Slovak Heritage Live


Cerveny Klastor 
is featured on video
Journey Through Slovakia 1998-1

You will find every town and village in the
Slovak Army 
Auto Atlas

Genealogical research

Ancestral Village Videos

Ancestral Village Photography

Journey Through Slovakia Videos

Folklore Videos

All photographs
are for sale

Get the history of any 
village or town in Slovakia

001.jpg (30315 bytes)

003.jpg (28925 bytes)

004.jpg (26073 bytes)

006.jpg (21623 bytes)

007.jpg (25488 bytes)

008.jpg (28526 bytes)

009.jpg (22515 bytes)

010.jpg (24143 bytes)

015.jpg (24366 bytes)

020.jpg (24972 bytes)

021.jpg (29317 bytes)

022.jpg (30808 bytes)

023.jpg (27090 bytes)

024.jpg (31518 bytes)

025.jpg (30233 bytes)

026.jpg (28427 bytes)

027.jpg (30026 bytes)

028.jpg (23600 bytes)

All photographs
are for sale





The Zamagurie region, where the Red Monastery is located, was part of the Spiš district, which became a part of the Hungarian kingdom in the 11th century. Before the monastery was founded, the original Slavic population had already been infiltrated by two waves of German colonization. German economic and cultural influence had been felt in the Spiš region down to the beginning of 20th century. In 1319, the magistrate Kokoš, a member of a rich Spiš noble family from Brezovica, donated around 1320 acres (535 hectares) of land from the village of Lechnica to the Cartesians from Skala Útočišťa (The Rock of Refuge) near Letanovce for the establishment of a monastery there. The Spiš Chapter gave their approval for the chapter to be founded and King Charles Robert gave his approval of the monastery's founding charter in 1320.

Prior John became the first rector of the monastery. In 1330 he began work on the structure. The first floor was probably meant to be build as a temporary wooden structure, which was subsequently rebuilt from stone and brick. By the first half of the 14th century, the Cartesians built self-standing homes from stone for the clergy. Subsequently, church, convent and the first workshop buildings were built. The monastery of the hermitic Cartesian order in Lechnica arose during a time when orders were spreading throughout. From 1084, when Bruno of Cologne (who died in 1101) established the first monastery-Grande Chartreuse-at Grenoble, monastic orders quickly spread. In the 14th century, there were already 106 such monasteries, among them, monasteries in Austria, Bohemia, and Hungary. The oldest monastic order in Slovakia was that of the Cartesian Order at Skala Útočišťa, which was established in 1299. The first monks from a monastery in Zica in Slovenia joined them in 1307. One year later, they decided to found a second Cartesian monastery in Slovakia at Lechnica. Work began on this structure in 1330, along the banks of the Dunajec. In 1351, the monastery broke away from the main order and became independent. Subsequently, it became an important religious center on the old Hungarian -Polish border. Through donations and purchases, they acquired large tracts of land and received important privileges, among which were fishing rights on the Dunajec, milling rights, brewing rights and the authority to try court cases for the locality.

The Cartesians were one of the strictest hermitic orders. Their life in the monastic community was spent in seclusion, in continual silence, fasting, prayer, and meditation. Guido, who was the fifth prior at Veuka Kartusia codified the first laws of the order in his "Consuetudines Cartusiae" (The Practices of the Cartusians), written in 1127. It was based of the practices of St. Bruno and the rules of the Romuald and St. Benedict orders. Veuka Kartusia was the center and general chapter of the order. The prior of Veuka Kartusia was, at the same time, the superior of the monastery. A superior, who was chosen for life, ran each monastery. The entire monastery was adapted to the monks’ hermitic way of life. The focal point of every Cartesian monastery was the church with a paradise courtyard and a large cross passage which gave all of the monks access o their small cottages. They lived in modestly constructed cottages and devoted themselves to religious and spiritual worship. Lower ranking brothers in the order performed the work in the monastery. They had a strict daily schedule spent celebrating mass and engaging in worship, which the monks practiced in accordance with their own rite-that of Veuka Kartusia from 11th century. Worship was only part of the communal life in the community.

The monks all wore the same long white habits and scapulars.

The Cartesian monasteries were well known for their rich libraries of codices, which were transcribed-painstakingly copied and brighten up in the seclusion of their cottages. In fact, there never were monasteries for apprentices. Some famous copyists came from Slovakia. The first prior Konrad in a convent at the Lapis Refuge (1307) was, according to preserved documents known as a copyist of uncommon ability. One of his successors, prior Jodok, a native of Vondrisel (present day Nálepkovo), worked in the same place 100 years later in the same position. The monks in the Lechnica monastery were surely devoted to transcribing books. An anonymous chronicler worked in the Lechnica monastery as well. In the library at the University of Budapest, you can still find two codices that were transcribed by anonymous copyists in Lechnica as well as another 30 volumes from other monasteries. Another codex originating from Lechnica is in the possession of the Jagel Library in Krakow.

Despite the seclusion of the Cartesians, they were influenced by happenings in the outside world at the time. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the monks were so devoted to alchemy, astrology, and medicine that in 1462 the general chapter had to curtail their intensive preoccupation with astrology, and in 1470 and 1507 with alchemy. Their work in alchemy and treatments was oriented towards discovering the elixir of life, which was supposed to cure everyone and make them happy. One of the best known alchemists of his time, Martin Kasperborovit, worked in the Lechnica monastery. In 1563, in fear of Protestant zealots, he packed all of his laboratory equipment and fled to Olomouc. Andrej Smocky, an organist from Spisska Nova Ves, preserved his knowledge about alchemy in a book of alchemist remedies "Vade mecum et ego tecum" (Come with me and I with you), in which he recorded alchemist symbolism and terminology in a separate chapter devoted to monastic medicine.

Prior John from Transylvania also eagerly kept himself occupied with alchemy in the monastery at Skala Utocista. So much so, that he was relieved of his duties as prior for destroying all of the property of his fellow monks in connection with his unholy activities.

In the 15th century, the growth of the Lechnica monastery was interrupted. In 1431, Hussites from Little Poland invaded Spis. They crossed the Dunajec, captured Spisska Stara Ves, plundered the monastery and under the leadership of the Polish noble Dobeslav Puchala, penetrated as far as Levoca, which fell to the invaders. In 1433, the Spis territory was the objective of the Hussite army cavalry under the command of Jan Pardus, from Hradok and Friedrich of Straznica. The Hussites returned to plunder the Lechnica monastery, captured Kezmarok, destroyed the monastery in Spisský Stiavnik as well as the Cartesian monastery at Skala utocista. 300 cavalry soldiers, 8000 foot soldiers and 300 battle wagons participated in this expedition of carnage and destruction. After the death of the Hungarian king Sigismund in 1437, as well as the sudden death two years later of his son in law and successor Albrecht of Habsburg, Hungary was jointly ruled by Ladislav Pohrobok and Vladislav Jagelovsky. The title of property administrator and "King Ladislav's highest defender (hajtman)" fell to the Moravian nobleman Jan Jiskra of Brandys, who in Bohemia, had created his own garrison made up of recruited mercenary soldiers. During this time of strife and the struggle for power in the land, bands of robbers arose from the ranks of former Hussite warriors, who attacked monasteries as well as the property of wealthy citizens and nobles. In 1447 and 1448, they attacked monasteries in Spis as well. Subsequently, more and more of Jiskra's former captains contributed to the growth of this movement. One of their leaders, the captain of the castle at Plavec, Peter Aksamit of Kogov, built a camp on the rocks and in the caves at Haligovce, only 3 km from the Lechnica monastery. The brotherhood ravaged not only the areas surrounding the camp, but nearby areas in Poland as well. They were finally defeated and expelled in 1462 under the reign of Matthias I (Corvinus). During this period of unrest, the monastery in Lechnica fell to ruin, but in 1462, it was rebuilt.

In the early 16th century, it acquired new property with vineyards at Zemplin near Szikszo, south of Kosice, and acquired a share of the proceeds of the Kosice treaty. In 1507, the convent bought the Richwald Settlement, mill, and the fights to beer production. The position of the monastery was considerably weakened with the start of the reformation as well as by the wars in Hungary following the defeat of Louis II in the battle against the Turks at Mohacs in 1526. In subsequent years, the monks from the monastery at Skala Utocista found shelter at Lechnica after the people from Levoca had it destroyed in 1543. After mercenaries from Dunajec Castle (in Niedzice in Poland) invaded in 1545, the monks abandoned this monastery as well and fled to Poland, Austria and Moravia. The monastery was closed in 1563 and perished in 1567 with the death of its last prior.

Many parts of the monastery have come from the period when the Cartesians occupied the Red Monastery or have been added based on the development of the wall foundation. The best preserved structure from the original Gothic core of the monastery complex is the single-nave church with two chapels which was attached to the cross passage with the paradise courtyard. The convent has been rebuilt more than once and thus, only part of its original structure still stands. The refectory (the dining hall), originally the chapter hall of the convent, comes from the time of its reconstruction in 1462. The ceiling of this room consists of a network of Gothic arches with a large window recently created from the burned out cavities. The inside walls of the structure were adored with artwork of scenes from the Bible and artwork depicting scenes of the Passion. The following have survived: Christ on the Mount of Olives, The Whipping of Christ, Christ Carrying the Cross-and the Crucifixion. The artwork is the work of anonymous late-Gothic painters from around 1520. The influence of the graphic artist Albrecht Durer can clearly be seen.

Wing of the original courtyard with gate and a cottage with vaulted ceiling comes from the period of the monastery's reconstruction. Later, it was connected to the northeastern comer of the convent. In the courtyard’s interior, it is possible to notice the foundation of the crossed Gothic passageway leading to the portal in the south wall of the church, and the walls of the monks’ cottages, which have been preserved. The entire foundation of a three-room Cartesian cottage was discovered during archeological excavations beneath the cottage prior to the 18th century.


After the Cartesian monastery was closed in 1563, the property was taken over by the Spis provost Gregor Bomemisza. After 1569, the entire property was placed in the hands of secular nobles. Earliest owner was the zhupan (district administrator) of Tolna, Gaspar Magoczi. Then Stefan Tokoly owned the property and after him, Juraj Horvath from Plavec. After his death in 1625, the king bequeathed the monastic property to Pavol Rakoczi, who built additions to the monastery and strengthened its fortification. The Lechnica monastery remained the property of this important noble family until 1699, then Elizabeth Erdody-Rakoczi sold it to the Bishop of Nitra, Ladislav Matasovsky, for 30,000 ducats. His plan was to reestablish the Cartesian order there, but he was not able to fulfill his plan. In 1705, the bishop bequeathed the entire monastic property to the Camaldul Order of the Monte Corona Congregation. General Frantisek Berthoty ruled Lechnica during the Rakoczi rebellion, the I new order didn't occupy the monastery until 1711.


With the Camaldul Order came a rebirth of the hermitic tradition strictly oriented to wards the community of monks. St. Romuald of Ravenna (who died in 1027) founded the order. The name comes from the Camaldoli monastery, which lies in the Tuscany hills at Arezzo in Italy. Reforms carried out by the scholarly monk Paulo Giustiniani (who died in 1528) revived the originally hermitic character of the order. His students and followers formed the Monte Corona Congregation. It was named after the Monte Corona monastery at Perugia, which was the seat of the highest-ranking congregation and general chapter of the order to the end of the 19th century. During the time of its most prolific growth, in the 18th century, the congregation was organized into an association of 25 monasteries, five of which (Kahlenberg, The Red Monastery, Landszer and Majk) were ruled by a common vicar in Kahlenberg near Vienna. The Camaldi order arrived at the Red Monastery in Lechnica in 1711. The monastery was subsequently renovated in accordance with the needs of the order. It was rebuilt in a Baroque style. By the middle of the 18th century, the monastery had acquired the look, which can still be seen today. At first, the order rebuilt the hermitic monastic cottages and renovated the convent building at Lechnica. In 1747, the Camalduli consecrated the repaired and freshly painted St. Anton Pustovnik church. The tower was added to the church in 1750. The entrance wing to the monastic courtyard and a second, outer courtyard for agricultural purposes was added in 1754. Opposite the new entrance gate, a chapel for travelers was built and the Statue of the Holy Trinity was erected in a park along the Dunajec. Farming and other food production was the main concern in the monastic courtyards, which were separated from the sequestered areas of the monks by walls. Besides an inn, stables for livestock, a wagon house, brewery, and a malt-house were situated here. Among the other economic interests owned by the monastery were a mill (in the southwest part of the monastery), glass workshops in Richvald (Velka Lesna), Relovo and Lesnica and "smelters" on the Dunajec. All around the monastery as well as in the gardens near the cottages, the monks grew crops, root plants, and medicinal herbs. Later, they paid for fishing rights on the Dunajec, which brought a welcome abundance of food to the monastery.

In 1754, the Camalduli founded a pharmacy on the first floor of the convent. From 1756 to 1775, Brother Cyprian, a famous surgeon, doctor, and pharmacist ran the pharmacy. Through his work, the pharmacy became known throughout the area. His most significant work is his "Herbarium," written in 1766, in which he catalogued 272 different kinds of herbs and herbal plants from Pieniny and the Tatras. The names of the plants were recorded in four languages: Greek, Latin, German, and Polish. He also described the medicinal properties of some of them. Brother Cyprian, whose real name was Francis Ignac Jaschke (1724-1775) was born in Polkovice in Silesia. He was an well-educated man for his time-an expert in a thousand crafts. He was involved in medicine, botany, pharmacology and alchemy as well as mechanics and cosmology. It is even said that he had constructed a flying machine and flew it in the vicinity of the monastery. An independent pharmaceutical exposition dedicated to the memory of Brother Cyprian has been erected in one of the preserved monastic cottages.

Another important personality in the life of the Lechnica monastery was Father Romuald Hadbavny (1714-1780), a native of the Spis town of Machalovce, spiritual pastor, administrator and archivist of the convent. He oversaw the first complete translation of the Bible into Slovak under the title "Svate biblia slovenské aneb Pisma svateho" (The Slovak Holy Bible or The Holy Scriptures) in two volumes. Hadbavny is also credited with writing a manuscript for a Latin-Slovak dictionary "Syllabus dictionari latino slavonicus" in 1763. Also from his pen came translations of religious songs from the French Benedictine mystic Louis Blosia into Slovak. Hadbavny's works are among the most splendid of 18th century Slovak literature and philology. They are the products of a tireless spirit who paved the way for the common people in Slovakia to become better acquainted with the Bible and religion.

In 1754, a special "profesorium" was established in the Lechnica monastery - a technological school for members of the order. It was in operation in the monastery until 1772, when the school was moved to Majk. Thanks to its clean air, peaceful, undisturbed surroundings and, most of all, to its famous doctors, the monastery became a center for old and ill monks until it was closed.

Like the Cartesians, the Camalduls followed very strict rules. The monks lived in seclusion in a strictly closed part of the monastery in individual cottages separated by gardens. Cottages traditionally were built on a rectangular foundation, had four rooms with a central hall, cellar, and a door to the garden. They contained an oratory, dormitory (modest living quarters and a bedroom), laboratory (a workshop for manual labor according to the abilities of the monk) and a cellar (woodsheds and shared equipment). In these cottages, a hermit lived in silence, prayed, meditated, worked, and slept. In keeping with his way of life, he dressed in a plain white habit and stuck to a modest fish and vegetable diet. His strict, daily regimen included time for his personal activities and community worship, which began before sunrise and ended in the evening hours. The inner courtyard of the monastery including the monastic cottages, all of which were left to ruin after the order was abolished, has been reconstructed based on archeological research. The result of this research along with the memorials dedicated to the monastic culture in the monastery is open to the public in the exposition in the prior's cottage.


Emperor Joseph II reforms of 1782 abolished all religious orders and their monasteries, from which he was able to realize a discernible profit. The property and all the buildings on it became the property of the state and were placed under the administration of a religious trust. The royal commissioners sold the church altar to a church in Muszyn. The monastic archive and library were dispersed. Most of it ended up in Budapest. The monastery remained the property of the state until 1820, when Emperor Franz Joseph I donated it to the newly created Greek Orthodox diocese in Presov, which first of all, set out to preserve the buildings that could serve some economic purpose. The original plan to build a hospital in the monastery was never carried out. They did create the modest Smerdzonka spa (today, it is the Red Monastery Spa) near the source of a sulfur spring not far from the monastery. The growth of tourism in the area in the late 19th century brought the Red Monastery out of isolation and it became a sought-after tourist attraction. The monastery caught fire in 1907 and entered a state of decay. Reconstruction work on the convent did not begin until after the First World War. The Slovak Tourist and Ski Club in Presov assisted by the state and the Spis Historical Society fixed the roof of the church and of some other buildings and renovated two of the monastic cottages. Systematic reconstruction of the entire monastic complex, heavily damaged during the Second World War, was completed between 1956 to 1966. The monastery, with its first museum exhibition, was opened to the public on June 5, 1966. Due to the on going and tedious reconstruction work in its interior and for safety reasons, the church is currently not open to the public. A part of the rare Baroque sculpture work from the main altar of the church is on temporary display in a new exhibit which was prepared in 1993 by the East Slovak Museum in Kosice.


Published in the Slovak Heritage Live newsletter Volume 7, No. 1, Spring 1999
Copyright © Vladimir Linder 1999
3804 Yale Street, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada V5C 1P6
The above article and photographs may not be copied, reproduced, republished, or redistributed by any means including electronic, without the express written permission of
Vladimir Linder. All rights reserved.