Slovak workmanship at its finest: Hronsek’s original wooden church.
Photo by Howard Swains
The bulk of Slovakia's wooden churches in Slovakia) are in the north-east, mostly in Prešov Region. However, a few of them are to be found further west, some the result of a minor concession during the Counter-Reformation.
Protestantism was remarkably successful in sixteenth-century Slovakia, claiming most of the population as adherents by 1600. The sometimes bloody efforts of the Catholic church to re-assert the Roman Rite following the Council of Trent in 1550 had reversed the situation by the second half of the seventeenth century. But there were still many Protestants, who began to agitate for recognition.
This came, in somewhat grudging form, in a 1681 treaty signed by the Austrian Emperor which permitted Protestants to build churches, subject to certain conditions. These were set out in two articles of the treaty - the churches built according to them became known as 'articular' - which stipulated that the churches should have no direct road access, no steeple, be outside village boundaries, be completed within a year and be built exclusively of wood (even iron nails were prohibited).
The articular church in Hronsek, between Banská Bystrica and Zvolen, is one of the best examples that remain.
Built in 1725-6, it can hold as many as 1,100 worshippers in an amphitheatre-style arrangement. It is the only wooden church in Slovakia which exhibits Scandinavian architectural influences, for instance in the beam connections and the arrangement of the columns. How these features, which have contributed significantly to the structure's longevity, arrived in Hronsek is still a mystery.
The church's setting is lovely: the huge linden trees which complement it are as old as the church itself.