A May 2002 trip
to Banska Bystrica by Wildcat Dianne
Quote: Once a predominant mining town in Central Slovakia, Banska Bystrica is also known as the center of the 1944 SNP (Uprising) against the Nazi occupation.
The SNP Monument was designed and built by Professor Kuzma in 1965. Located outside the eastern walls of the town's fortifications, this monument commemorates the Slovaks who fought and perished during the Pozdemny (Uprising) that claimed thousands of Slovakian lives.
I had read about the SNP Monument and a little bit about the uprising in my Slovakia guidebook, and the photo of the Monument looked like the building was a small whitewashed building that didn't take up much space. WRONG! When Ivan and I arrived at the part the SNP Monument is housed in, I was greeted by a HUGE brown monstrosity on a hill in the park that overlooked the park and parts of Banska Bystrica. Banska Bystrica is an old mining town, and the soot and poison that is in the air has discolored every building there, and I figured that the publishers of my guidebook must have airbrushed the buildings to make them look brighter.
Ivan and I climbed the stairs leading to the SNP Monument and came into a courtyard that had an eternal flame along with memorial plaques honoring those who fought and fell during the Uprising along with a lone plaque that commemorates the death of thousands of Slovakian Jews who perished in the Nazi death camps. Wreaths of flowers were laid on the plaques and near the eternal flame to tell the people that they haven't forgotten what happened during the war.
After touring the courtyard, Ivan and I went inside the SNP Monument, which houses a museum depicting the SNP Uprising. The day of our visit also brought a class of young students to the Monument for a tour, and they took up just about all of the seats in the Monument's theater that was showing a documentary film of the SNP Uprising and the history of the Monument. Ivan and I only stayed a short time in the theater because of the crowds and toured the museum, which was quite the learning experience for me.
Germany was bombed extensively by the Allies during World War II along with the oil fields at Ploiesti, Romania. But I didn't know that parts of Slovakia had been bombed by the Allies during WWII. Central Slovakia was a huge mining area, and the Allies bombed the area to prevent Slovakian steel from being mined and sent to Germany for its war toys.
The SNP Monument and museum is in Slovakian only, but the visual aids like photos, weapons, and other gadgets will give you an understanding of what the Slovak people went through under Nazi and Slovak puppet government occupation from 1939-1945. There is a small admission to the monument and museum along with the optional film daily.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 28, 2002
Monument of the Slovak National Uprising
Banska Bystrica, Slovakia
In many cities, towns, and villages in Slovakia, you can find several bunkers, pillboxes, tanks, airplanes, or guns left over from the battles that were fought in or nearby these places.
My friend Ivan and I saw one of these World War II pillboxes up close on one of our many bicycle rides through the country. One Sunday afternoon after lunch, Ivan and I took a bike ride to the village of Ockov, which has the remains of an ancient village and burial pit. After touring the ancient grounds which were on a farm owned by an elderly couple, we discovered that there was a World War II pillbox on their property that was available for touring.
Admission to both the burial grounds and pillbox only cost us a nickel each, and Ivan and I were able to climb in and around the old pillbox that was used by German, Slovak, and Red Army troops during the battle to liberate Slovakia in 1945. I couldn't believe the view I got from the pillbox. You could see the main road leading in and out of Ockov along with the huge expanse of fields that were a battlefield for many bloody months of battle. Two or three soldiers could fit into the pillbox and bunker, and the fit was very tight. Soldiers fought, slept, and most likely went to the bathroom in the bunker, and it was pretty claustrophobic for me, but I stayed in the bunker/pillbox long enough to have a picture taken and got out. I now know how my uncle and veterans from all nations felt fighting in World War II and other conflicts throughout the world.
Bunkers and Pillboxes
All over the country
Banska Bystrica, Slovakia
Attraction | "The Clock Tower, The Shooting Gallery, and Town Hall (Pretorium)"
The Town Hall (Pretorium) is a three-story building located east of the Town Castle Area. Built after 1500 in the Late-Gothic Style of architecture, the Town Hall was built on donations from a local mine owner and the Zvolen County Administrator and became the seat of the Town Council. From 1564-1565, renovations were done on the Town Hall where arcaded galleries were added to the three exterior walls, and in the 18th Century, the facade underwent a Baroque redesign.
Banska Bystrica's Clock Tower is also located in the northern part of the Town Castle Area and was built in 1552, but the basement torture chamber dates from 1506 and was also the town weighing house, hence giving the Clock Tower its other name, The Green or Weighing Tower. The Clock Tower also went under several renovations including getting a new stone gallery in 1665 and a new Baroque polygonal upper floor and helm roof from 1782-1784.
The third most important part of the Town Castle Area is The Shooting Gallery. Originally built as part of the Castle Fortifications in 1512 over a moat, the shooting gallery was an important gatehouse in order for people to enter and leave Banska Bystrica. A fire in 1761 destroyed the original Shooting Gallery, and its present-day look dates from the late 18th Century. The gate house got its name, the Shooting Gallery because it was defended by prisoners manning the "murder holes" facing the road. Prisoners would throw or pour things at enemy soldiers or people walking by the gatehouse at any time.Admission to all three of these buildings is limited do to renovations, and the Town Hall is still part of the local government of Banska Bystrica, but The Clock Tower, Town Hall, and Shooting Gallery are still worth looking at from the outside.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on May 17, 2003
The Clock Tower
Banska Bystrica, Slovakia
Attraction | "The Spital Church of St. Elizabeth"
The church is the oldest church in Slovakia dating from c. 1303. The church used to be part of a hospital and had a polygonal closed sanctuary with cross-ribbed ceilings. The original hospital, I was told, burnt down in 1605, but a new one was built in 1618 with several rennovations in the following centuries.
After 1750, The Spital Church of St. Elizabeth was rebuilt in the Baroque Style, and the sanctuary became the side chapel of St. Anna. A final remodel of the Spital Church of St. Elizabeth was completed in the Romantic Historicizing style in the late 19th Century.
Unfortunately, we could only see the outside of the church because it is only open during mass time which is about 11 a.m. The Spital Church is a tiny church, but one not to be missed on your tour of Banska Bystrica.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 17, 2003
The Spital Church of Street Elizabeth
Dolna Ulica (Lower Street)
Banska Bystrica, Slovakia
Attraction | "The Town Castle Area"
My friend Ivan and I spent most of our visit May 2002 visit to Banska Bystrica touring The Town Castle Area and its fortifications. These are a few of the highlights.
1. The Castle. Banska Bystrica's Castle is actually a series of buildings situated around the central district church and dates from the 15th Century. Unfortunately in 1948, three-quarters of the castle walls and its bastion were destroyed to build Banska Bystrica's new post office.
2. The Romanesque Church of the Virgin Mary dates from 1255 and is the oldest building in the town. It has gone under several additions and rennovations in the past 750 years and has suffered much decay and neglect. One of its statues has been lovingly restored to its original state and can be seen by tourists through a plexiglass window that was installed to protect it from vandalism.
3. The Church of St. Francis Xavier was built from 1615-1729 dominates Namestie SNP. It was built originally in the Baroque style but was later remodeled into the classical style of architecture. The twin towers were added in 1844. Mass was being held at the time of our visit, but we watched some of the mass through the door. Its interiors date from the 19th Century and has an Empire Main Altar. The Church of St. Francis Xavier went under major renovations in the 20th Century.
The two other popular sights in the Town Castle Area are Matthias Dom (House) and the Town Fortifications. They deserve there own separate entries.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 5, 2003
Banska Bystrica's Town Fortifications
Town Castle Area
Banska Bystrica, Slovakia
Attraction | "The Matthias Dom and the Church of the Holy Cross"
Ivan and I were finally able to visit this object of my affection in May 2002 during my second visit to Slovakia, and I wasn't disappointed.
The Matthias Dom was once the seat of the Royal Administrator of Banska Bystrica, but it is not sure if it was built as part of or separate from the town fortifications. When it was built in 1479, it was also said to be part of the Miner's Bastion. In addition to the five stories, the Matthias Dom has a high-pitched gable that goes over the town wall. King Matthia's, the buildings namesake, coat of arms is located on the south side.
Next to the Matthias Dom is the Catholic Church of the Holy Cross. It was built in 1492 and not 1452 like the plaque over the arch on the main entrance says and is attached to the Matthias Dom. In the 17th Century, The Church of the Holy Cross was occupied by the Evangelicals, who modified the interior. The Jesuits took over the church in the mid-18th century and remodeled the exterior in the Baroque style. In 1782, The Church of the Holy Cross was destroyed by fire, and its interior was rebuilt in the 19th Century.
When I returned to Borovce, where I was staying, I made a drawing of the Matthias Dom in my sketch book, but I only drew 4 floors instead of 5. WHOOPS! But I am proud of how the drawing turned out and I am including it in my photos with this journal.
The town fortifications are simple brick and stone defenses that date from the original construction in the 14th century. In the 16th century, the stone walls proper were built along with the gatehouses and Silver Gate located north of the square. Banska Bystrica was build irregularly and frequent reconstruction was needed through the 16th-18th centuries, and the southern walls were doubled in 1590.
Unfortunately during the 19th and 20th centuries, most of the town fortifications were demolished for new buildings and only two portions of the original fortifications remain at the southeast part of town, the Masiarska (Butcher) Bastion, and in the north, the Cizmarska (Bootmakers) Bastion.
It is well worth your time to take a good walk after lunch to see the new Banska Bystrica cleverly blended in with the old town fortifications.
The heart of the SNP began in the cities of Banska Bystrica and Zvolen in central Slovakia and spread into Southern Slovakia and the Tatra Mountains. At first, the Slovaks regularly beat the Germans in battle, but were running out of ammunition, and the Red Army was late in arriving in Slovakia because of the treacherous mountain terrain. By October 1944, the SNP was over and Germany regained control of Slovakia and in retaliation, killed many Slovak civillians in prisons or in Lidice style mass village burnings.
The Soviets did not arrive in Slovakia until early 1945 and final liberation did not take place until May 1945. Monsignor Tiso was executed by the Czechoslovak government in 1947 as a war criminal. Many Slovaks today feel that Tiso was just a Nazi puppet and was executed because of Czech domination of Slovakia. Tiso is considered a hero by many Slovaks and his face appears on old coins and literature today.