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ON NOVEMBER 30, 2000

June 17, 1994, on a beautiful Sunday morning, after visiting my friend Jaroslav Biroš in his village of Okružná near Prešov, I finally went to visit the town that I've heard so much about, in Slovakia and in Canada too. I do believe, al dough I don't remember it clearly, that I did visit this old, beautiful and well-kept medieval city, with my parents when I was a little boy, during one of the summers while growing up in Slovakia..

On the way to Bardejov we made a stop in the village Tročany and it's Greek-Catholic church of St. Luke the Evangelist built in 1739, and the village of Hervatov and visited the Roman Catholic church of St. Francis the Seraphic, the oldest wooden Gothic architecture church in Slovakia, built towards the end of the 15th century, repaired in 1650-64, 19th century and finally in 1970.

I have seen the pictures of Bardejov in the books of my large library, however I wasn't aware that the center of the old town is well hidden from the motorist passing by on the main road.

I have difficulty writing about this town and it's surrounding area, as there is so much to write about: the fortification system, City hall, Church, spa, skanzen, museums, etc.

The fortified walls, including most of the gates, the bastions are standing and are well preserved as is the old town center. What a sight, what a beauty is to feel the medieval times of this town. The center of town is a main town square with the old city hall and the Church of St. Egidius. All buildings surrounding the town square were restored to their original medieval beauty. In the old days the "Jarmok's," markets were held in the square.

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I am very pleased that the to-days modern architects in charge of restoring this old town kept the town square in its original charm and didn't plant big trees on the square, like for instance in Levoča, where you can't get the same feeling of the old days at the town square as in Bardejov. While going through the square you can let your mind wandering and imagine the activities at this medieval town square centuries ago. There are many renaissance and gothic architecture buildings at the main square, mostly two stories, some with space in the attics. Some buildings have stucco decorated with frescos.

Bardejov, the center of Upper Saris region is located in the north-eastern part of Slovakia. The first ancient settlement was built along the north-south trade routes. There are traces of human settlements here, dating back to around 20,000 years B. C. First written documents about "terra Bardfa" date back to the year 1247 and they also mention the German settlers coming up here from Preťov, near by. In 1320 King Charles Robert granted the settlers extensive privileges of city's character and they speeded up the growth of the town. The main business of the people was trade, farming and crafts. In 1352 the town was granted the privilege to set up an annual fair dedicated to St. Egidius on September 1. The deed mentions a new construction of the town of Bardejov with an order to fortify it. In 1376 the King Ladislaus I granted Bardejov the status of a free royal city with same privileges as Budín and Košice. In this document the town is mentioned as being fortified with walls, bastions and with its fundamental ground plan consisting of an extensive oblong-shaped market square.

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In those days lots of goods were passing through Bardejov, mostly to Poland and then on to Russia. King Zigmund of Luxembourg granted the town storage privileges in 1402, for the goods brought here by the Russian and Polish merchants. Bardejov merchants were also free to travel across the entire country as far as Dalmatia without paying duty or royal taxes. King Zigmund of Luxembourg also lengthen the time for holding the annual fair (jarmok) in Bardejov to 16 days and granted them another day around the day of St. John the Baptist in 1403. At the North end of the town's square is the Roman Catholic Church of St. Egidius. The church was completed in 1464 and the visitor can see one the finest examples of Late-Gothic architecture in Eastern Slovakia. There are eleven wing altars that have retained more or less their original arrangement. Number of Late-Gothic and Early-Renaissance periods have been preserved as the frescos in the interior and outside, numerous handicrafts, set of patron’s benches from 16th and 17th century, chandeliers, liturgical instruments, etc.

In the 15th century, this was a busy town with large economic growth, mainly in crafts and trading activities. There were approximately 500 houses and the population of 3000. The linen production and sales to which the town had a monopoly surpassed any activity. In 1455 the king granted the town the privilege of linen bleaching and sale. At that time only Bratislava, Košice and Levoča had larger number of craftsmen and guilds than Bardejov. Beside the linen and weaver's guild that was in existence from 1423, the dressmaker's guild from 1435, the furrier's guild from 1457 and the potter’s guild from 1485, the first potter's guild in Slovakia, there were guilds such as: locksmith's, fisher's, butcher's, blacksmith's, boot-maker's, cloth's, sword-maker's and many others. Most of the buildings still standing today restored to their original beauty were built in the 15th century. The town flourished and was able to acquire 14 serf villages and vineyards in the Tokay region (now Hungary). Many important structures were built as the monastery, followed by the church of the Augustinian order. A slaughterhouse was built in close vicinity of the monastery and the town bath was built too. There were also mills, winery, saw-mills, brickwork's, bleaching house, pressing shop, linen warehouse, brewery jail and others. In late 15th century the town has lost its linen monopoly and the linen trade gradually deteriorated.
The new City Hall was built in Late Gothic style at the beginning of the 15th century as a counterbalance, both functionally and ideologically, just a stone throw from the Church of St. Egidius at the main square. It is constructed in two styles, the Late-Gothic and the imported Italian Early-Renaissance. It is the first Renaissance structure to have been built in Slovakia. This was the headquarters of the city council and also the center of the city's economic, social and cultural life. The city hall is a two story building with a regular oblong ground plan, high gables and high saddle roof. The ground floor of the central corridor served business purposes, the upper floor served exclusively for the work of the city council, archives and the treasury. In 1903 the city hall was adapted to serve as Saris Župa Museum. This is the oldest museum in Slovakia.

In the early 16th century the city built a Latin school. During the reformation, from 1539 the acclaimed humanist Leonard Stockel, Martin Luther's disciple, also refereed to as the Teacher of Hungary, taught at the school. He gradually turned the school into significant center of education of north-eastern Hungary. Reformation and Humanism elevated nationally and culturally not only the German-speaking population, but also the Slovak Protestants. In this spirit Gutgesell's print shop of Bardejov printed Luther’s Catechism, the first book to be printed in Biblical Czech in 1581.

Counter reformation actions of the Emperor's army against the Kuruts in the 17th century had a grave effect on the town's life. The alternate victories of the fighting parties connected with their continuous material and financial backing, the plundering of the town and its vicinity as well as the payment of contributions, brought the one-time prosperous town to the bring of poverty.

The plaque of 1710 has made this difficult situation even more critical. The town's population, decimated by the war and the plaque, was being replaced by the Slovak population. Gradually, the town has recovered.

From early 18th century Jewish merchants have begun to settle in the town. They erected a self contained town complex with a synagogue in 1773, school, gathering hall, cemetery and a ritual bath in 19th century.

The side altar of St. Anna (Virgin Mary) was made around 1485. The ark contains sculpture of Madonna and Child, the sculptures of St. Apollonia, St. Elizabeth, St. Dorothy and St. Barbara are placed at the sides. The open wings of the altar depicts scenes from the lives of St. Anna and St. Joachim. The closed wings depict an angel from Our Lady Day, St. Apollonia and St. Ursula. The altar has Neo-Gothic attachment. The paintings of the inner wings are by master Severinus.






Bardejov, Town Historic Reserve, Slovensky ustav pamiatkovej starostlivosti v Bratislave, 1991
Bardejov, Pamiatkova Rezervacia, Ludmila Hromadova, Renata Hriadelova, Tatran, Bratislava 1977
Slovensko, Prechadzky storocami miest a mesteciek, Ludmila Huskaova a kolektiv, Priroda, Bratislava 1994
Sarisske Muzeum v Bardejove, RNDr. Lubomir Panigaj, CSc. Mestsky urad v Bardejove 1993
Wooden Churches of Slovakia, Ministry of Commerce and Tourism of the Slovak Republic, ERPO, Bratislava 1994

Published in the Slovak Heritage Live newsletter Volume 2, No. 4, Winter 1994
Copyright © Vladimir Linder 1994
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.