These articles were published in the Spectacular Slovakia travel guide, published annually by The Slovak Spectator since 1996. The latest editions can be obtained from our online shop.



Hronsek: Worship in wood

By Howard Swains

    Slovak workmanship at its finest: Hronsek’s original wooden church.
 Slovak workmanship at its finest: Hronsek’s original wooden church.
 Photo by Howard Swains

Even among Slovakia's several examples of wooden churches, the structure at Hronsek deserves special mention. Originally commissioned in 1725, the church was built according to the strict guidelines governing Protestant places of worship laid down by Emperor Leopold I's government, in agreement with the Habsburg opposition. These guidelines included the requirement that churches be built within a year and entirely from wood (without even iron nails), dictates difficult enough to adhere to without the additional strife of an uprising of Hungarian rebels, and a location on a small island in the middle of the river Hron (Garam in the Hungarian language).

Nevertheless, the architects and labourers of Hronsek hit their deadline and produced the staggering structure that still stands today, one of few "articular" churches that remain (ie, built according to these articles). The interior has never been restored and the original red spruce and oak wood, impregnated with beeswax for strength, still prevails.

    The church and separate bell tower.
 The church and separate bell tower.
 Photo by Howard Swains

And it's immense. The church seats nearly 1,100 worshippers on narrow pews both on ground level and on four creaking balconies, where the seats are gently tiered so that every member of the congregation can see the altar. The domed ceiling and vast interior space gives the church the feeling of a ship's hold turned upside down.

The parishioners did not skimp on grandeur, despite the restrictions. The main altar might resemble marble but is, of course, wooden. A grand organ was brought to the church in 1764, while a wooden chandelier was added in the 19th century.

For obvious reasons, the church is locked at most times, but the key is available from the house immediately in front.


These articles and related information were published in Spectacular Slovakia 2008, which you can obtain from our online shop.

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