A September 2001 trip
to Nitra by Wildcat Dianne
Quote: My Slovak friends, Ivan, Miro, and Evka took me on a night trip to this medieval gem in September 2001. After centuries of war and destruction, Nitra has come through its trials and tribulations virtually unscathed and is worth a day or night trip when you visit Slovakia.
I got to see much of this quaint little city on a early evening trip with my Slovak friends, and the sights that I would highly recommend are located in or near the hilltop Pribina Square.
1. The Castle. Located on the hill above Nitra in Pribina Square, Nitra's Castle dates from the 12th century and is a Slovak National Cultural Monument. Be sure to pose by the statue of Slovakia's first king in front of the castle.
2. The Lesser and Greater Seminaries date from the 18th and 19th centuries and made Nitra a major educational center for young men who wanted to be priests.
3. The Monastery and Church of the Piarists date from the early 18th century and was destroyed during World War II. It was restored after the war with additional artwork from several Hungarian and Slovak artists.
Nitra suffered major damage during World War II and only part of the city was reconstructed. The rest of the city was destroyed to make room for housing for the growing post-war population. However, I observed that what was reconstructed survived the ravages of communist rule and the vandalism and destruction that plague many sights and monuments throughout Slovakia.
Day or night, Nitra is well worth a visit if you are interested in medieval architecture and history. There are many wide pedestrian walkways one can walk around, and in late summer, many restaurants have outdoor seating where you can have dinner. Ivan, Miro, Evka, and I found an ice-cream parlor in Nitra's main square and enjoyed sundaes under the bright-blue night sky.
Attraction | "Hrad Nitra"
Hrad Nitra came into existence between the 12th and 13th centuries. The remnants of the basilica of St. Emeram are still standing today, along with an old cemetery. The first part of Hrad Nitra that was built was the upper cathedral from 1333-1355. The cathedral is split into an upper and lower level that was joined in the 17th century by a broad stairway. From 1622 to 1642, Hrad Nitra went through a baroque remodeling by Viennese artists and architects.
As mentioned before, my friends and I explored Nitra at sunset and didn't have a chance to go inside the castle and cathedral, but the 13th-century fortifications that surround Hrad Nitra are open all of the time for people to walk around and enjoy Pribina Square. We spent the time exploring the fortifications and took pictures in front of the statue of Slovakia's first ruler, who ruled in the 10th century.
The cathedral tower and interior went under another baroque reconstruction in the 18th century, and its final Empire-style reconstruction of the interiors was completed in the 19th century.
The castle fortifications protect the northeast and south sections of the grounds and date from the early baroque period. Stone statues that are on the fortifications and bridge are from the 18th century. Today, Nitra Castle is the seat of the Bishops of Nitra, which has been a seminary town for young Slovak men who wish to enter the priesthood since the 18th century.
It is free to tour the grounds of Nitra Castle and its fortifications, and they are open all day and night.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 14, 2005
Above the old city of Nitra
Attraction | "Namestie Pribina (Pribina Square)"
When my friends and I came to Nitra in September 2001, Pribina Square was quiet at sunset, with many couples holding hands and enjoying a romantic weekend out posing for pictures in front of the statue of Prince Pribina and looking at the Nitra skyline from the fortress walls.
Pribina Square is located in the Upper Town and was once isolated from the rest of Nitra when it was run by the Burghers and Bishops during the Middle Ages. Today, all Slovaks and guests can tour Pribina Square and its sights, and its seminaries are still teaching young men to become priests.
Also located on Pribina Square is a Franciscan Church and Monastery, The Piarist Church, and several Burgher's houses painted in many pastel shades and untouched during many years of war and communism. One should spend a few minutes at Pribina Square and soak in the scenery!
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 15, 2005
Attraction | "Churches and Seminaries of Nitra"
1. The Franciscan Church and Monastery is located on Ulica Samova, below Pribina Square and the Castle. The church was built in the 17th century on the old site that was burned in the 15th century. Its architecture mirrors that of the Gesu in Rome and was destroyed during the Turkish occupation of Nitra (1663-1664). Reconstruction of the Franciscan Church didn't start until the early 18th century, and it took many years to restore it to its 17th-century glory. The monastery was built at this time on the north side of the church, and a cloister is on the east side.
2. The Lesser and Greater Seminaries of Nitra, located on Ulica Vazilova, are of baroque and classical architecture.
The Lesser Seminary's present-day look was built in the 19th century on the ruins of an older building by an Austrian architect, K. Mayer. It has two floors, a central courtyard, and a balustrade.
The Greater Seminary dates from the late 18th century and is in three parts, a baroque section (1770) with two wings (1779). The second part of the Greater Seminary was constructed in the neoclassical style in 1877, and the rear wing of the seminary was built from 1877 to 1879 by Viennese architects Schmidt and Lippert. There is a diocese library that is an exact copy of the National Library in Budapest, and it is a National Cultural Monument.
As with most churches in Slovakia, Nitra's churches are open only for masses, but not all day because of theft and vandalism. But Nitra's religious icons remain pretty much unscathed.
Churches and Seminaries
Vazilova and Pribina Square
After Prince Pribina was expelled from Nitra, the town suffered from many centuries of foreign occupation and wars starting with the Hungarians and Bavarians at the beginning of the 10th century, but this occupation made Nitra thrive instead of fail. It was during this time that Nitriya (the Hungarian spelling of Nitra) became the seat for the Bishop of Nitra, a free town, and the county administrative seat.
Corruption and wars with the Tartars and other groups caused Nitriya to disintegrate during the 13th century, and by 1288, Nitra was owned by the bishops and lost its status as a free town. Matus Cak, a Slovak magnate, ran Nitra for a short time until his death in 1321, and the burghers who lived in the Upper Town lost privileges and had their homes destroyed for his own advancement.
Nitra is divided into two parts by the Nitricka (Nitra River), the Upper Town and the Lower Town. During the bishop’s heyday, the Upper Town was exclusively the residence of the burghers and other big shots of the town, while the other residents of Nitra lived in the Lower Town.
From the 15th to 17th centuries, Nitra was in the middle of many wars and occupations starting with the invasion by the Protestant Hussites in 1431. At the end of the 15th century, the Poles took Nitra, and in 1663, the Turks did. These invasions led to a reconstruction of Nitra, with the castle and its fortifications getting modernized for future warfare.
By the 18th century, Nitra was once again under Hungarian rule and was burnt to the ground in 1708. Most of Nitra's buildings that you see today are from the baroque and late baroque era of architecture.
Nitra became part of Czechoslovakia after 1918, and during World War II it was under German occupation. Nitra suffered significant damage during World War II by Allied air raids due to it being on the route to many of Romania's oil fields and central Slovakia's coal mines. After the war, Nitra was reconstructed, but many of its old buildings were not rebuilt because the Communists needed to build housing for the growing population of Nitra. What you see today is a combination of baroque and Communist architecture on the outskirts of town. Much of Nitra's Jewish population, like many of Slovakia's Jewish communities, perished at Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps, but Nitra's synagogue still stands today.
Today, Nitra's Upper Town is an Urban Conservation Area and the castle is a National Cultural Monument.