A Slovak treasure - the mediaeval town of Spisska Kapitula

Spisska Kapitula

Spisska Kapitula is an ecclesiastical town located near the historical Great road (or Via Magna) leading through the Spis region in Northern Slovakia, from Saris to Levoca and on to Poland and farther on to western Europe. Initially developed as a fortified settlement on the hill opposite Spis Castle, it earned a place on UNESCO's World Heritage List thanks to its cathedral built in the Romanesque and Gothic styles between the 13th and the 15th century. In the early 1950s communists transformed it in a police academy but now it is fully restored to its ecclesiastical destination.

The town consists of the Cathedral of St. Martin, a former monastery, and a single street, all of mediaeval construction and enclosed by a wall. It is one of the largest and most interesting Romanesque monuments in Slovakia. But let's have a close look at the whole complex. Our guide is Monika Bizoniova, a student of history, who is in charge of walking tourists through the little town.

"In the 11th century a Benedictine monastery used to stand on this place. Then this monastery was destroyed and Spis provoship was established there at the end of the 12th century. Now we can see on the right hand a beautiful building, this is the bishop's palace, the seat of the Spis Bisho. Now we have three bishops.

We can call Spisska Kapitula a small Slovak Vatican because we can see here bishop palace, the Cathedral of St. Martin, we have here a priest seminar and then a very beautiful cannonical street from the 15th century".

A church door opens.

"Now we are in the church of St Martin. The begining of the contruction of this church is aorund the year 1245. The back part is the oldest. Really nice Romanesque columns with most valuable capitols are here, they are from the 13th century. Then the second part which was Romanesque but then it was rebuilt in the 15th century in the Gothic style. And the newest part [of the church] is from 1488.

In this church we have eight altars and five of them are Gothic and winging, it means they can be opened. Now they are opened and they will be closed during the fasting time which is 40 days before and after Easter. One is the most valuable because is the altar of the coronation of the Virgin Mary, and it is original, Gothic from the 15th century.

In this area we have a seminary for the priests. It was established in the 13th century but the first official one was registered in 1815. It was abolished in 1950, though, when the communists set up a school for policemen here. In 1990, the seminary for priests was re-established here and we have around 70 students here now."

Michal Klucar is a retired priest who was once the administrator of the monastery at the time it was closed for religious services and the Spisska Kpaitula complex served as a school for communist policemen. Now 87 years old, Klucar smiles wisely when he remembers those times.

"Can you imagine that I was a priest surrounded by policemen who were supposed to be atheists and I managed to conduct the religious ceremony for the marriage of their commander? He was a teacher of atheism and marxism leninism and I persuaded him to have this ceremony because it might help him save his troubled marriage. At that time he could have lost his job and even be kicked out from the police for attending the church. I had so many of these young officers coming to the Christmas mass in the village undercover. It was good to see that communism did not succeed in replacing God".

Michael Klucar believes that politics and church should not mix.

"No, no. They are two separate things and should stay so because we have so many examples from history when such a mix created more damage than good."