Figures on psychostasis from Poruba church paintings
The Church of St. Nicholas the Bishop in Poruba (Prievidza district) has an unusually interesting gothic wall painting with the scene of Psychostasis – The Weighing of the Souls. During the restoration works, while identifying the figures depicted with the Archangel Michael, the art historians agreed that the saintly female figure is Elizabeth of Hungary. The article tries to prove, based on the iconography, that it is St. Catherine of Alexandria.
The painting is dated to the beginning of the 15th century. It illustrates the after-life ideas of Christians and indicates their connection to Egyptian culture and Ancient World. The peacock feathers on the wings of the Archangel Michael refer to the depictions of Egyptian Christians – the Copts. Their administrative centre was Alexandria and the patriarchate of that place supported the worship of local saints, in particular the Archangel Michael and St. Catherine of Alexandria. Michael the Archangel became the protector of the Nile River and Egypt against evil. The cult of St. Catherine relates directly to Egypt.
Since the worship of Michael the Archangel started, the biblical and folk traditions intersected. The first testimony of St. Michael’s cult in Egypt goes back to the end of the 2nd century AD. Since the 3rd century, it could be traced in Frygia (today’s Turkey), and since the 5th century in today’s south-eastern Italy, first in Gargano, and later in Ravenna and Milano. The second Council of Nicaea (present-day Iznik in Turkey) in the year 787 gave a strong impulse to the cult’s development as it declared that angels can also be present in images.
The process of The Weighing of the Souls – Psychostasis, is of Egyptian origin, and represents the struggle of a soul for salvation or condemnation. In Christianity, the process of weighing of the souls means the battle between good and evil. In artistic interpretations, it is either God or Michael the Archangel, who weigh the souls. Both can have a woman by their side. The Virgin Mary usually stands next to God and intercedes for the souls’ salvation. Archangel Michael can be also depicted with the Virgin May, but also with St. Catherine of Alexandria, who was the most popular medieval saint after the Virgin Mary.
The wall painting from Poruba portrays St. Catherine of Alexandria with two of her typical attributes – sword in the right hand (the instrument of her death) and crown on her head (she was thought to be the daughter of an Egyptian monarch, or Cyprian king, who lived in Egyptian exile). Since Poruba belongs to the mining regions in Slovakia, which were inhabited by German colonists in the Middle Ages, the image can be compared, for instance, with the 14th century wall painting in the Cathedral of the Virgin Mary in the town of Wetzlar, state Hesse (Germany). The clothes on the Poruba painting match the fashion of the 13th century; they refer to the period patterns of the 13th century in the north and central parts of Italy.
Convention of Trinitarians in Bratislava
The year of 1672 represented a crucial turning point in Bratislava’s religious situation. The recatholisation authority took away churches, schools and other buildings from the Evangelic clergy and gave them to Catholic religious orders. Among them were the barefoot Trinitarians, who were invited to come to the town by the Archbishop of Esztergom, Leopold Kollonich.
The conditions, in which the monks lived after their arrival to Bratislava, were modest. The residency did not own any estates, and had neither financial securities nor monarchic donation that would have established the legal foundations of its existence. The second superior of the Bratislava Trinitarians, Padre Francisco, professor of theology from Spain, decided to solve the situation radically. In order to build his own residence, he needed sufficient finances to buy landed property. He acquired a donation of four thousand zlatých (golden coins, also called ducats or guldens) from Leopold Kollonich. The monks managed to increase this sum by eight thousand zlatých (probably from gifts and alms). They deposited five thousands zlatých to earn interest and thus secure a regular income in future, and used the rest to buy the property.
The Trinitarians decided to settle in front of Michael’s Gate, in the neighbourhood of a former (medieval) cemetery of the Evangelists. Despite the resentment from the Evangelic owners, they bought several adjacent sections of land for the construction of their new monastery area, using all available funds. The Archbishop of Esztergom confirmed the ownership of all their acquired properties on June 30, 1699, and integrated them with other religious communities in the city, securing them the same rights in religious as well as profane matters. That same day, he also issued a document for the Trinitarians, by which he accepted their papal privileges and gave them permission to collect alms all across the Hungarian Kingdom.
The purchased houses were immediately adapted to monastery needs. The first to be built was a chapel with an adjacent choir and sacristy in a corner house. In other houses they built rooms for fifteen monks, a vapour bath and workshops for the order’s craftsmen. The construction of the church started in 1714, in the adjoining evangelical cemetery. This decision caused a stir across the whole of the kingdom. Several Hungarian offices, as well as the monarch himself, tried to tackle this dispute, which was finally solved by the mandate of Charles VI on August 12, 1716. Based on that, the Trinitarians won the controversial cemetery for the construction of their monastery and the Bratislava Evangelic religious community could demand its right for an alternate land only in the case if it submitted documents confirming the ownership of the site by a specified date. But because the Evangelists never obtained a monarchic donation, nothing else endangered the property of the Trinitarians. The foundation stone of the new church was sanctified on June 12, 1717.
Daniel Révay – from conflicts to murder
When researching the archival documents on the history of the Blatnica castle, among the ordinary entries recording the castle’s constructional changes and alternation of its owners, the author of this article also found an interrogation record of Daniel Révay, who was executed for the murder of a female servant. The common archive of the aristocratic family of the Révays contains many documents about the legal disputes led by Daniel Révay against the members of his close as well as distant relatives in the 1650s to 1670s. They included not only property disagreements but also private family issues, which revealed the most intimate aspects of life.
Daniel Révay was born in the first third of the 17th century, as a third son of Baron František Révay and his first wife, Baroness Barbora Pongrácz, most likely in the manor house in Turčianska Štiavnička. When in 1638, all four sons reached the legally competent age, František Révay decided to divide the property amongst them to prevent possible future disputes. Despite this division, the squabbles between the father and his sons about the assigned property started at the end of the 1640s. These were only resolved by the last father-son’s division of properties in 1651, accomplished thanks to the initiative of Palatine Pavol Pálffy. From that year started the on-going disputes of Daniel Révay against the other family members, which culminated in the 1670s, when he was put in jail.
The legal disputes resolved by the Turčianska Office cost a lot of money, which forced the belligerent Daniel to sell the family property to third parties. His wife, Judita Bossanyi, and his children Michal and Judita, who shared the household in Turčianska Štiavnička with their father, found themselves in a most difficult situation. The situation between the husband and wife culminated at the beginning of 1674, when Daniel’s mistress, Žofia Szelessényi, who had a child with him, mysteriously disappeared. By examining several witnesses, the Turčianska Chapter found Daniel Révay guilty of murder and multiple heavy offences. The public execution was performed on November 17, 1676, in a square in Bratislava, then Pressburg.
Specific historic forms of bottle glassware
The production of bottle glassware forms a specific category in the history of glassmaking in Slovakia. The square-like bottles, decorated by various techniques, represent a unique collection within that group. This type of hollow utility glassware was mainly popular in the 18th century, since its shape and decoration technique reveal an evident connection to baroque tableware, or so-called portable glassware used by the higher societal groups.
The bottles in the shape of sand timers represent an interesting phenomenon in the array of historical bottle glassware and are rarely found in the collections of Slovak museums. The collection fund of the Slovak National Museum in Martin contains most of them. They were often made of clear, sometimes slightly green, blue or yellow solid molten glass of various qualities. These older types of square bottles were made by blowing into forms. That is why their corpus line is partially asymmetrical, which is a natural trait of hand production. The characteristic feature of these bottles is the secondary melted neck, usually finished by a round or flattened top. The volume of the bottles ranges from 1.5 to 3 litres, which matches the height of around 20 to 40 cm. The walls are mostly smooth, with no decoration, only rarely adorned with engraving technique. This kind of bottle glassware is also unique with a signature in the form of a glass imprint. In the past, it used to label the ownership of the bottled content, for instance liquor (in this case, the labelled glassware was used by the famous Dutch firm Bols). Labelled glassware of a specific type might have been made to order in some of the Slovak glass factories in the past; this assumption could be revised by a subsequent archival research.
Picture of children’s upbringing in old spelling and reading books
The moralistic texts, in the Slovak reading books from the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, look like sententious tractates, extracts from catechisms or morality rules, stating what a child should or should not do. They use child as an object of upbringing, without considering his/her age or level of understanding. These texts are often concentrated rules of health and safety, for example, Leopold Bruck in his spelling book from 1849 lists rules saying what a child should or should not do, how to keep healthy, as well as what to do in case of an accident – drowning, burning, etc. Many of these texts read like real stories, or even press news on accidents that had happened.
In the second half of the 19th century, the authors of reading books began to look for better ways of communicating with their little readers. They tried to make the child not only an object but also the subject of upbringing. The main hero was a child, a little pupil; children were there to set an example to other children. The authors introduced this character in various situations, in relationship to adults, children, nature, school and education. Despite the fact that the main character was a little hero, the spelling and reading books bear a shocking picture of the then approach to children’s upbringing.
The literary historians call the reading books about the good and bad children, moralistic children’s exempla. Their main heros were children, but the authors often accredited inhuman deeds and emotional emptiness to them. They did not develop children’s fantasy, and they could not bring emotional joy. The negative examples could evoke fear in children or even inspire them to bad deeds. Transcribing the texts from book to book, the tragic stories in various modifications appeared in Slovak spelling and reading books from the 19th to the beginning of the 20th century. They were still there, when the reading books started to accept more valuable genres for children, e.g. a fairy-tale. Given the fact, that the authors often drew inspirations from foreign reading books (German, Hungarian), the same moralistic exempla, often with the same names of heros, were read back then by German as well as Czech children in Litava part of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy.
Story of Matica slovenská’s second building
Slovakia’s national cultural heritage and research institution Matica slovenská, which was banned by the government of the Hungarian kingdom in 1875, resumed its activity on January 1, 1919, during the Czechoslovak Republic. Matica’s task was to raise the level of education of the Slovak nation and improve the intellectual as well as material aspect. In order to do this, it needed not only the people’s and material sources, but also a sufficient space. Its management therefore decided to build a new office, the so-called second building of Matica slovenská, in Turčiansky Svätý Martin (present-day Martin), the national centre of Slovaks.
The first building, built in 1865, was occupied by the state offices and Matica slovenská only had four rooms designated for its activities. Matica thus proposed that the state purchased the original residence of Matica slovenská. The money from the sale was to be used for the construction of the new residence. The decision about the purchase was negotiated by the government on May 3, 1924. They agreed on the sum of 2 million korún (koruna means crown) and the state also agreed to pay all transaction fees. The Matica committee unanimously accepted the offer. They also agreed, when announcing the competition for the new building’s project, a financial reward for the first three designs of 5,000, 3,000 and 2,000 korún, respectively.
Eight participants entered the architectural competition for Matica’s new residence. Since the designs were submitted under passwords, only the names of five architects can be detected from the archival documents. The winners were Prague’s architects Jan Mentberger, Karel Polívka and Vlastimil Brožek (TM brandmark). The design of Emil Belluš was second and Martin’s builder and architect Ján Palkovič finished third. The competition did not bring the expected result, so the management decided to run a new competition. This time, though, they addressed chosen architects: Emil Belluš, Jan Burian and Ján Palkovič. E. Belluš and J. Burian submitted one design each, while J. Palkovič supplied four concepts for the new building. The winner was the second Palkovič’s design, with dominant features of classicistic architecture, which he slightly changed after the consultation with Matica’s managers (interior staircase, façade).
Despite the criticism of the winning project by Matica members as well as the general public, the foundation stone of the new building was laid on August 13, 1924, in Martin. Stanislav Zachar from Vrútky won the Matica’s tender for the building’s contractor. The republic’s president, Tomáš G. Masaryk, was present at the grandiose opening of the second Matica’s building in 1926. The building became a national cultural monument in 1964.
Hockey traditions in Košice
Modern sport disciplines began to flourish in former Hungary mainly during the second half of the 19th century. This was also the case in Košice. New sports clubs were established, and the Ice Skating Association was founded in 1874. The city allocated an area in the town’s park near the railway station for building a skating rink and later, also a pavilion.
Back then, the gym associations and sports clubs in Slovakia were Hungarian, with organisational links to Budapest. Socially most established sport activity in Košice was swordplay, also popular were football, tennis, athletics and boxing. Cycling, bowling and chess, made their beginnings as well. After the origin of Czechoslovakia, the situation in sport changed. New sports associations were established and the conditions favoured the development and propagation of hockey
The beginnings of hockey in Slovakia were connected to bandy hockey, the predecessor of today’s Canadian-style ice hockey. The first official bandy match took place in Slovakia on 18 December 1921, between two Košice clubs – Czechoslovak Sports Club (ČsŠK) and Kassai Atletikai Club (KAC). In the course of several weeks, this sport became so popular that it gave origin to the hockey department at the Kassai Sports Club (KSC), and even female hockey teams at the KAC and KSC clubs. Female hockey back then was a rarity on the European scale.
The first attempts of Košice to switch to the Canadian-style hockey, which began to dominate most of Europe, were recorded at the turn of 1924 and 1925. Unfortunately, the hockey players and their supporters did not have enough money and the financially more demanding “Canadian style” had to postpone its Košice premiere. A pre-Olympic tournament in Canadian-style hockey took place in the High Tatra’s Štrbské Pleso in January 1928. Košice, in order to build a strong team, joined the players from ČsŠK and KAC clubs. The first organisation of Canadian-style hockey, Slovenská župa hokejová (Slovak Hockey Federation), was established in Slovakia on 31 December 1929, and the first Slovak championships took place in the middle of February 1930. Košice hockey players achieved their biggest success in 1934, when they won the Tatra Cup in Nový Smokovec.
Košice began to write a modern, successful history of professional hockey after the Second World War, and especially after the completion of the Košice winter stadium with artificial ice in 1958/1959. Košice raised many great hockey players and the hockey game became a characteristic sport phenomenon of the city.
Shooting target from 1813
The collection of shooting targets painted on wood, in Bratislava City Museum, contains one that is painted on copper tinplate underlaid with wood. It is one of the largest targets, with a diameter of 125 – 126 cm. It was made following a relatively complicated iconographic programme. The painting is divided into several areas with deep perspectives. A veduta section of Pressburg (today’s Bratislava) is painted in the background on the right, and an idealised view of the Calvary is on the left. The painting on the target is a combination of reality and fiction, it can be interpreted as an apotheosis of the Queen of Hungary and Empress of Austria, Maria Theresa (1740 – 1780), also known as Magna Mater Austriae. According to the inscription, the target was dedicated to four leading members of the Shooting Society: Anton Jakub von Braunecker (1755 – 1821), Paul Kochmeister, Franz Zader and Johann Herbste. Franz (Johann Anton Franz) Wiesner/Wisner, Freiherr von Morgenstern, (1740 – 1831) ordered the production of the target. Even though, the target is dated to June 13, 1813, it was used several months later, during a festivity, which was described in detail. It took place at the society’s target range on September 26, 1813. Franz Wiesner was then accepted as an honorary member and “friend” of the Shooting Society (Schützenfreund). On that occasion, he organised a shooting with 13 awards and ordered the painting of five targets. The largest of them, painted on copper tinplate, was hung in an honorary place, in the middle of the target range’s hall, among the portraits of the monarchic couple, Emperor Franz and his wife.
Other three of the mentioned five targets are also identified in the museum’s collections. They were painted by Bratislava artist Franz Schön († 1822). He is better known in literature as the painter of altars for rural churches in western Slovakia. Based on the current research, eight or nine shooting targets in the collections of the Bratislava City Museum seem to be also his work. The identification of Franz Schön as the painter of the pretentious target from 1813, as well as other targets in the collections of the Bratislava City Museum, brings more information, not only on the painter, but also on the profane painting of the first third of the 19th century in the then Pressburg.
Renaissance mansions in Brezovica
At least eleven single-storied noble mansions and a multi-storied manor house were preserved in the former town in the northwestern part of the Šariš county. There used to be more of them, but they got demolished after the Second World War, and, unfortunately, also in the last few years. Until recently, only the manor house and one mansion of these preserved buildings were listed. Luckily, others joined them last year and at least one more mansion is waiting to be declared a national cultural monument. These buildings are quite valuable types of simple renaissance mansions, which have almost no analogies in the wider region.
Brezovica (Sabinov district) was founded by the 13th century as one of the first settlements at the upper course of the Torysa river. The first written evidence is in the document from 1316. Local aristocrats, who used the predicate de Berzewiche, later Berzeviczy, owned the municipality in the Middle Ages and Modern Times. As the family grew, from the 14th century, other noble residences were gradually built (apart from the castle, which has been abandoned since 1540). Brezovica had five mansions in the 16th century. The largest preserved, Brezovica manor house (registration No. 299), originated in the 16th century. Another aristocratic residence, with a cylindrical corner tower (No. 103) was built in the 17th century, as were two renaissance mansions (No. 46 and 164). Other buildings originate from the turn of the 17th and 18th century and later. Presumably, the mansions from the 16th century, were mostly made of wood, and were either demolished or significantly rebuilt.
From among the preserved renaissance mansions, the author chose to describe the single-storied stone construction in the western part of the town’s residential area, today a building, No. 164, which was built around 1602, probably during the reconstruction of the main manor house. Other mansions in Brezovica include building No. 46, situated in the middle of the municipality northwest of the church and built during the 16th – 17th century, and building No. 103, located in the municipality’s western part. The noble mansions in Brezovica represent a set of secular rural architecture that is unique in the Šariš region.