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Was built on the western hillside below Spiš Castle. Most likely, its beginnings date back to the times when the hill was reoccupied and the fort rebuilt. This dating is supported by archaeological excavations in Spišská Kapitula. According to the discoveries it was inhabited in 11th century. After the second half of 12th century, when German colonists played an important role in inhabiting Spiš, the town possessed its own church and a priest (referred to for the first time in 1174). In that time the small town developed as a community below the castle, mentioned in 1249 for the first time. Its development as a center independent of the castle and as a free town belonging to the Community of the Spiš Saxons began approximately at the same time. From the beginning its layout was determined by the road leading from Levoča to Prešov and to Spišské Vlachy and forked because of the castle hill. The church, situated on the northern border of the complex of a later-constructed parish church, was the center of the original settlement. After the Tartar invasion in 1241, Spis was again inhabited by colonists, their most important enterprise was the building of the parish church (1258-1273) dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Since that time the complex of the parish church has represented the center of the town. The domestic houses developed in continuous rows along roads radiating from this center. The town charter granted to Spšské Podhradie in 14th century encouraged its economic development. Since 1321 it had been denoted as "a town." In the first third of the 14th century, it had its own hospital, first mentioned in 1327. In the second half of the 14th century, the town plan expanded. At the foot of the hill new continuous rows of two-storied burghers' tower houses of stone were built by the colonists who built this type of domestic houses over whole Spiš.

In the first half of the 15th century the economic prosperity of the town increased because of the fact that thirteen towns and villages were pledged by King Zigmund of Luxembourg to Polish King. Spišské Podhradie belonged among those more important towns that exerted great influence over the community of the Spiš pledged towns. General prosperity generated extensive building activity, which shaped essentially the appearance of the town. The new, broad oblong square surrounded by town houses was designed south of the church. The street line on the western side of the square respected the building complex of the hospital. The first written record about a Latin school in the town dates from 1450. In 1456 the town was granted the right to organize weekly markets. The second half of the 15th century was marked by the presence of late-Hussite troops, which devastated the parish church; during the reconstruction in 1462-1497 it was fortified and then used as a refuge for the local population during war times. The 16th century, which clang to the spirit of Reformation, did not bring about essential changes in the town-planning. The greatest building activity in mid-16th century concentrated on the reconstruction of the former town hospital. In 1650 the Merced Arians arrived in the town and took possession of this hospital, which had served several purposes, being also a poorhouse and an orphanage. Simultaneously, they rebuilt the whole complex and also joined a neighboring town-house with it. On the northern side of the square an original Gothic burghers' house was rebuilt into the Town Hall in 1547; the portal with the municipal arms has survived on this building up to now. The town was damaged by fire in 1583. The subsequent renovation of the original Gothic burghers' houses was carried out in the Renaissance style.

The relatively peaceful 18th century provided a good opportunity for the revitalization of the town's economy. The Baroque period left its mark on the town. Houses having two or three-wing ground-plans were built in the south-east part of the large square. A two-story school and three burghers' houses were built on the eastern side of the square in 1787. The church and the monastery of the Merced Arians, located on the western side of the square and including two older burghers' houses, were rebuilt in baroque style. The Marian Column was erected in the square in 1726; at the same time, also the Town Hall was renovated. A new dominant structure, the Lutheran church, was built in 1799-1808 and attached to a row of houses on the eastern side of the square. The facades of the majority of the houses were unified to the Baroque style. Owing to the extensive building activity in 18th and 19th century, a new street plan with one-storied houses in the town's suburbs came to existence. The shingle gable roofs ended in a tip, which were typical of eastern Slovakia's towns, had been preserved until mid-19th century. The complete reconstruction of the parish church in 1824-1829 was the most important change in the town. The original projecting tower from the front preserved from the first building phase was included into the new one-nave church. The connection of the town to the Spiš-Bohumin railway at the end of the 19th century did not cause profound changes in the town's economy. Spišské Podhradie retained its agricultural and artisan character of a provincial town.

The building activity during the first half of the 20th century had impact on the period outlook of the square. The community center the "House of Culture"-was built in 1930's, close to the Gothic entrance to the complex of the parish church, the Municipal Building was built in the southern part of the square in 1937.



Published in the Slovak Heritage Live newsletter Volume 3, No. 4, Winter 1995
Copyright © Vladimir Linder 1995 
3804 Yale Street, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada V5C 1P6
The above article may not be copied, reproduced, republished, or redistributed by any means including electronic, without the express written permission of Vladimir Linder. All rights reserved.