A FREE ROYAL
UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE
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.
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
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.
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
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
TO TOWNS AND VILLAGES
TO THE CATHEDRAL OF ST. EGIDIUS IN BARDEJOV
TO THE BELLS OF ST. EGIDIUS
TO UPDATE ON THE BELLS OF ST. EGIDIUS
TO UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES IN SLOVAKIA
Bardejov, Town Historic
Reserve, Slovensky ustav pamiatkovej starostlivosti v Bratislave, 1991
Bardejov, Pamiatkova Rezervacia, Ludmila Hromadova, Renata Hriadelova, Tatran, Bratislava 1977
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
Published in the Slovak Heritage Live newsletter Volume 2, No. 4, Winter
Copyright © Vladimir Linder 1994
Street, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada V5C 1P6
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.