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Bethlehem in
 Rajecka Lesna
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The ancient village of Rajecka Lesna known as Frewald before 1948 is located 30 Km south of Zilina at the foot of Klak Mountain. It is a small village with about 1300 inhabitants. It was first mentioned in history 1418 as a part of Lietava Castle in Trencin zupa. Rajecka Lesna has been pilgrimage place since the 15th century. The largest pilgrimage takes place on September 8th, the feast of Virgin Mary's nativity. The Church of Mary's birth from 1866 is the dominance of the village. The very first church of the village was built in the 14th century and the golden statues of the Virgin Mary with the child Jesus were preserved. This statue is now in the main altar of the parish church. About 500 meters from the church of Mary's birth, the Calvary of Frewald and the chapel of Lourdes were built from the donations of North American Slovaks. The five springs healing water containing calcium and magnesium spurs from underneath of this chapel. It is said that anybody who comes here in good faith will find health for his body and soul here. At the top of the Calvary there is a Church of Ascension. Next to the parish church in the center of the village a House of Nativity was built. It was designed by Stanislav Machovcak from Staskov, it was built by parishioners under the leadership of Stefan Botos and Ivan Biely. In November of 1995 the Slovak Bethlehem was open to the public in this specially build house. The Slovak Bethlehem is masterpiece of Jozef Pekara, carver from Rajecke Teplice. The masterpiece is 8.5 meters wide, 2.5 meters deep and 3 meters high. 

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Together it contains 170 figures in folk costumes working, playing, some as pilgrims all together symbolizing the devoutness of Slovaks. It also contains over 150 animal figures. In his work of art he depicts not only the nativity but also the history of the Slovak Nation. It was his idea to enter different images of the Slovak people into biblical milieu. It is why we can see the three Kings who are followed by the Sts. Cyril and Methodius and other great personalities of Slovak history. 

The tableau of the nativity is in the middle of the crèche that is located in the village of Rajecka Lesna. All Slovak religions can be found there, accented by their most famous places and buildings such as the castle of Devin, Bratislava, Trencin, Orava, and the cathedrals of Nitra, Trnava, Spisska Kapitula and Kosice. One of the High Tatra Mountains, Mount Krivan raises in the back ground as a symbol of Slovakia. Every Slovak visitor can find a part of history and tradition of his region here. Different jobs, crafts, national costumes, and traditional ways of life of the Slovak people are shown. The wooden figures can move. Mining in Slovakia has long tradition and Banska Bystrica represents it. You can hear the Techovska music by Mucha Brothers, and also see wedding from Zdiar, Presov's church, Bardejov's Church of St. Gilles and the city hall; Levoca's Church of St. James and the city hall.

Nitra's J.E. Cardinal J. Ch. Korec blessed the Bethlehem on November 26, 1995 on the day of Christ the king. It is open every day an enjoying extraordinary interest by local and foreign visitors.



Published in the Slovak Heritage Live newsletter Volume 6, No. 4, Winter 1998
Copyright © Vladimir Linder 1998
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.