Monuments and museums
Cultural Heritage Review
Ivan Gojdič – Maroš Semančík
Villa Iskra in Nový Smokovec
The train station Sibír (Siberia), of the Tatra Electric Railway, sits at the end of the Tatra settlement of Nový Smokovec. It is named after the Siberia Villa (formerly Szikra-ház, or Iskra, meaning Spark House), which was built by the significant, intellectual aristocratic family of Teleki in the early 20th century, as one of the last private recreational houses in the Tatra Mountains before the First World War. Countess Teleki designed the villa without any professional education. Nevertheless, this liberally minded woman created a project that needed no expert review. It was a proposal of high functional and aesthetic value, one of the highest in the recreational villa resorts of Upper Hungary. Next to the villa, her husband, Sándor Teleki, built the first alpine rockery in the High Tatras. After her husband’s death and the origin of the Czechoslovak Republic, the widow sold this remarkable building. Since 1922, it belonged to the Bank of the Czechoslovak Legion in Prague, which set up a relaxation centre for the legionaries there. As suggested by Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk’s wife, Charlotte, the villa was renamed Siberia, as a memory to the legion’s battles. With the new name and use, new rooms were created in the villa’s attic. All interventions in the building’s layout and exterior were very sensitive and respected the original character. The villa occupiers that followed after the Second World War copied this similar approach, which was unusual at that time. The modifications for the trade union recreational movement and local nursery school did not affect the building’s values, apart from the modernization of the engineering networks and partial replacement of windows, which can be still seen up to this date. Earlier furnishings and interior fittings have not been preserved, nevertheless, the villa, which has returned to its original name, represents one of the most authentic buildings of this type not only in the High Tatras. Nowadays, only the name of the railway station Siberia reminds us of the villa’s use by the Czechoslovak legion between the wars.
First Czechoslovak Republic: state versus nobility
The year of 1918 is perceived as a significant milestone in modern Slovak history. For the Czechs and Slovaks living back then it meant the beginning of new times, a formal origin of a joint state. However, there were many other groups of population living in the territory of the Czechoslovak Republic, which were defined not only at the national level but also on the social principle. One such group was the aristocracy, which had lost its existential framework with the end of the monarchic establishment. The nobility, especially in the territory of today’s Slovakia, was very heterogeneous. Despite being at the top of the social pyramid, it had literally dropped to the position of a national and social minority in a day. The attitudes towards the new state differed, and this also reflected the behavioural strategies. The article uses concrete examples that illustrate the complexity of its position in democratic Czechoslovakia. It draws attention to little previously known aspects that interfered with these people’s lives, especially with the new land reform. It also indicates the consequences that had fully arisen after the Second World War.
Czechoslovakia in the streets of Bratislava (public space as a place of representation)
The article describes the complicated process of connecting Bratislava to Czechoslovakia at the turn of 1918 and 1919, and its formation as the centre of Slovakia. The author pays special attention to the public places (streets, squares, parks), as well as material traces (monuments, memorial plaques) that refer to personalities, events and institutions connected with their Czechoslovakization and Slovakization processes of forced cultural assimilation. The process of renaming public spaces in Bratislava took place in two stages, in the 1920s and 1930s. It was part of the overall administration reorganization, underpinned by the law system of the Czechoslovak Republic and the city’s statutes. In spite of the declared idea of Czechoslovakism, the institutionalization of public spaces was more connected with the national story of significant Slovaks (such as M. R. Štefánik, J. Hollý, J. M. Hurban, Ľ. Štúr) rather than Czech personalities. Apart for the monument of M. R. Štefánik, the demonstration of the state power through the construction of monuments had not been very effective in Bratislava.
Adriana Priatková – Dana Kušnírová – Peter Anna
Family villa of inter-war Košice’s first mayor
After the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy and origin of the Czechoslovak Republic in 1918, a number of significant changes had to be performed to stabilise the country’s overall political situation. The importance of Košice, as the second largest city of Slovakia, has increased. It became the centre of the economy, trade, education and culture in the country’s east. The reform of the public administration in the newly established republic meant the concentration of offices went to Košice. As the result of the war and tension following the establishment of the new republic, the city was in a lot of debt. In addition, the Košice citizens had to cope with price overcharge following the devaluation of currency. Mayor Pavol Novák took over the city management in a difficult financial situation and had to implement the reform of the city administration. After a few years, he built a representative luxury family villa on a lucrative plot, designed by the Czech architect Rudolf Brebta. The building was inspired by the Bratislava villa of Novák’s brother-in-law, Pavol Fábry, which was designed by the significant Slovak architect Michal Milan Harminc. Brebta admirably transformed its neoclassical style into an elegantly modern look, still bearing signs of the post-war decoration. After 1938, Pavol Novák and his family were forced to leave Košice. After the Second World War he found his villa devastated. Later, it was nationalized, and a nursery school was run there until 1980s. The villa was reconstructed in 2006.
Andrej Botek – Róbert Erdélyi – Pavol Pauliny – Barbora Vachová
New findings on constructional development of St. Nicholas’s Church in Bratislava-Podunajské Biskupice
The Roman Catholic Church of St. Nicholas is located in the centre of one of Bratislava’s suburbs – in Podunajské Biskupice. The first valid written evidence about the church dates to 1262. Although it was declared a cultural monument in 1963, it has been long ignored by the professional public. The main reason behind this was the 1937 reconstruction, which changed its medieval look by adding two side naves. The monument research, which took place in the church from 2015, identified fifteen developmental phases. Among the most significant discoveries were the archaeologically documented floor levels of older sacral buildings. The oldest of these related to the period in the 10th and 11th centuries. The research has also revealed a Romanesque triple-nave with a tower, preserved up to the crown cornice, dated using the dendrochronology method to the second half of the 12th century. Other discoveries included a unique truss over the church’s central nave from 1492 to 1493 and the preserved medieval fresco decoration of the walls in the church’s presbytery. The research was completed in 2016. Currently, the church is being restored.
Emblems in the work of Levoča goldsmith Ján Szilassy
Ján Szilassy (1704 – 1782) from Levoča is considered to be the most famous and most productive baroque goldsmith and enameller of Upper Hungary. Regarding the importance and number of his high quality preserved works, he was shown a great interest from the researchers. In spite of that, an important aspect of his work remains omitted: the emblems applied on enamel medallions, which are a characteristic part of his rich gold production. The emblems that he often used, such as Latent res eximiae (Hidden is special), Non confractus non divisus (Unbroken and undivided) and Ut vit habeant (So that they may have life), can be found in the extended emblematic compendium of Symbolographia, sive de arte symbolica sermones septem (Augsburg and Dillingen, 1701) by the Jesuit Jakob Bosch (1652 – 1704). The unique emblem is the one depicting a man at the body of a dead lion, with bees flying out of its jaws. Its inscription, on the chalice from 1762 found in the eastern Slovak village of Kluknava, reads De forti dulcedo (Out of the strong came forth sweetness). The source for this emblem can be found in another significant book that is important for understanding the visual culture of the 17th and 18th centuries, in the Mundus Symbolicus (Cologne, 1681) written by Filippo Picinelli (1604 – 1667). The books help to explain the individual emblems and their link to the liturgical function of the goldsmith works. The applied emblems symbolically reminded and communicated the faith and dogma of the assembled Catholic Church community at the regular celebration of the Eucharist.
Miloslava Borošová Michalcová – Zuzana Grúňová
Art Nouveau decoration of Vavrínový House in Banská Štiavnica
Banská Štiavnica is undoubtedly the treasure-trove of historical architecture, of which the public mainly knows its earlier examples. The less recognized is the local Art Nouveau architecture. The article describes the villa known as Boženka’s or Vavrínový (Laurel’s) House, with probably an older historical core. The Art Nouveau decoration dominates the recently restored interior (with unpreserved furniture). It consists of template stripes and rosette motifs, combined with floral and geometric elements. The two ceiling paintings of the main living rooms are interesting. The painted area is divided into larger coloured units framed with a delicate leaf-work pattern. There are medallions with portraits of famous people from artistic and political life, painted on a gilded pseudo-mosaic background. The article offers a detailed analysis of the preserved parts and suggests a method of restoring the decoration. It will undoubtedly be interesting for further research as to what inspired this distinctive decoration and in what context, on a scale that overcomes the boundaries of Banská Štiavnica.
Little known keepsake remembering Sissi in the collections of Bratislava City Museum
The collections of the City Museum of Bratislava hold an interesting and little-known keepsake of the Empress Elizabeth (Sissi), made after her death in 1898. József Mayr from Budapest, the chief administrator of the Archduke estate, donated it to the museum in 1903 – 1904. The item was made of authentic clothing parts belonging to the Empress Elizabeth, including the underdress of the so-called “Hungarian dress”, which the empress wore at the Millennium celebrations in 1896, a festive nape veil and a black wooden cross with the inscription IN MEMORY OF, which Elizabeth wore on mourning occasions. The item is accompanied with a letter written in Hungarian by the empress’s former lady of the court, Ida Krisztina Veronika Ferenczy von Vecseszék (1839 – 1928). She wrote it on November 19, 1901 in Vienna, dedicating the “holy relics” of the empress to the care of someone named Gabriella.
Milan Thurzo – Pavol Jančovič
Dislocated historical boundary marks in Bratislava
Apart from the historical boundary marks set in their original locations, there are also boundary marks that were added to the Bratislava urban area secondarily. Three such border marks can be found on Žižkova Street, where they were discovered after the collapse of Zuckermandel’s historic buildings. Two are set on the cliff protruding from the castle’s stone hill, and the third one sits below the former garden’s wall. Their common feature is the three-towers, as the symbol of the city, and in two cases initials PV (Pozsony Város – Bratislava City). Since they were not marked on the 1897 cadastral map of Bratislava, they probably got there from a different location, perhaps from Bubenkova Street near the castle. A stone that is quite atypical and big, in comparison to the other Bratislava border marks, dated 1842, is situated on the corner of the Old Town Hall’s courtyard at its Gothic passage. Its location is also unusual, because the Old Town Hall’s courtyard, which is basically the centre of Bratislava’s historical core, has never represented the city’s frontier. An interesting corner mark is located on the edge of the house right behind the eastern wall (apse) of St. Martin’s Cathedral at Rudnayovo Square. It was originally left lying on a pile of rubble in the middle of the square. Owner Konštantín Čársky, inserted it in his house more than half a century ago. Based on the preserved inscription, it originally represented the border between the city and the chapter (canonry) areas. The so-called dual landmark, with the city’s and Pálffy’s emblems, used to mark the border between the original city and Pálffy vineyards on the western slope of the castle hill in the first half of the 18th century. Marián Kukelka found it on a nearby hill and installed it on his plot in Hradné údolie valley in 2005.
Another landmark sat in the garden’s corner at the villa on 1 Lesná Street until 2005. It defined the urban land of Horský park area. The new owners moved it to the southern wall of the renovated villa in 2017. Two boundary stones were also preserved on Novosvetská Street. One is a typical city border mark, and the other is a rare landmark with the I.G.S. initials and dated 1768. Although the latter is currently in the private garden, it was originally located on the edge of a road. A curious “novelty” is the historic railway border stone with the initials K.K. and the serial number 46, situated at the corner of the Búdkova and Drotárska cesta crossroads. It was originally installed at the main station, somewhere around Pražská road.
Story of Slovakia’s Railway Museum
The activity of the enthusiasts, who reacted to the end of the steam locomotives during the 1970s, led to the establishment of today’s Railway Museum in Slovakia. In 1978, they grouped in the section of the railway transport history of the Czechoslovak Science and Technology Association. Together with the Faculty of Engineering of Bratislava’s Slovak Technical University in Bratislava, they saved the first railway vehicles. Building up on this basis, the Administration of the Eastern Track of the Czechoslovak State Railways established a documentation workplace in 1983, which has been called the Museum-Documentation Centre of the Eastern Railway Track (MDC) since 1986. Its first important happening was the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Slovak railways in 1998. Thanks to its success, the MDC survived the railways division in 2001 – 2005. This was mainly achieved by enhancing the cooperation with the community of the Slovak railway enthusiasts, who took care of the functioning historical vehicles. The Museum-Documentation Centre focused on the construction of the National Railway Park in the old locomotive depot in Bratislava East and revitalization of the Tisovec – Pohronská Polhora cog railway by introducing tourist steam trains. If the first mentioned project was a marathon run, the second did not get completed until 2014, with the introduction of the first rack steam train. In 2018, the MDC was renamed to the Railway Museum of the Slovak Republic.