Annual awards of the Monuments and Museums magazine for 2015
CATEGORY DISCOVERY – FINDING
Ján Beljak – Noémi Beljak Pažinová – Michal Šimkovic
Water tank’s findings at Pustý castle in Zvolen
The archaeological research of the largest water tank at a medieval castle in Slovakia unearthed rare findings that helped to refine the construction chronology of the Pustý hrad (the Deserted Castle) in Zvolen and underscored the monumentality and importance of this structure. Particularly rare are the well preserved, over 700 years old wooden articles that showcase the skills of the medieval craftsmen. They assist in the reconstruction of the everyday life at the medieval castle and explaining the then technologies.
The Pustý castle in Zvolen was one of the most significant residencies of Hungarian kings. Its robust medieval structure spread on the north-western tip of the Javorie hills, above the confluence of the rivers Hron and Slatina. It consisted of the higher situated Upper Castle (571 m above sea level) with the area of 3.5 hectares and smaller Lower Castle (476 m above sea level) with 0.7 hectares. Together with its linking part, it covered an overall area of 4.7 hectares, which made it one of the largest castles in Slovakia. It was built near the important medieval business routes known as Via magna. The research at the castle uncovered settlements from the late Stone Age, Bronze Age and La Tene period.
The historical sources conclude that the construction of the castle took place in the 12th century. It was built as an administration centre of the large Zvolen county and its central building was believed to be the residential tower in the highest part of the Upper Castle (Tower I). The 13th century was the time of extensive building activities, which resulted in creating a unique fortified complex of two interlinked castles. It was back then, when the monumental residential tower of the Lower Castle was built, probably as a residency for King Andrew II for his stays in Zvolen. Other Hungarian kings also used it during the 13th century, when more buildings were erected in the Upper Castle area. These were the smaller residential tower (Tower II) and the prismatic tower added to the Upper Castle’s eastern wall. The castle palace inbuilt into the fortification corner was the central construction. Adjacent to it were smaller farmstead buildings on a terraced castle courtyard.
The increasing demands for living called for a construction of a large water tank at the castle at the end of the 13th century, with dimensions of 6.75 x 6.82m and almost 10m deep. Archaeologists from the Archaeological Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, led by Ján Beljak, researched the tank in 2015. The first findings, fragments of the construction prisms and boards were found from the depth of 9m. The rare artefacts include the set of wooden buckets made of fir tree, which were most likely used for getting water out of the tank, and the remains of the rope on which they were pulled. Also unique are two fully preserved swords from fir wood, which were used for training the castle crew and a short iron hunting sword with a bone handle from the end of the 14th century.
Vladimír Krupa – Miroslava Daňová
Ring from the princely grave I from Krakovany-Stráže
Two rich Quadian, so-called princely or magnate graves from Krakovany-Stráže are among the rare findings of the late Roman times in Slovakia. They are the evidence of the existing residence of the local monarch in Považie area. The history of their discovery and the fates of the graves’ archaeological findings are full of adventure. Both graves were accidently unearthed during a clay extraction at the brickworks in Stráže (today part of the Krakovany municipality in Piešťany district) – the first in 1933 and the second in 1939. Both graves (I and II) seemed to have contained items not only from silver, bronze, glass, wood, iron and ceramics but also from gold.
The article focuses on the acquisition of the rare jewellery, the ring from the first grave into the collection of Piešťany’s Balneological Museum after more than 80 years since its 1933 discovery. The workers at the brickworks found the grave during a routine extraction of clay used for making bricks. Back then, Piešťany museum had been administered by the Museum Society of Piešťany. Its chairman, who was one of the directors of the Piešťany spa, Imrich Winter (1878 – 1943) and its secretary Václav Vlk (1886 – 1955), the administrator of the local spa, were interested in archaeology and cooperated with the significant Czech archaeologist Jiří Neustupný (1905 – 1981). Thanks to them part of the grave findings was preserved.
The dimensions of the grave (3.6m deep and 3.5m long) suggested that the buried people, probably two – a man and a woman – were of a significant social rank. The findings of the first grave were documented in a period protocol and articles about the Piešťany museum, including a published photograph of a golden Roman buckle. Most findings from the Stráže burial ground, especially jewellery, were “lost”. A minimum of gold or gilded items from both graves were scientifically researched and only a few of the findings were rediscovered later, such as the silver miniature colander, miniature scissors and a spoon in 1950, when they were purchased from the peddlers with laces from Piešťany district and now are in the collection of the Upper Nitra Museum in Prievidza.
The published testimonies of experts recorded a finding and later loss of a golden neck-cloth with golden ring at the princely grave at Stráže. Unfortunately, the police investigation of the finders did not help to reveal anything about their existence. The golden ring was finally found after decades, when the descendants of the lead brick-maker contacted the director of the Piešťany Balneological Museum in February 2013 and offered to sell it. After several years of negotiations about the ring’s price, the museum finally obtained the ring with the support of the Slovak Cultural Ministry, Trnava Self-Governing Region and other sponsors. The unique ring is now part of the museum’s archaeological collections. It is displayed next to a set of findings from the rich grave I from Krakovany-Stráže.
Paraments: Liturgical Textiles
Ecclesiastical vestments, historical fabrics and textile accessories do not enjoy being the centre of attention in Slovak museum collections, which reflects poorer knowledge about them. Exhibitions as well as work catalogues often date their origins very generally and their functional description lacks information on materials, technologies or places of origin. Despite the above stated, some Slovak public and ecclesiastical collections preserve real gems.
The exhibition Paraments: Liturgical Textiles organised by the SNM-Historical Museum is therefore a breakthrough achievement. Over 200 exhibits from the collections of the museum and its partnering institutions, as well as church properties (mainly Roman-Catholic and Evangelical bishoprics) were exhibited at the Bratislava Castle during the second half of 2015.
The exhibition and catalogue were not organised chronologically, but rather focused on the functions of liturgical clothes and other sacral items within specific church community (Roman-Catholic, Byzantine, Evangelical). This raised questions about the development of function and used motifs as well as quality of restored sacral clothes and textiles of other religions active in our territory (Jewish).
The exhibition was especially useful for the experts on various eras in the history of art. Those interested in the Middle Ages could for instance study the chasuble vestment with embroideries from the 15th century or Italian brocades from the 15/16th century, as well as the functional types that were almost unknown in our territory, such as the Ottoman (?) cover for coffin or altar pillows from Spišská Kapitula.
The Slovak National Museum should be applauded for investing time, energy as well as finances into the research and consequently issuing the voluminous expert publication with rich pictorial documentation. The exhibition’s 360-page catalogue is, apart from its primary function, one of the first results of the several years of cooperation between different departments on historical textiles in Slovakia, which was initiated in 2010 by the Restoration Department of Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava. The exhibition was the first complex account of the activity of the lately (2009) established department of textile restoration at the Bratislava academy.
Storing the World: The Museum Ritual in Digital Era
Compared to what the visitors to Bratislava’s Slovak National Gallery, or any other gallery in Slovakia, had been used to until recently, this was, in many ways different to the exhibition Storing the World: The Museum Ritual in Digital Era. The project also meant a new and unusual experience for its organisers and their numerous contributors. It explored the possibilities of the art museum in the era of digital technology. Its ambition was to educate the public on the sensitive use of digitalisation of artworks while preserving the aura of their originality. The impulse for this exhibition came from the Digital Gallery project that the Slovak National Gallery worked on for several years. It was completed in November 2015.
The exhibition explained the various functions of the art museum and how they are met in everyday life with the omnipresent and more frequently used new technologies. The emphasis was on the collection item that is always in the centre of the gallery and museum work and the organisers, Alexandra Kusá and Lucia Gavulová, aimed to justify the fact that the work with digital technologies in art culture does not need to mean a replacement of the rare artefact.
The specific character of individual rooms navigated the visitor throughout the exhibition: Installation work! Depositing! Explaining! Recording! Exhibiting! Taking notes! Doubting! These referred to the tasks and activities carried out in the collection institutions. Each of these thematically composed rooms was complete with a largely interactive digital layer that reacted to the displayed exhibits. The expositions were fully annotated and an audio guide was also available.
The exhibition’s team was also unique, consisting of experts working in the history of art, museum administration, digitalisation of cultural heritage, architectural design of exhibitions, graphic design, gallery pedagogics and programming. Collection institutions from all around Slovakia cooperated on this project.
Traditional Clothing of Slovakia – the result of three extensive experiences
Interview with Mojmír Benža
The leading Slovak ethnologist Mojmír Benža (1941) is the author and co-author of several books, dozens of scientific and expert studies, and a scriptwriter of museum expositions and displays. He took part in creating the most significant collective scientific, editorial and museum projects in Slovak ethnology. Recently, in 2015, he published the most complex, synthetic work on Slovak folk clothes, Traditional Clothing of Slovakia.
It is quite unusual that the book on clothing, which seems to be exclusively a female theme, was written by a man. In the interview with Peter Maráky, the editor-in-chief of the Monuments and Museum magazine, Benža explains that in Slovak ethnography several leading male ethnographers, such as Ján Koma, Ján Olejník, Adam Pranda, focused on the clothing culture alongside the female ethnographers (e.g. Viera Nosáľová, Soňa Kovačevičová, Emília Horváthová). Benža started working on this theme in his first job at the Slovak National Museum (SNM) in Martin, which started recording the SNM’s collection funds for the Fontes edition in the middle of the 1960s. Martin’s museum was also opening new ethnographic expositions at that time and Benža was asked to prepare the part entitled Man and Clothes, which was the first of his three important experiences on the way of knowing and interpreting traditional clothing.
In the 1970s, the then Ethnographic Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences prepared probably the largest project in Slovak ethnology – issued the Ethnological Atlas of Slovakia, in which Mojmír Benža edited the maps and interpreted new links between the individual aspects of our folk culture.
The third important experience for Benža was his work on the electronic encyclopaedia of traditional folk clothing prepared by the Centre for Folk Art Production (ÚĽUV) in Bratislava for its Internet page. Benža wrote the texts and detail descriptions for 3,000 pictures of the traditional clothes from 90 locations in Slovakia. From this point, he was not far from writing the book Traditional Clothing of Slovakia for ÚĽUV’s representative edition The Tradition Today. He used the rich documentation archives of ÚĽUV in the book and mainly the excellent coloured drawings of Viera Škrabalová (1925 – 2007), who closely worked with researchers and sometimes directly with those who wore the traditional clothes. She often created the exact and beautiful visualisations of their clothes and accessories during these meetings. Jana Sapáková with her graphic design also added to the book’s quality. The book is written in Slovak and English, which helps to perceive traditional Slovak clothing as a significant cultural phenomenon in an international context.
CATEGORY SMALL PUBLICATION
Barbara Balážová – Zuzana Bartošová
The publication with the “romantic” title Bella Italia, Interactions Between the Artistic Culture of Italy and Art Development in Slovakia During the 19th Century, summarizes the results of the three-year scientific project, which led into an international conference that took place at the Philosophical Faculty of the Comenius University in Bratislava on November 5, 2015. The texts are the speeches delivered at the conference, which were expanded and edited by Dana Bořutová and Katarína Beňová from the Department of Art History.
The aim of the international art-historical research in the intentions of the so-called art geography, which becomes more popular in these globalisation times, was to find links between the 19th century artistic development in Slovakia and Italy. One aspect looked at the stimuli received and transformed from Italian art centres to Slovakia and the other focused on artists from today’s Slovakia working in the Italian environment. In the chapter Roman Sources (First Half of the 19th Century), V. Bartková introduces the reader to the atmosphere of the then Rome as a “dominant centre of European culture and art”. Beňová’s case study, Count Anton Apponyi as the Ambassador in Rome, analyses the work of the representative of the then Hungarian elites in Italy. The study Italian Sketchbook of František von Balassa by Beňová and E. Specogna Kotláriková explains this phenomenon through a concrete artist, who spent some time in Rome, where he developed his artistic expressions and then brought them to nearby Vienna.
The articles that map the artists working in Italy from today’s Slovakia are entitled The Artists from Slovakia and Group of Danish Artists in Rome (Bartková), Während wir im Freien zeichneten: Ungarische Künstler in Italien, 1810 – 1860 (Orsolye Hessky) and Pietro Nobile and Slovakia (D. Bořutová and E. Specogna Kotláriková). M. Herucová describes the influence of the Italian grave sculpture on Slovakia’s 19th century monuments in her study Sepulchral Italics in Slovakia and Š. Oriško ponders over how Cicognar’s opinions changed the documentation of historical architecture in today’s Slovakia in the Documentation of Monuments in the Second Half of the 19th Century (Tasks and Functions of Documenting Monuments in Drawings – in Relation to Slovakia). In the last study, The Country and the Artistic Monuments of Italy Through the Eyes of Slovak Pilgrims to Rome, D. Kodajová analyses the cultural experience of an ordinary man – pilgrim with the unknown 19th century Rome.
Neological synagogue in Lučenec
The construction of today’s Neological synagogue in Lučenec started on 31st March 1924 by demolishing the older synagogue from 1863. It was designed by Leopold Baumhorn, the architect of beautiful synagogues in the then Hungary, as his last great creation. The synagogue was built in 18 months and on the 8th September 1925 was ceremonially handed over to the Jewish religious community.
The tragic fate of the Lučenec Jewish community at the end of the Second World War directly affected the building. In 1948 the town bought the synagogue from the Jewish community. Based on the preserved detailed survey and the building’s interior as well as exterior drawings complete with furniture by the town’s technical advisor Pohronský, the synagogue’s capacity at that time was 600 seats for men and 442 for women. Between 1948 and 1980 it was used as a storage place and was extremely neglected. In 1982 the synagogue was excluded from the central list of monuments and destined for demolition. Only thanks to the initiative of a group of people it re-entered the national list of cultural monuments in 1985. Basic conservation works were carried out at the end of the 20th century and most of the investment was used for replacing the roof.
Based on the town’s request, the Lučenec department of the Regional Monuments Board Banská Bystrica composed the Regulations of Monument Conservation of Lučenec Neological Synagogue that mapped all preserved parts of the architecture. The start of the reconstruction was complicated by frequent ownership changes. The solution came in 2012 when the new owner showed interest in turning the synagogue into a multi-cultural centre for a large public. The conservationists compiled the regulations for the reconstruction, which included the preservation of the original ground plan and spatial integrity, and stabilisation of the preserved construction and its architectural parts and details. The adjustment to the new function required several changes, such as the addition of sanitary facilities. Another requirement was to be acquainted with the original work of Leopold Baumhorn. Architectural office PROART from Levice compiled the project documentation with the aim of preserving the original links between the fragments of coating, stucco decoration and stone features. The works on the first phase of renovation were finished on December 31, 2015.
Stud farm in Kopčany
The baroque stud farm in Kopčany, Skalica district, is a national cultural monument listed in the Central Registry of Monuments Fund with No 2132/ 1 – 2. Its storeyed representative part is mentioned as the Little Manor House in several archival sources. The stud farm used to be part of the urban area built around the town of Holíč, where the imperial castle used to be. An alley ran from Holíč all the way to the stud farm. This was joined by another, more beautiful alley coming from the imperial castle.
Adam Czobor built a stud farm in Kopčany in 1660 – 1680. When the imperial family bought the Holíč – Šaštín estate in 1736, the husband of Maria Theresa, Francis Stephen I the Duke of Lorraine ordered the building of today’s stud farm for breeding horses transported from Saaralbe in 1745. They most probably used the parts of the Czobor’s stud farm for this purpose. The new stud farm focused on breeding riding, racing and working horses. Prince von Auersperg, was the chief imperial stableman. His private residence was also in Holíč.
When Francis died, his son Joseph II inherited the Holíč, Hodonín and Gbely estates. However, in 1765, during the division of the state property from the imperial family property, he left the father’s estates to his mother, Maria Theresa. The Kopčany stud farm became an independent legal entity and remained part of the imperial property. In 1828 it re-joined the Holíč estate. After 1918, the stud farm became the property of the Czechoslovak state and in 1945 was part of the national company State Farms. In 1979 it entered the administration of the State Seed Farm in Holíč and since 1994 belonged to the municipality of Kopčany.
The monument research revealed that the court’s architect Jean Nicolas Jadot designed the stud farm. After the fire in 1747, Franz Anton Hillebrandt adjusted it. The facades are designed in the classicist style of the Maria Theresa period. The stud farm is single-storied with four wings and an enclosed rectangular courtyard with dimensions of around 120x130m. The three wings used to house horses and the imperial family used the storeyed representation part. In the 20th century, the stud farm received improper arrangements, with smaller as well as larger utilitarian extensions and apartments in the former chapel. The ceiling of the formal hall collapsed in the second half of the 20th century and later, the roof of the Little Manor House.
Michal Hučko wrote the project for the Kopčany municipality for the overall renovation of the stud farm in 2007. The later project from 2010 only concerned the manor house, as its constructional-technological condition was in catastrophic condition. The renovation works started at the end of July 2015, after the municipality, as the owner of the cultural monument, acquired money for revitalising the stud farm from the European Union. The first phase of the monument’s renovation, the Little Manor House, was completed four months later.
Church of the Holy Trinity in Horná Lehota
The small, forgotten renaissance church that stands on the hill above the municipality of Horná Lehota, near Orava Castle, rose from the ashes like the phoenix that is painted on its rare ceiling. The story of an almost ideal monument renovation started very prosaically with a need to repair the leaking roof, and finished after completing a large spectre of construction and restoration work in 2015.
The little church is originally a burial chapel of the Abaffy family with two crypts. It was built at the same time as the manor house in the “new village of Lehota” in the 1580s. The church was rebuilt after 1688, during the re-Catholization period, and consecrated to the Holy Trinity. It consists of a simple hall with inbuilt choir emporia, adjoining tower and added sacristy. The nave narrows down towards east. The massive tower in the upper part has eight sides with pairs of narrow windows. By the end of the 17th century the church was rebuilt and figural panels painted for the emporia.
At the start of the church renovation in 2009, only the emergency roof repair was discussed. Thanks to the enthusiasm of those involved and continual financial support from the Slovak Culture Ministry and private donations from the family of Pavol Kozáčik, the rescue action expanded into a complex renovation of the interior and exterior, as well as the surrounding area. It was a challenging restoration of artistic and craftsmen works, which started on the ceiling in 2010. The restorers knew about the existing renaissance coats with wall painting before the renovation from the villagers, who remembered the fragments of the painting on old photographs. The 2012 research of the walls proved this presumption and the consequent work restored the image of the Last Judgment in the church nave to its original look. The ceiling and wall painting resemble the wall painting in the Chapel of St. Michael at the Orava Castle in their formality.
It is ideal for the renovated and reconstructed monument, in this case the church, to continue its liturgical function. But the request of today is also to be adapted to cultural-social happenings, to offer a “living space” for the citizens of the Horná Lehota municipality as well as an access to those interested in history, monuments and cultural heritage. The church should not become a museum. However, the museum-like presentation would be most desired in the case of this exceptionally rare, national cultural monument, a fully preserved renaissance chapel with painted decoration.
Painted history of Bratislava – Children illustrate the stories of Pavel Dvořák
Words by the project’s organiser Beáta Husová
The two-year project at the Bratislava Town Museum (MMB) Painted History of Bratislava – Children Illustrate the Stories of Pavel Dvořák (2014 – 2015) was part of the Strategy of the Development of Slovak Museums and Galleries Until 2018. Its aim was to bring new information, but primarily to attract the largest possible number of children to the museums. It followed the concept of the museum’s teachings, All About the Museum and Bratislava History, which is part of the children’s workshop entitled The Museum Has its Future (since 2011). The engagement of young visitors into this new meaningful and attractive free-time activity was to result in a publication with the renowned historian Pavel Dvořák.
The project offered the children, aged 4 to 16, a unique opportunity to illustrate the stories of the historian’s new book. The children had to think about the stories, imagine the era and people from the past, their clothes as well as whatever remained untold in the story. Thirty-nine stories from Bratislava history chronologically narrated by Dvořák, who is known for making the monotonous facts sound fascinating, meant wandering from the prehistoric times to the middle of the 20th century. The educational character of the project meant fitting the stories into specific historic times, mainly with the aid of collection items used as authentic textbook tools.
The first results of the project were displayed at the exhibition Painted History of Bratislava – Children Illustrate the Stories of Pavel Dvořák from 9th December 2014 until 11th January 2015 in the “Little Book” and the programme’s puzzle calendar for 2015. Over 800 illustrations were submitted for the project by schools and individuals. Out of these, 179 were published in the book.
ZVOLEN AND SURROUNDINGS
Zvolen – story of the trades’ town
Zvolen is one of the oldest medieval towns in Slovakia. Its favourable position on the crossroads of long-distance business routes was key to its origin. The area has been continuously inhabited since prehistoric times. The Slavic fort Priekopa (Ditch), which was built above the nearby spring Neresnica in the 9th century, was still functioning and newly fortified at the time when the Hungarian state was formed. The continuity of several small settlements in Zvolen’s area is also archaeologically documented after the end of the Great Moravian Empire. The first written evidence, which directly concerns Zvolen, is in the so-called Anonymus Chronicle from the end of the 12th century. Hungarian King Bela IV granted Zvolen its town privilege in 1238. What makes it unique is the fact that it was not granted to the guests – hospites, as usual, but to the native citizens who claimed the document and started the building of the town.
From the Middle Ages, the basis of the town’s economy was trades, namely agriculture and commerce. The first records about Zvolen craftsmen date to the second half of the 14th century. The guilds, which originated in our towns since the 14th century, organised the trades’ production, education of apprentices and journeymen and were a guarantee of quality and long-term stability of the trade. They also had a significant role in social and religious areas, helped with military and fire protection of towns and supported cultural development of towns. The oldest recorded guild in Zvolen were the shoemakers – Czech der Schuchmacher (1537). Several other guilds were founded in the 16th century – butchers (1562), tailors (1571), locksmiths and sword-makers (around 1577) and blacksmiths (1613). In the 1630s, six oldest trade guilds continually worked in Zvolen: boot-makers, butchers, hatters, tailors, shoemakers and an associated guild of locksmiths, blacksmiths and sword-makers.
In the 18th century, the number of Zvolen guilds grew, and a new associated guild was established that grouped boot-makers, tanners and potters. In 1803, the town had at least 13 guilds. Part of the Zvolen craftsmen was organised in the surrounding towns’ guilds. For instance, the Zvolen dyers, girdlers and goldsmiths were organised in Banská Bystrica. The regional boot-makers’ guild of the mining towns worked for some time in Zvolen in the course of the 17th century and the Zvolen’s boot trade was shared between the guilds in Brezno, Fiľakovo and Slovenská Ľupča.
After the guilds ceased to exist, their traditions continued in several associations, e.g. the boot-makers. Zvolen had kept its traditional character until the second half of the 19th century, when several important industrial companies originated after the railway was built. This has subsequently changed the look of the town forever.
Amateur theatre in Zvolen in the collections of Forestry and Wood Museum
The fund of the Forestry and Wood Museum in Zvolen (LDM) contains a collection that documents the amateur theatre activities of the Zvolen citizens from the start of the Czechoslovak Republic in 1918 until the beginning of the 1960s. It is a set of around 70 posters, theatre bulletins and invitations, stage drawings, lists of plays and actors, screenplays, books, a collection of negatives and positive prints and several items used by the actors on stage – such as make-ups and stage props. Other facts about the theatre can be found in the then regional press and correspondence stored in the museum archives.
Another precious source of information on the amateur theatre history in Zvolen are the drawings, notes and memories of Gustáv Stadtrucker (1906 – 1980), the theatre director, set designer and actor, who was one of the most important theatre amateurs in Zvolen. This information supplements the facts found in literature and Slovak National Archives, Theatre Institute in Bratislava, Literary Archive of the Slovak National Library in Martin and Banská Bystrica State Archives – Zvolen branch.
Zvolen started to write the history of the Slovak amateur theatre during the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. The then situation did not allow the citizens to publicly perform Slovak theatre, despite the attempt of several leading Zvolen natives (Samuel Medvecký, Miloš Štefanovič and Viliam Pauliny-Tóth). They could only perform in private, to nationally favoured families. With the origin of Czechoslovakia, the situation radically changed. The amateur theatre became the hub of associations, such as the Slovak Educational and Reading Club and Gym Unity Sokol (Falcon) established in 1919, Society of Czechoslovak Theatre Amateurs in 1922 and other corporations, associations, clubs and activities.
The history of the famous Amateur Association Detvan started in 1933. It had around 50 actors and its activity significantly influenced the social and cultural life of the town especially in the interwar period. Thanks to collective tours, the members of the ensemble shared their art with other towns and villages. The Second World War unfortunately disrupted their work. Detvan ceased to exist in 1965, but its tradition helped to start up the professional theatre scene in Zvolen, first known as the Central-Slovak Theatre and since 1954 the Theatre of Jozef Gregor Tajovský.
Slovak grammar school in Banská Bystrica in 1852 – 1867
The higher (8-year) Slovak Catholic state grammar school in Banská Bystrica existed from 1852 to 1867. It was one of the few visible results the Slovaks achieved in the then Hungarian Kingdom after the revolution years of 1848/1849. Originally aimed for the whole of Slovakia, the school’s activity was limited to four “Slovak” regions: Zvolen, Turiec, Liptov and Orava. Three other Slovak grammar schools were later established within the Hungarian Kingdom, but these were patronal instead of state. There was the Slovak higher evangelical grammar school in Revúca (1862 – 1874), Slovak lower (4-year) evangelical grammar school in Martin (1866 – 1874) and after the abolishment of the Banská Bystrica school they founded the Slovak lower Catholic grammar school in v Kláštor pod Znievom (1869 – 1874).
Up to this date, the expert literature, including school textbooks as well as popular-educational literature, only mentions three Slovak patronal grammar schools in Revúca, Martin and Kláštor pod Znievom. The authentic sources however say that the Banská Bystrica grammar school ran from October 1852 as a regular Slovak state grammar school under the name Imperial-Royal Catholic State Higher Grammar School in Banská Bystrica. It was considered regular also by the deputy administrator of the Zvolen county, Béla Grünwald, who was one of the greatest enforcers of the Hungarian language on the country’s inhabitants and who was later behind the closing of all Slovak grammar schools.
Banská Bystrica grammar school was first situated in the Old Town Hall in the Town Castle. In 1858 the town built a new unique school, following the request of Bishop Štefan Moyzes. The school’s building was one of the most modern in the then Hungary and is preserved up to this day. There used to be the school’s meteorological observatory, the classrooms had ventilation and tap water. Regarding the fact that Slovakia lacked Slovak professors, until 1861 the Slovak professors Ján Gotčár, Juraj Slota, Ján Geromett, Anton Cebecauer, Michal Chrástek and Martin Čulen were accompanied by excellent Czech professors, including Jakub Dragoni, Matej Ružička, Václav Vlček and Václav Zenger. The last of them became famous with his inventions all over Europe. He was the first one in Banská Bystrica to take photographs and meteorological observations.
The grammar school taught the following subjects: Greek, Latin, German and Slovak languages, religion, geography, maths, geometry, natural science, history and physics. The optional subjects were Hungarian and French languages, calligraphy, stenography, technical drawing, singing and gymnastics. After the adoption of the October Diploma in 1860, which enforced the idea of the unified Hungarian nation, the Czech professors in the school year 1861/1862 were transferred or retired and replaced by Hungarian professors. Štefan Moyzes, who suggested including the Hungarian language among the mandatory subjects, was surprised by this action of the Hungarian government. Despite his efforts, he failed in sustaining the existence of the Slovak grammar school, which saw its end in 1867.
Mortuaries from the Central Slovak Museum in Banská Bystrica
The coat of arms, a sign respected by the whole of society and understandable to all ranks of people had accompanied its owners all their life. It had an irreplaceable identification and significantly representative function, which resonated long after one’s death.
Since the Middle Ages, it was the custom after the death of an aristocrat to display his shield with the coat of arms, helmet and other parts of his armament during the burial ceremony and then above the tombstone in church. In the course of the 16th century, when heraldry left the battlefields and spread to other areas of life, the coat of arms was transformed into artworks. These adopted the function of the previous shield during the mourning ceremonies and then remained in churches as a permanent memory of the deceased one. These relics connected to the funeral and burial place are generally known as mortuaries (from Latin mortuārium). To be more specific, this term is used for two concrete groups of relics containing the coat of arms of the deceased and an inscription. The first includes wooden or metal round or oval burial shields painted in relief style and decorated with gold, where the coat of arms and inscription is accompanied with the symbols describing the activities of the deceased (weapons, flags, armament), or death symbols (sand-glass, skull). These were displayed on the houses of the deceased during the mourning period, then carried in the funeral procession and in the end placed on the wall in church next to the tombstone of the deceased.
During the 17th century, the so-called funeral coats of arms (Funeralwappen, Totenwappen, halotti címerek) were created, which were originally to be only used during the funeral as an identification of the deceased, decoration for the walls and information to the mourning public. These coats of arms were painted on silk or paper in the shape of a rectangle with an inscription. Based on the written and visual evidence, they were mounted onto a black fabric that covered the coffin in several rows, or the so-called castrum doloris.
The collection of mortuaries of the Central Slovak Museum consists of 203 burial coats of arms, which belonged to 176 people from 132 aristocratic families. The oldest item in the collection is the silk mortuary from 1708 (No 180) and the youngest paper mortuary from 1933 (No 140), which nicely demonstrates the artistic, stylistic and language development of these works over two centuries. 113 coats of arms are painted on textile (silk, taffeta and brocade) and 90 are on paper. Silk mortuaries dominated until around 1810, then the score was balanced and since 1825, paper was in favour.
The collection of mortuaries in the Central Slovak Museum in Banská Bystrica is one of the largest collections of silk and paper funeral coats of arms in the whole of Central Europe. Štefan Kocka restored this unique collection in 2013 – 2016.