Date updated: 06/09/2023
Bardejov – medium-sized town in the north-east of Slovakia. It is considered to be the most beautiful and unusual place in the country. Location - the southern slopes of Beskydy, near the Topľa River, in a "living cauldron", in the multi-cultural "Priašivščina". This special region borders with Poland for hundreds of kilometres. The town is famous for its "Ruthenian" history, inimitable architecture, museums and markets. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At present, it is home to approximately 34,000 inhabitants of various nationalities.
Bardejov existed and developed successfully already in the 12th century. In the Chronicle of Russia, the town is mentioned as the place through which King Danila Romanovich walked, from Hungary to Poland" (1241). This mountainous region was for several centuries the western part of the Principality of Halych. At the beginning of the thirteenth century the settlement was forcibly united with the Hungarian power, but the local government remained unchanged. The affairs were run by nobles of Russian origin. The descendants attained links to the clans of wealthy, old judges. Under the Hungarian king Charles Róbert I, the first German colonists settled in the town. Their role included the cultural development of the wild country.
Before the year 1320 there was a lively settlement activity in Bardejov and its surroundings. In this period, crafts and trade activities were predominant in Bardejov. In 1320, Bardejov was granted the right to be called a town and two years later, on the orders of King Louis, the construction of the stone wall and towers around it began. Although the right to hold an eight-day fair was not granted to the town until 1352, weekly markets were already held in the town at this time.
Before the year 1320 there was a lively settlement activity in Bardejov and its surroundings. In this period, crafts and trade activities were predominant in Bardejov. In 1320, Bardejov was granted the right to be called a town and two years later, on the orders of King Louis, the construction of the stone wall and towers around it began. Although the right to hold an eight-day fair was not granted to the town until 1352, weekly markets were already held in the town at this time. In 1376 it was granted the status of a free royal town. From 1393 to 1414 Bardejov was subject to Prince Fedor Koriatovich of Podolia (* 1331 - † 1414) / was Prince of Podolia (at that time in Lithuania). His title was Theodorus Koriatovich, Dei gracia dux de Munkach. and from the end of the 15th century and the beginning of the 16th century to Prince Ilya of Ostrogothia.
Urban freedoms, mild climate and good geographical location were positive factors contributing to the rapid development of the city in the 15th century. It became a strong centre of cloth production. The inhabitants grew steadily richer in business. Medicinal baths and dozens of mills opened in and around Bardejov. The art of brewing evolves. Brickmakers are firing quality bricks from local clay. Cattle slaughter, town scales, fast trade between town and countryside, artisan workshops bring tangible income and fame to the small town in the Beskydy Mountains. But this idyll did not last long.
In the 15th century the town became Protestant. The new doctrine contributed to the opening of the Gutgesel printing house in 1577. David Gutgesel (* c. 1540, Bardejov - † 21 August 1599, there) was a printer, publisher and bookseller. He published religious works in German and Luther's Catechism in Czech. The Protestant movement soon leads to a long period of political and social upheaval. At the founding he collaborates with the German typographer Salomon Sultzer. The printing house had extensive stocks of antiquity, fraktur -/originally from Latin fractur - fracture, from the middle of the 15th century also "broken type"/, or Hebrew and Greek printing type.
The sixteenth century was a time of endless battles in Europe. It passed unhappily recklessly through Bardejov. Several epidemics, fires and wars of all against all turned the city into a place of mourning and permanent unrest. The decline lasted almost until the beginning of the twentieth century. The city was nearly razed and laid waste.
The restoration of the former well-deserved glory began only with the construction of the railway. At the end of the eighteenth century, a railway branch was laid between Prešov and Bardejov. But it was only after the Second World War that industrialisation gave rise to serious transformations. For several decades, the city's inhabitants carefully restored historical monuments, created the preconditions for the industrial revolution, and engaged in the construction and reconstruction of city districts. In 1986, the city was awarded the European Prize for the Restoration of Historic Architecture. This was preceded by a long and painstaking restoration work. For example, the central and ancient Jewish quarters in the 1950s were declared a city conservation area. Grandiose restoration measures were carried out for almost seventy years.
The result - now Bardejov proudly bears the name of the most gothic town in Slovakia. Since 2000 it has been protected as an architectural work of special historical and social value by UNESCO.
City Hall Square
Those who have already visited Bardejov speak enthusiastically about the central part of the city. It is seriously justified. This area is not only beautiful, but also completely original in terms of the standard design of small European-type cities. The Gothic-style townhouses, the unique St. Egidius Basilica (a Gothic sacral building located in the northern part of the Town Hall Square) and the former town hall attract the attention of tourists the most.
It is worth noting: the local town hall as the central building for the administration of municipal affairs was built in the style of the early Renaissance Ruthenians Alexander (who built the ground floor of the building during 1505) and Alexius, (the author of the bay window, windows and portals - in 1508). The following year, the master John of Presov completed the first floor, built the high gables and decorated them with stone elements. The painted decoration was carried out by local masters Theofl Stanczel between 1510 and 1511 (he decorated the gables with painted coats of arms and painted the scene of the Last Judgement in the council chamber) and Matej Grunwald (painting the exterior). This completed the building structurally. It was the first experiment of its kind in Slovakia. Today it houses the Šariš Museum (the number one building in the town on Rhódy Street/"Rody Street"). There you can get acquainted with the environmental exhibition.
The well-preserved city towers can be recommended by any guide:
Kláštorná bašta / Monastery bastion - The three-storey bastion with preserved brackets for fixing the cornice around the wall stands in the garden of the Franciscan monastery. The original Gothic vaults are preserved in the lower floors.
Školská bašta / School Bastion - The westernmost four-storey bastion with a hipped roof stands on a lentil plan. It retains the original roofs, partially converted to windows. On the sides there are visible traces of the connection to the defensive wall. It is also referred to as the Water Bastion because there was a water pipe leading water from a spring in the Rurná district. In connection with the spring, the town books mention the town employee Röhrmeister, who was in charge of the town's water supply system.
Renesančná bašta – Renaissance Bastion - Apart from the North Bastion (which is not an integral part of the fortification), the Renaissance Bastion is the northernmost bastion of the town. It got its name from the Renaissance decoration of the attic from 1582. It represents a type of open (unroofed) bastion.
Červená bašta – Red Bastion - Also called the Royal Bastion, it owes its name to the red blocking. Between the gunports on the northeast side, there is a remnant of a painting dating from 1597.
Severná bašta – Northern Bastion - The Northern (also Archival) Bastion, a three-storey tower on the northern edge of the town in front of the water tower, is also part of the town fortifications. It got its second name from the archive funds stored here.
Veľká bašta – The Great Bastion - It is built directly in the moat. It stands on a semi-circular plan, topped with a tiled roof. Today it houses the deposit of the Šariš Museum.
Hrubá bašta – Rough bastion - This most massive bastion of the city fortification was built on a horseshoe-shaped plan. It stands on the southeastern edge of the town. Its important strategic and defensive function is evidenced by the fact that the thickness of the masonry reaches up to 3.5 metres. The defence was provided by cannons located in gun chambers on the first and second floors.
Malá bašta – Small Bastion - The Small Bastion forms one building unit with the Rough Bastion. It was built on a semicircular plan and served as an ammunition storehouse.
In addition to the town bastions that have been preserved to this day, other bastions that no longer exist were part of the defensive system. Most of them no longer exist at all, some of them have preserved terrain foundations (e.g. Nárožná bastion). Some of them disappeared around the middle of the 19th century, others had to give way to construction in the 20th century.
The guides will also be happy to show you the bourgeois house number 27. It contains an amazing collection of valuable exhibits - Slovak icons from different periods, including the famous work depicting the Last Judgement from the church in Rovno. Some of the most famous icon paintings have been exhibited in such world cultural centres as Budapest, Munich, Prague and Osaka.
The city's fortification system (ideally preserved fortifications), the Franciscan monastery, the Church of St. John the Baptist, the Jewish Quarter and the completely restored city park are also worth a visit.
Jewish suburb of Bardejov
The complex of ancient original buildings in the central part of the city is under UNESCO protection. The "raisin" of the Jewish architectural ensemble is the ancient synagogue with nine arches. It is a unique masterpiece of architectural creativity, a pearl of medieval architecture and the pride of the multi-ethnic culture of Slovakia.
In the Middle Ages, the complex was a suburb outside the city walls. Jews had no right to settle in the free royal city. The synagogue is the oldest suburban building. It was built in three years, from 1771 to 1773. The building is hidden among other houses (because of the ancient injunction to build religious Jewish buildings only in enclosed places). It has a memorial plaque installed on it commemorating the millions of victims who perished in the gas chambers and ovens in the concentration camps of Europe during the war.Klenbu komplexu s deviatimi oblúkmi držia štyri stĺpy. Na stenách sa zachovala bohatá a mimoriadne krásna obrazová výzdoba.
Note: Vaults of this type are not characteristic of religious Jewish buildings in Eastern European countries. Surprisingly, the builders chose this architectural technique. A similar vault can be found in Skalica.
There is another synagogue in this neighbourhood. It is a compact, smaller religious building for prayer and children's education. It features a mikvah ritual bath and a number of outbuildings. Guests are allowed to visit the ancient Jewish cemetery, to see tombstones carved in Renaissance, Baroque and new classical designs.
The Jewish suburb is now considered an open-air museum. Tourists will also visit the nearby 2014 memorial. It is dedicated to the Holocaust. There is also a memorial garden - a symbol of eternal peace for the murdered Jews of the city.
Basilica of St. Egidio
The building was gradually rebuilt in the late Gothic style according to the contract with the town, the rebuilding was started by the master mason Mikuláš from Bardejov, later continued by the builder Štefan from Košice, who at that time worked on the construction of the St. Elizabeth Cathedral in Košice. Under the direction of the local builder Urban, probably a pupil of Stephen, further expansion of the church took place between 1482 and 1486. Three chapels were added in the southern part: the Chapel of the Virgin Mary, the Chapel of St. Elizabeth, above the main entrance, and the Chapel of St. Andrew. In the latter, the original vaults are still preserved. In 1486, the first large bell, St. John, was cast. Master Urban also started rebuilding the tower in the south-western part, but it was finished in 1486-1494 by Franklin Stemasek from Anspach in Bavaria. Thus, at the end of the 15th century, the construction of one of the most important sacral buildings in Slovakia was completed. The cathedral easily develops the dominance of German austerity and simplicity combined with sophisticated practicality and idealization of geometric space.
The main decoration are eleven Gothic altars from the years 1440 - 1520 forming a unique collection of altars preserved in one place and almost in their original layout. Some of them are considered by experts to be the pinnacle of medieval woodcarving craftsmanship. These are talented works of art by Nicholas of Levoča, Master Paul of Levoča and others.
- The main altar of St. Aegidius - the original Gothic main altar from 1466 has not been preserved. In 1655 it was replaced by an early Baroque one, which was removed when the church was re-regurgitated in the 19th century. Only the central painting of the Taking Down of the Cross, made by the Bardejov painter Peter Stöckel, a copy of the work of P. P. Rubens. The painting is now located in the north side aisle next to the Pieta altar. In 1878, the present neo-Gothic altar designed by Imrich Steindl was erected in its place. It is the work of the carving workshop of Móric Hölzel, a Prague native, who was commissioned to rebuild the interior of the church after the fire of 1878. The main altar of the Church of St. Egidius is considered to be the most important work of this carving workshop. The altarpiece was painted by the Hungarian artist Gyula Aggházy. The main altar, with its height of seventeen metres, is the highest neo-Gothic altar in Slovakia. It is dominated by three sculptures - St. Egidius in the centre, St. Stephen on the right and St. Ladislaus on the left. The altar belonged to the guild of Bardejov carpenters.
- The altar of St. Andrew (also All Saints) - dates from 1440 - 1460 and is the only tabular wing altar from the original furnishings in the church. On the central panel is St. Andrew, below the Madonna, Calvary and Pieta, on the wings are figures of saints and saintesses, the Christological and Marian cycle, in the triangular shields and superstructure are figures of bishops, prophets, St. John the Baptist and a scene of the Adoration of the Three Kings.
- Altar of St. Barbara - a winged Gothic altar from the years 1450 - 1470, supplemented with a neo-Gothic superstructure. In the arch there is a sculpture of St. Barbara, on the sides sculptures of saints, on the open wings the scene of the Adoration of the Three Kings and scenes from the life of a saint, on the closed ones the Annunciation, in the front a sculpture of the Seat of Grace from the end of the 15th century, on the sides sculptures of St. John and St. Mark.
- The altar of St. Elizabeth the Widow - dating from 1480; panel paintings depict scenes from the life of St. Elizabeth. The altar belonged to the guild of Bardejov tailors.
- The altar of the Virgin Mary (formerly the altar of St. Anne) - dates from 1485, but the origin of the small statues in the altar cabinet dates back to the years 1390 - 1410. The altar wings depict scenes from the lives of St. Anne and St. Joachim. The cabinet is filled with a statue of the Virgin Mary in her arms with her Son, on the sides are statues of the saints: St. Apollonia, St. Elizabeth, St. Barbara and St. Dorothy.
- The altar of the Virgin Mary, called Veronika Magerova - from 1489. In the arch are sculptures of the Madonna and Child, on the sides are sculptures of saints, on the open wings are reliefs from the life of the Virgin Mary, on the closed ones are paintings of saints: St. Barbara and St. Catherine, St. Cosmas and St. Damian, St. Ursula and St. Elizabeth, St. Andrew and St. Erasmus.
- The altar of the Nativity of the Lord - dating from the period 1480 - 1490; it is one of the most beautiful, most valuable and artistically most valuable winged altars in Slovakia. In the past it was funded and cared for by the guild of Bardejov weavers. The magnificent woodcarving of the kneeling Mother of God attracts attention both for its size and execution. In front of her is a newborn child surrounded by five angels. In the background is a city and a group of shepherds with sheep, and above them hover angels carrying a ribbon with the inscription 'Gloria in Exelsis Deo'. Along the side of the enclosure are statues of the most venerated saints of the Middle Ages: St. Dorothy, St. Margaret, St. Barbara and St. Catherine. In the centre of the predella there is a sculpture of the Adoration of the Three Kings and on the sides sculptures of the Annunciation and the Visitation of St. Elizabeth. The panel paintings on the wings, based on engravings by Martin Schongauer, a painter from Augsburg, show us events from the life of the Virgin Mary at their opening, and the Passion cycle at the closing of the wings.
- Altar Vir Dolorum (Altar of the Sorrowful Redeemer) - from the years 1500 - 1510. In the arch there is a sculpture of Vir Dolorum, on the open wings the Passion cycle, on the closed ones - St. Catherine among the scholars, the Martyrium of St. Catherine and the Beheading of St. Catherine.
- Altar of the Holy Cross - from 1480 - 1490. In the arch there are sculptures of the Crucified, the Virgin Mary and St. John, on the open wings the twelve apostles, on the closed ones the cycle about the finding of the Holy Cross, on the pediment in a circular frame the Veraikon.
- The altar of Saints Nicholas, Erasmus and the Virgin Mary - dates from 1505. In the arch there are sculptures of the Virgin Mary, St. Nicholas and St. Erasmus, on the open wings scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary, on the closed wings scenes from the life of St. Nicholas, St. Erasmus, St. Lawrence and St. Eligius.
- The altar of St. Apollonia (also St. Anna Mettercia) - dates from around 1485. In the arch there are sculptures of St. Anna Samotretia, St. George and St. Apollonia. On the altar wings we find scenes of the martyrdom of Christians, the murder of innocent women, images of a group of saints (St. Bibiana, St. Denis), St. Joan and her daughters.
- The Altar of Pieta (also of the Virgin Mary of the Seven Sorrows) - it was built between 1480 and 1490. The sculpture of the Mother of God of the Seven Sorrows with the Son in her arms, which is stored in the altar cabinet, dates from 1430 - 1440 and is made of sandstone. The altar wings depict the posthumous images of the Saviour, the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor and the legend of St. Rochus and St. John the Almsgiver.
Next to the Altar of Piety hangs a painting of the Piercing by a Spear from a previous Renaissance altar. The author of the painting is the Bardejov painter Peter Stockel.
The neo-Gothic church tower deserves special attention. It offers a magnificent panorama of the whole central part of Bardejov and the surrounding hills. The original Renaissance building is adjacent to the basilica. It runs a humanitarian school. Tourists are also shown the ancient city gates and ten towers for observation and defense.
Bardejov Summer Fair
This is the time to gain a deeper knowledge of the region and the ancient city, its cultural and ethnic roots, the full discovery of its industrial, private and social potential. The fair takes place in the month of August. It is dominated by a cheerful festive atmosphere, which allows all the inhabitants and dear guests of the town to relax. The area becomes a place for quick trade in locally produced consumer and food goods. Numerous local dishes, meals and snacks for every gourmet taste are prepared under umbrellas in brightly coloured tents. Guests find it very interesting to see the process of making the creations of skilled craftsmen in real time, take part in the attractions and visit the funfair.
The busy trade fair programme lasts four days. During this time, dozens of different groups, singers, professional and amateur musicians play on a large, specially designed stage. A kind of festival of folk and modern musical creativity lasts without a break. In the meantime, a variety of different entertainment events take place in the city.
Bardejov Spa Zone
It is located only five kilometres from the city. It is one of the oldest and most popular health and relaxation places in the country. At first, it was mainly visited by Polish nobility, later, in addition to the local townspeople, also by the Hungarian nobility. At the end of the eighteenth century, the wife of Franz Joseph I bathed here. Sisi. Her statue is visible in the spa park. Emperor Joseph II (1783), Maria Louise - later wife of Emperor Napoleon, Russian Tsar Alexander I and Polish Queen Maria Kazimiera Sobieski.
Bardejov Spa is famous not only for its healing springs, but also for its annual international music summer. Here, as well as in the town itself, concerts are often held. Guests can enjoy chamber and brass music.
And there is a special entertainment programme for children in the pool.
It is the organisation of a nature trail in the area of the Bardejov resort aimed at promoting the use of the forest outside production. The trail operates throughout the year. Hikers are offered three walking routes (Jedle, Beech, Maple) with several stops that highlight the different problems of the forest. From the wooden tower on the trail, you can see the castle in Zborov. Along the way, hikers can also admire the Čergov Mountains, St. Hubert's Chapel, the "water" monster at the winter well and other popular spots from the viewing platform. Travelers rest near springs and logging centers.
1. circuit - Jedľový - easy - length 1,9 km - elevation 100 m
2. circuit - Beech - moderately demanding - length 3,7 km - elevation 220 m
3. circuit - Maple - difficult - length 3,9 km - elevation 290 m (from the circuit there are two branches to the viewpoints) Total length of the trail 4,46 km.
Other memorial places
The Museum of Folk Architecture Zemplín and Šariš is open in the spa. These are 24 ancient houses in the open air. Slovak and Ruthenian building traditions are presented. Tourists will also be able to explore seven churches and a wooden church. At Slnečné majery they have the opportunity to ride horses and visit a medieval village connected with a visit to the castle in Zborov. There is an interesting Rakoci chapel, a cemetery and memorial to fallen soldiers from the First World War and a military cemetery from the Second World War.