champion, would donate two of her Olympic gold medals to Slovakia as a gift for the Museum of Physical Culture. She declared her pledge in Bratislava during the ceremonious introduction of the biographic documentary Věra 68, filmed by the Czech documentary director Olga Sommerová. The Museum of Physical Culture in Slovakia, in cooperation with the Slovak Gymnastic Federation, therefore began the preparation works for the handover ceremony during the opening of the exhibition Victories and Loses: Slovak Sport 1993 – 2012 in Bratislava City Museum.
On 13th September 2013, Věra Čáslavská brought two Olympic gold medals to Slovakia. One was from the XVII Olympic Games of 1964 in Tokyo and the second for winning the competition on uneven bars at the XIX Olympic Games of 1968 in Mexico. Both are from the time, when she competed for the joint Czechoslovak state. Along with the medals, Čáslavská also donated the diplomas for winning the gold on uneven bars in Mexico and silver in the team competition in Tokyo. This took place on 25th April 2014 in Bratislava, when she was ceremonially named the honorary member of the Slovak Olympic Committee.
Two-engine towing tugboat Šturec
Slovakia had not preserved any shipping vessels from the time of steam engines and the vessels which were in better technical condition, that could have been exhibited in museums, were, unfortunately, irretrievably destroyed. The towing tugboat Šturec is the last historic motor-ship in Slovakia. It was registered as a national cultural monument in 2012 and entered the collections of the Slovak Technical Museum-Transport Museum in Bratislava in April 2013.
Šturec was constructed in 1937 as a towing engine oil tanker. It was built in the Škodove závody Shipyard in Komárno, originally as a motor oil tanker Štúr. Czechoslovak Danube Shipping Joint Stock Company (ČPSD) started to use it in 1938. During the bombardment of the Bratislava Apollo refinery on June 16th 1944, the ship was hit and sunk. It was pulled out after the war and reconstructed into a motor towing tugboat in the Slovak Shipyard in Komárno during 1951 and 1952. It changed its name to Šturec. They reused the aft and engine room from the original boat and shortened the body by 14 metres. In 1982 the boat changed its ownership, moving from the Czechoslovak Danube Shipping company to the administration of the Danube River Basin company’s department for water courses, which put it out of service in 1984. The Monuments Board of the Slovak Republic decided on the 5th January 2012 to register the boat Šturec onto the list of movable national cultural monuments in the Central Register of the Monuments’ Fund with the number 12072/0. The boat was donated to the Slovak Technical Museum-Transport Museum in Bratislava on 8th April 2013.
Unfortunately, practically no technical documentation exists for this greatly damaged boat Šturec. Enthusiasts for water transport and vessels, Juraj Bohunský and Pavol Šíra, began to work on its renovation in 2005. In 2009 – 2010, they came up with the idea of opening a shipping museum, which could also present the history of the joint stock company Slovak Shipping and Ports (SPaP). In 2010 – 2013 more enthusiasts and institutions joined the works on renovating the boat.
Rodošto – new exposition in Košice
The replica of the house from the Turkish town of Rodosto, now Tekirdağ, where the leader of the Hungarian estates uprising, Prince of Transylvania and Holy Roman Empire, Francis II Rákóczi, spent the last years of his exile (1720 – 1735), was built in Košice, at the courtyard of the Executioner’s bastion, 70 years ago. The idea to build the memorial house for this significant personality of Hungarian history originated after the ban on his treason was abolished in 1904 and when the preparation works for transporting his remains as well as those of his companions back to their homeland started. In 1905, the decision was made to bury them back in Košice and to transport the original wooden interior of the house in Rodosto (also known as Rodošto) situated on the shore of the Marmara Sea.
Budapest architect Koloman Lux and his son Gejza designed the construction of Francis II Rákóczi’s memorial house. They created an almost identical replica of the Turkish house with original interior equipment, which failed to get completed and the house thus served as a depositary and workroom of the East-Slovak Museum for a long time.
The idea to open Rákóczi’s memorial house to the public was finally accomplished in 1990 – 1991, after emptying the rooms, constructional adjustments and restoration of the interior equipment. The public could visit two rooms on the first floor of the Executioner’s bastion and two floors of the memorial house of Francis II Rákóczi. The East-Slovak Museum in Košice joined the international project ENPI HUSKROUA – The Places of Rákóczi’s Glory in 2012. The main task was to renovate the exposition of the Rákóczi’s memorial house in Košice. The new exposition was open to the public on 13th June 2013.
The exposition presents an objective picture of the last Hungarian estates uprising and its leader. There are originals of the period military items, equestrian and other portraits and a copy of the historical map of then Hungary with interactive touch screen and information on the places where Rákóczi lived and fought. The exposition also contains relics from the ceremonial burial of Francis II Rákóczi and his relatives in the Cathedral of St. Elisabeth in Košice on 29th October 1906. Part of the exposition is dedicated to the place where the leader of the uprising and his companions were banished, in the Turkish town of Rodosto, and the photographic documentation capturing the construction of Košice’s Rodošto in 1940 – 1943.
Tomb of a prince in Poprad – Conservation 2008 – 2012
During the construction of the industrial park in 2006, the archaeological research of the Podtatranské (Under the Tatras) Museum in cooperation with the Archaeological Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences (SAV) in Nitra, revealed a tomb of a Germanic prince from the turn of the 4th and 5th century AD. A roofed log room with a wooden sarcophagus and inner equipment was preserved five metres underground. There were leather and textile remains of the deceased person’s clothes, as well as food leftovers in ceramic and bronze vessels, and in wicker and bast-fibre baskets. Despite the fact that the tomb was robbed by the deceased person’s contemporaries, it still contained decorative and utility items made from bronze, silver and gold.
Regarding the preserved condition of the wooden architecture and furniture, the tomb of the prince in Poprad is the only one of its kind in Europe. Being one of the most significant archaeological findings in Slovakia, it is jointly researched by Slovaks and Germans within a several-year cooperation project. The exhibition presents results of the scientific research from 2008 – 2012, which was carried out by a team of experts from the Podtatranské Museum in Poprad, Archaeological Institute of SAV Nitra and united regional museums in Schleswig (Stiftung Schleswig-Holsteinische Landesmuseen at Gottorf Castle), Germany. The information about the research and researching methods that illustrate the times, construction, burial, robbing of the tomb and the personality of the deceased person, as well as up to date results of the conservation procedure of the tomb’s wooden construction were documented by an expert seminar, which was held before the exhibition opening. There, the experts from the research project presented their first results of scientific exploration of the prince’s tomb in Poprad. The end of the project, as well as the complete conservation of the tomb’s remaining material is planned for 2015, when the research results will be published. After the artefacts return to Slovakia in 2016, the presentation of this highly significant tomb will be permanently on display at the Podtatranské Museum exposition. (Note: Podtatranské Museum in Poprad won the 2006 annual award of the Monuments and Museums magazine in the discovery category for finding the prince’s tomb, see issue 3/2007, p. 44 – 47).
120 years of the Slovak National Museum in a book
The Slovak National Museum (SNM) celebrated its 120-year jubilee in 2013. To mark the occasion, it published a representative book, which maps the history, collection activity and most distinguished items of the museum on 404 pages. The authors of the publication are Eva Králiková, Elena Machajdíková and Gabriela Podušelová.
The publication consists of three parts. The first describes the SNM history from its origin, through the period before 1918 and after. It talks about the development of individual museum institutions in Bratislava and Martin (Slovak Homeland Museum, Agricultural Museum, Slovak Museum) and mainly the development after 1945, when the important milestones were the nationalisation of SNM in Martin and Slovak Museum in Bratislava, the merger of both institutions in 1961 and the political change in 1989.
The second part analyses the acquisition activity of the museum’s individual departments. On 31st December 2012, the museum recorded almost four million collection items, out of which one million is in social-scientific collections and three million in natural-history collections.
The third, largest part of the publication, contains texts and images of the museum’s 120 top items from all areas – archaeology, history, ethnology, natural science, art crafts, music and drama art, religious life and national minority groups.
The publication has a remarkable artistic layout (graphic design by Matúš Lányi) and presents SNM as a poly-functional but at the same time homogeneous organism. For the researchers of future generations it offers the overview of the most distinguished collections and at the same time brings attention to the number of other artefacts hidden in the depositories of the SNM’s individual departments.
Monograph of Anton Schmidt
The publication issued by the Societatis historiae artium in Bratislava in 2013 in a limited edition, is the result of a scientific project carried out in the Art History Institute of Slovak Academy of Sciences in 2010 – 2012. In fact, however, the author of the publication, a leading expert on baroque’s art, Jozef Medvecký, has been writing about the theme for four decades.
The monograph of the baroque painter Anton Schmidt is the first complex analysis and art-historical evaluation of this Vienna-born artist, who, together with his sculptural fellow-artist Dionysius Stanetti, significantly influenced the spread and transformation of the integrated Central-European late-baroque art in the multi-cultural environment of central Slovak mining towns in the middle of the 18th century. The publication talks about the life journey and creative development of the artist in fourteen chapters. The reader will first be introduced to the artist’s work beginnings (cooperation with Giuseppe Galli Bibiena) in the 1740s. A more detailed account of individual places and objects that were artistically transformed by Schmidt, follows after he moved to Banská Štiavnica. Among the best known are Calvary in Banská Štiavnica, monastic church of Hieronymites in Štiavnické Bane, piarist church in Prievidza, manor house of the Kohárys in Svätý Anton, and parish churches in Kremnica (demolished) and Banská Bystrica. The book practically confirmed the monopoly position of Schmidt and his significance in the late-baroque painting in the central Slovak mining region. A part of the publication is a detailed catalogue of the identified painter’s works (frescos, oil paintings and sketches), a list of quoted archive sources in original, bibliography of the quoted literature and published sources, and the nominal register. The publication of the book monograph commemorates the 300 years from the painter’s birth and 240 years after his death.
Smaller Publication category
Monuments of Trnava and its region
The impulse for launching the expert seminary Monuments of Trnava and Trnava Region, accompanied with a composite book of the seminary presentations, which celebrated the 20th anniversary in 2013, was the working experience of conservationists at the beginning of the 1990s. It reacted to a sudden construction boom in town centres. Historical houses, which stood in the shadows of new builds, began to be repaired en masse. The Monuments Fund, though fairly reduced and devastated, carried a unique phenomenon of authenticity from the previous regime. The constructions still had the layers preserved from all phases of their developments, including medieval masonry, period-style articles, vaults, window and door panels, facings and artistic decoration. One could identify the original, mostly medieval dispositions and younger interventions. These attributes suddenly started to vanish right in front of one’s eyes, as the new owners of monuments, mostly driven by utilitarian interests, radically intervened into their constructions. This trend spread all over the country, including the City Monument Reservation of Trnava, as well as other towns and villages in the region, including monument zones of Skalica, Hlohovec, Piešťany and Plavecký Peter.
It became more urgent than ever to document these monuments, so their vanishing values could be at least preserved “on paper”. The quick research practised during the buildings’ renovations uncovered lots of new information. It was satisfying to see, that even buildings with uninteresting appearances often revealed a medieval origin.
The aim of organising the seminary and consequent publishing of the findings in the composite book Monuments of Trnava and Trnava Region, was not only to share these new discoveries with experts, but also the lay public. And last but not least, there was the belief that the popularization of the monument’s values could help to nurture the intentions of the new owners.
Manor house of the Madáchs in Dolná Strehová
The Slovak National Museum-Museum of Hungarian Culture in Slovakia, which administers the manor house in Dolná Strehová, worked on a project of trans-border Hungarian-Slovak cooperation entitled the Common Heritage: Madách (2008 – 2009). Part of it was the preparation of a new reconstruction for the historical manor house of Imre Madách, built at the end of the 18th century and reconstructed in 1964. The Madách’s building is one of the most significant memorial sites in Hungarian literature. This is the house, where Imre Madách was born, wrote his most distinguished work The Tragedy of Man and where he is buried.
The reconstruction of the manor house’s exteriors and interiors, as well as the park, started on 1st September 2011 and finished in January 2013. After the house inspection in March 2013, work on a new permanent exposition started. The memorial exhibition entitled Where Am I Actually and Where Are My Dreams? introduces the life in the manor house in the 19th century. It also presents the environment, in which the versed work of world-wide significance The Tragedy of Man originated.
After the Madách’s manor house in Dolná Strehová is reconstructed and the new permanent exposition built, it will become part of the network of literary museums, which can be found in almost eighty houses in Slovakia.
Zuzana Francová – Nora Hebertová – Zlatica Schreierová
Flag of furriers’ guild from 1751
Bratislava City Museum probably owns the largest collection of guild flags in Slovakia. Its twenty-five items represent almost one third of the overall number of seventy flags coming from the beginning of the 18th to the middle of 20th centuries.
The oldest example in the collection is the flag of the Bratislava furrier’s guild from 1751. It is not known how the flag entered the museum, but it is definitely one of the acquisitions from before 1945, or maybe even before 1918.
The rectangular flag with a horizontal layout, finished with a cut out shape of a swallow’s tail on a side, measures 148 cm high and 208.50 cm wide. It is made of thicker, single-coloured blue-green silk damask with floral decoration of flower groups of various kinds and sizes surrounded by leaves. Some flowers are arranged into bouquets in vases. The flag is made of seven pieces of fabric. Three horizontal straps of 44 cm, 54/55 cm and 44 cm wide are stitched together with a simple stitch.
The flag is painted on both sides, using oil colours applied straight onto textile. The centre of the composition on the front side of the flag depicts Christ holding a spread-out fur with two angles hovering on sides. Two lines of golden writing above them read: DES EHRSAMEN HANDWERKS DER KŰRSCHNER ZECHFAHN.1751. The lower part of the flag completes the inscription: HERR GEORGIUS RATH. OBER ZECHMEISTER / HERR MATHIAS SCHMID. UNTER ZECHMEISTER. The reverse of the flag pictures Adam and Eve in paradise. In the middle of the diagonal composition is the tree of knowledge. Eve offers the apple to the sitting Adam, who holds a treated fur in his raised hand. Both have fig leaves wrapped around their hips. The tiny details of vegetation are very graceful. The lower part of the flag repeats the same inscription as on the front side. The flag was commissioned by the Bratislava guild of furriers. Georg(ius) Rath was the guild’s master and Matthias Schmid was the guild’s master deputy (second guild’s master).
The flag from the Bratislava City Museum is remarkable from an iconographic as well as artistic aspect. For these reasons, the museum decided to have it restored. Due to its very bad condition and large scale of damage, the restoration works were scheduled for 2012 – 2013. They were performed by Nora Hebertová (painting) and Zlatica Schreierová (textile base).
Event – Happening category
Yesterday and Before. Stories of Cvernovka factory
The exhibition Yesterday and Before was part of the project that focused on researching history and presenting cultural significance of an almost century old thread factory. Colloquially known as Cvernovka (cverna means thread in English), the industrial building stood in the triangle of the streets Páričkova, Svätoplukova and Košická in Bratislava. One of the project’s main aims was to recreate the atmosphere of this old industrial monument through people’s stories, with the help of creative industries that are typical for using the factory’s premises today.
The project’s initiators and organisers, director Viliam Csino and designer Martin Mistrík, from Open Design Studio and Atelier Bavlna (which resides in Cvernovka), managed to inspire and bring in external helpers as well. The story of Cvernovka is narrated using authentic period material, including photographs, documents, graphic design (agitation posters, local newspaper, logotypes, patent documents, collection of used and registered product brands), architectural drawings, sketches, fragments of machinery and products.
These materials come from the archives of the original factory, which were scattered all around the building and the organisers tried to reconstruct it. They also researched other archives and looked for information on the history and presence of the factory complex in expert texts and mostly, what is most important, they also tried to collect information from people who worked there. The organisers realised that the artefacts collected during the research were of a museum value. They treated them with respect and after the project finished, they donated them to the collections of the Slovak Design Centre (future Design Museum).
The research not only helped to preserve a number of artefacts that were doomed to extinction after they changed owners, but also held many public events that took place in Cvernovka at the end of 2013 – exhibition, discussions and guided tours. The public events also helped to raise attention and attract stories of other industrial architecture from not only Bratislava. This architecture vanishes, despite having social and technical values and influence on people’s lives. It also is a significant part of our own identity.
POPRAD – TATRY – SPIŠ REGION
Magdaléna Janovská – Vladimír Olejník
Church of St. Thomas in Mengusovce
The municipality of Mengusovce in the High Tatras region is located at the crossroads of the historical Via Magna road, which runs east to west, from Liptov to Poprad. During the Middle Ages, the municipality was the property of the Cistercian Abbey in Spišský Štiavnik. This fact is documented in the deeds of King Béla IV from 1260. The construction of the Roman-Catholic Church of St. Thomas could have been placed intentionally outside the residential area, as the religious order preferred locations closer to nature. The state of the cemetery near the church was in a critical condition during the 18th and 19th centuries. Only a few tombstones have been preserved in the south-western part up until today.
The church was built around the middle of the 14th century with one nave, a presbytery at the eastern side and a tower in the west. It is a typical example of an early-gothic church of the country type, which can be found in the Slovak region of Spiš and Liptov. When the abbey in Spišský Štiavnik ceased to exit, around 1530, its properties were given into the hands of Hieronymus Lasky and his descendants. Around the end of the 16th and beginning of the 17th century, they were owned by the Mariássy family.
During the church’s protestant era (until 1675), a new truss was built above the sanctuary (dendro-chronologically dated to 1653/1654, 1655/1656). Consequently, the roof was changed and the belfry was adjusted, probably for four bells. These adjustments also brought along changes in the wooden ceilings as well as access to the tower bells (staircases and ceilings). This is also confirmed by the inscription on a 500kg bell, which says that it was cast “in honour of God” by George Virth in Prešov in 1655.
For almost half a century, when it was given back to the Catholics, the church had not seen any significant repairs. This was due to a low number of Catholics, which was reduced even more after the disturbances and epidemics at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries. After the middle of the 18th century, the truss above the nave was replaced (dendro-chronologically dated to 1756/1757). All bells, apart from the one from 1552, were removed from the tower during the First World War. The wooden ceiling in the nave was replaced during the last repair in the 1980s.
In 1931, the condition of the church was critical, as the roof and exterior coats were largely damaged. The reconstruction in 1970 – 1972 replaced the shingle roof covering, repaired the damaged parts of the trusses and sacristy on the northern side of the sanctuary and renovated the interior, from which the movables were stolen during the 1960s. The tower remained more or less the same.
Zuzana Čovanová Janošíková
Non-existing decoration of Poprad’s belfry
The renaissance belfries in the Spiš region, which were built separately from their churches in Vrbov, Strážky, Kežmarok, Podolínec, Spišská Sobota, Levoča, Spišská Belá and Poprad have preserved their medieval cores. The belfries in Poprad and Podolínec are often linked together, as they have a similar shape at the attic’s ridge. They were both built at the end of the 1650s – the Poprad’s belfry in 1658 and the one in Podolínec in 1659.
Today’s late-renaissance belfry in Poprad had an older predecessor, which was rebuilt by the town’s reeve Lucas Topperczer in 1592. An Italian mason who settled in Kežmarok, Ulrich Maurer, designed the constructional amendments and a Slovak carpenter Bernhardt Miller from Podolínec worked on them. A secondary preserved inscription reveals that the belfry’s construction works took place in the summer months of 1663. To be precise, the walls of the belfry were not decorated by one, but two identical inscriptions with chronostichon (a sentence, in which specific letters can be interpreted as Roman numerals, ed. note), which also dated the belfry’s late-renaissance sgraffito decoration. The inscriptions confirm that the belfry was built from the foundations: posuit fundamina.
The reconstruction of the no longer existing late-renaissance decoration with the sgraffito, as well as the analysis of the used motifs is complicated by sparse photo-documentation and only general mentions in literature. The photographs taken before the decoration’s destruction in 1958 show that the sgraffito inscriptions of the figures depicted in shrines used to be all around the walls. The attic and arcade of the belfry were originally decorated by stylised, floral ornaments. The belfry corners were also decorated, originally by an illusive bossage (projecting stones, ed. note), as was the wall at the sound outlets.
According to the authors, who saw the sgraffito decoration before its destruction, the semi-circular shrines contained figures of prophets and apostles, evangelists and saints as well as allegoric figures of science and liberal arts (septem artes liberales). The allegories of liberal arts in the Poprad’s belfry originated from the collection of copperplate reproductions of the same name, which were created by German graphic artist Georg Pencz. They were first printed about 1541. In the case of the Poprad’s belfry, this is the last known sgraffito decoration of the renaissance spirit in the Spiš region, where one would likely assume the use of younger, maybe manneristic or even early-baroque graphic inspirations.
Testament of goldsmith John Szilasi
The Levoča goldsmith John Szilasi (Szilassy; 1704 – 1782) is one of the most significant representatives of the modern goldsmith’s trade in Slovakia. He worked on the verge of late baroque, but his works were largely influenced by the appearing rococo style. He created more than a hundred liturgical items, mainly monstrances, goblets, ciboria and pax instruments, often decorated with enamel medallions that depicted figural scenes from the Bible, saints’ biographies and everyday scenes. Many of them are still used during the church masses.
Szilasi’s works are quite well-known in the fine-arts literature, but the same cannot be said about his personal life, his family and the environment in which he lived and worked. The records from the registrar’s office confirm that he was born in Rožňava. This fact is further confirmed by the record from his funeral in Levoča on 9th May 1782 (gebührtig von Rosznau). The exact date of his death (6th May 1782) is recorded in the protocol of the goldsmith’s guild.
The records in the Levoča archives also register John Szilasi’s property capital. He acquired property by marrying Catharina Reuter in 1728, gaining burgher’s privileges in Levoča in 1729 and by gradually purchasing land and buildings. The increase in his property is also evident from the calculated tax (3 Rheinish golden and 17 denar coins), which made him the 18th richest citizen in Levoča. This consequently raised his authority and respectability in the town, where he held the position of the goldsmith’s guild-master from 1747 until his death.
On 18th April 1774, the Szilasi couple (John Szilasi and his second wife Catharina) wrote down their last will. This has not yet been researched, even though it is in the processed part of the Levoča Town Council’s fund. The testament, written in the usual formal form, offers lots of information about the life and property of the famous goldsmith. It confirms his biography facts gained from other sources, which reveal quite a devout relationship with his daughter from the first marriage and his effort to preserve the goldsmith’s trade in the family. On the other hand, it presents Szilasi as an artist – painter and discloses his close relationship with a generation younger goldsmith Liedemann. This most likely reflected the fact that Szilasi lost his only son due to an early death.
The document contains John Szilasi’s authentic signature with a stamp, and the name of his wife (Catharina Szilassy gebohrne Frühaufin) written by one of the will’s witnesses and signed by her with a simple cross. Levoča’s reeve Samuel Scherffel, senator and the will’s executor Ján Hauser with another will’s executor John Reich Sr. acknowledged the contents of the testament with their signatures and stamps.
The country under the Tatras
The Spiš region’s painting in the last third of the 18th and first half of the 19th century presents a significant phenomenon in Slovakia’s landscape and figural work. It favoured the depiction of the picturesque nature under the Tatra Mountains and the historical sites that had been in its territory for centuries and increased its value. One of Levoča citizens, who graduated from the Viennese academy, John Jaobb Müller, was one such landscape painter. In his gouaches, he systematically captured the landscape with the fading tendencies of classicism. But his work also contained romanticized landscapes, which were characteristic of the so-called Spiš amateurs with an intimate, almost naïve bond with nature.
Traces of this approach can also be found in a painting by an unknown, but based on the depicted reality, undoubtedly a Spiš artist. The author of this article named the painting The Country under the Tatras. When looking at the picture’s details, natural scenery and historical monuments, it is clear that the inspiration for the painting of the unknown artist came not only from the autopsy, but also from studying the works of other Spiš painters. It is possible that the painter took inspiration mainly from Müller’s works, which according to the art historian Mária Novotná were better than average in the scope of the Central European landscape paintings.
The unknown painter’s intention was to address a large public mainly with the high number of themes. He tried to use the canvas’ dimensions of 84 x 18 cm, by assembling various images of the Spiš country and its historical sites into one picture with no relevance to reality. The composition features a stone bridge above the Hornád river near Letanovský mill. Above the bridge is the baroque-like architecture of the Camaldoli Červený kláštor monastery, where the monks lived until 1782, when the monastery was abolished by Joseph II. Behind the thick group of deciduous trees we can see part of the monumental Spiš castle on a high cliff, depicted in a romantic style. Nearby is the Romanesque-Gothic Church of St. Ladislaus in Spišský Štvrtok with the High Tatra Mountains in the background, which vanish under the snow cover at the top of the peaks.
The Country under the Tatras, painted by an unknown Spiš painter, is one of the current art-historical proofs of naïve painting in Spiš in the first half of the 19th century, which documents an emotional bond to the home country and its history.
Green roofs in Upper Spiš region
The buildings in the Spiš region used to be covered by traditional material, the wooden shingle. There were some that used burnt shingle, and occasionally sheet metal. At the beginning of the 20th century came the asbestos-cement templates. Apart from pitched roofs, they began to construct buildings with flat or slightly slanted roofs in the 1870s. Their best prevention from extreme weather, especially from the sun and UV radiation, was the use of substrate with plants.
In summer, the green roofs inhibit the overheating of the roof construction and attic, and in winter the snow layer insulates them from cold. They also have sound-insulating properties. It is mainly their ecological aspects that are highlighted today, including their ability to catch dust and harmful pollutants. The advantage of flat roofs is the significant decrease in using wood and roof covering. The green roofs are good for lowering the risk of fire. During the 19th century Germany experienced the boom in using tar-board on flat roofs, which were designed as vegetative. The live trade contacts and exchange of information soon brought this type of roof also to the Spiš region.
The oldest recorded examples of green roofs in the mentioned region are from the High Tatras. They were in Nový Smokovec (spa house and rental villa of Dr. Szontagh) and in Starý Smokovec, where architect Gedeon Majunke from Spišská Sobota designed a radical reconstruction for the Spiš credit bank and central savings bank of the fire-damaged café (1889 – 1890). In the following years, he also built a restaurant in Starý Smokovec, where he covered the veranda’s wooden construction with a flat green roof. Majunke later applied green flat roofs also to other objects, such as the colonnades joining the buildings in Dolný Smokovec, glass stud terrace of the Tatranská Lomnica hotel (1892 – 1894), wooden verandas in front of the restaurant and café in Nový Smokovec, and veranda addition of the Weszterheim hotel in Tatranská Polianka in 1901.
Gedeon Majunke also applied green roofs in extreme alpine conditions, at Téry’s Chalet (1898 – 1899) in the High Tatras at 2015 m above sea level, as well as in a town environment, during the construction of an old house at the Spišská Sobota’s square. The green roofs were also used at the end of the 19th century on houses in Kežmarok and industrial buildings of the Scholtz factory in Poprad-Matejovce. During the First World War, architect Guido Hoepfner designed the Tatra sanatorium for the Spiš credit bank and central savings bank, in Starý Smokovec, by joining and adding extensions to the hotels of Scepusia and Csáky’s House in 1916 – 1917. The designed wooden-cement roofs of the dining room and joining tract with the hall were also built with vegetation. The green roofs were not only applied to new buildings but also to reconstructions of historical buildings mostly damaged by fires on shingle roofs (Poprad-Spišská Sobota). At the turn of the 19th and 20th century, they were also used in rural architecture.
Power station in Poprad – Tatra Gallery
The power station represents an exemplary industrial building from the turn of the 19th and 20th century. The steam power station in Poprad had supplied electrical energy to tram transportation in the High Tatras and several Tatra settlements since 1912 (30 years after lighting up New York). The plant was probably built by Poprad’s construction company Hlavaj-Blistyán. The machinery (now demolished) was supplied by the Siemens-Schuckert company.
The architectural qualities of the building can only be appreciated with time. The building of the power station itself is a block construction with a preserved basement under the whole area. It has two floors above the ground. The original room layout has been preserved, but the only valuable part kept from the original interior is the metal construction and banister of the mechanic gallery. The original, 41.5 m high chimney made from rough brickwork in the eastern part dominates the power works.
The process of turning the power station to modern gallery took 17 years. In 2003, the Tatra Gallery in cooperation with the Monuments Board in Bratislava succeeded in including the building on the list of Slovakia’s cultural monuments. In 2009 they completed the first part of the plant’s general reconstruction. Another phase took place in 2013 and 2014. The reconstructed area was open to the public on 14th February 2014.
The power station of the Tatra Gallery in Poprad has become a famous institution in Slovakia as well as abroad for presenting contemporary art and cultural activities for the public, mainly the younger generation. The vision of turning the power works into a multicultural centre has come true and now it is important to sustain the enjoying popularity of artists and visitors.