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ROCK DWELLINGS IN BRHLOVCE

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This is the second locality that received the Europa Nostra diploma and recognition in 1994. Protected by rolling hills, the village of Brhlovce is set in a basin surrounded by forests, vineyards, fruit orchards, fertile fields, and meadows. It is one of the smallest villages in Levice county about 10 miles from Levice. Brhlovce managed to preserve the peaceful atmosphere of its bygone past. Millions' years ago the volcanic activity has created the surrounding landscape as well as mount Sitno-the highest point at 1009 meters in the area of Hont. Thermal spring's rich in mineral content as Dudince, Slatina, Santovka are located near Brhlovce. The suitable climatic conditions and the fertile land of this corner of Slovakia provided an opportunity for people's settlements dating back to the Stone Age.

Historic documents refer to Brhlovce dating back to 1275 under name of Burfeu.

From 1506 the village was divided into two settlements of similar names. Later in the Hungarian era these settlements bore names of the local landowners, the older was Kalnaborfo (from the name Kalnay), and the newer part was Tegzesborfo (from the name Tagzes). The name of the stream Bur that skirted the edge of the village also contributed to the creation of the names of these villages in the Hungarian language. In the 16th and 17th century, during 150 years of Turkish occupation of Hungary, the population of Brhlovce wasn't spared the devastation brought on by the Turks.

Even now it is believed by the villagers, that the reason why dwellings were carved into the rock walls of the mountains behind their houses was to provide shelter from the Turks. The soil around the village is easy to work as it is of volcanic ash and dust. It was easy to carve into the rocks creating rooms for living and farming purposes. This information was first published in 1742 in an encyclopedia called Notitia Hungaraie novae.., written by Slovak historian Matej Bel.

The peasants living in these settlements rented mainly agricultural land and vineyards to make a living. Experts as a consequence of the social status of the village inhabitants therefore explain the existence of the rock dwellings. In 19th century the stone has replaced the wood as major building material and even the houses of the poorest inhabitants of Brhlovce and surrounding villages were made from stone. In the past similar dwellings could be found at other villages, but in Brhlovce they are still used and well preserved. The individual properties usually consist of a stone built house with enclosed courtyard with individual rooms carved into the South facing rock.

These rooms were used as summer kitchens, cow or other animal sheds, tool sheds, cellars, workshops. In some places kitchen hobs, alcoves, storage shelves, simple beds, or stools, thoughts for feeding animals or even wells for drinking water were carved out of rock. Stone wasn't only a source of building material for building houses, but source of livelihood. The local people learned from Italian masons how to quarry and shape the stones. The Italian masons also built the manor house. There must have been an influence of mining technology from the near-by mines of Banska Stiavnica with centuries long mining traditions. The stone masons of Brhlovce were able to shape the stones not only into cubes, wedges, steps, thresholds, parts of windows, pillars for gates or columns for verandahs, etc., but also made agricultural utensils such as troughs and rimes for wells. At cemeteries in near-by villages, gravestones were made by craftsmen from Brhlovce and can be seen even now.

In 1992 the settlement in Brhlovce-Sturda No. 142 was restored and turned into a museum. The aim of the exhibit is to show the unusual form of the local dwellings, character of buildings and the furnishings of the village's inhabitants. It represents simultaneously the folklore of surrounding villages of Hont and Tekov zupa, since Brhlovce's location is near the two old time dividing borders. The settlement No. 142 used to be occupied by three families. Only the last owner used all parts for the needs of one family. There is restored old two-space house build from stone at the end of the 19th century. It has kitchen and a room under which a cowshed is located with an entrance from the road. The entrance to the house is from the courtyard. The house is decorated in its original form showing not only the accommodation of the poorer farmers the area, but also the furnishings of similar houses at the turn of the 20th century. On the opposite side is an another house built in 1932. At the rear of the courtyard, numerous rooms carved into the rock face on two levels. On the upper level are two rooms that were used as living quarters until end of 19th century. Steps also carved from the rock on the side of the courtyard provide the access. There are three newer rooms located on the main floor. One was used as a storage room, second as a summer kitchen and the third one was for farm purposes.


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Bibliography: Rock Dwellings at Reservation of Folk Architecture at Brhlovce, Dr. Katarina Holbova, 1992

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.