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.



Spišská Kapitula: Holy city

By James Thomson

    The ruins of Spiš Castle, one of the biggest in central Europe.
 The ruins of Spiš Castle, one of the biggest in central Europe.
 Photos by James Thomson

One tends to run out of superlatives when describing Spiš castle, whose vast bulk is visible from much of its surrounding area.

The historical centre of power in the historical Spiš region, it is one of the biggest fortresses in central Europe and includes defences covering four hectares which were added over successive centuries of improvement and rebuilding.

It fell into disrepair after the religious conflicts of the 1700s but its ruins, and the settlements that surround it, are now listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. One of those settlements is Slovakia's answer to the Vatican, Spišská Kapitula.

This small, walled town, which is mostly owned and operated by various branches of the Roman Catholic church, is dominated by the double-steepled late-Romanesque St Martin's Cathedral, completed in 1275, and an 18th century Bishop's Palace. Both are enclosed by walls which date back to the Ottoman wars of the seventeenth century.

    Spišská Kapitula
 Spišská Kapitula
 Photos by James Thomson

As well as keeping out the raiding Ottomans, the walls helped prevent the town ever developing a normal urban character. Instead, it was dominated by individual religious orders; the preserved houses of the canons of these orders are accessed from the one, practically traffic-free, main street which runs between the two late-Renaissance gates. Men in priestly robes still stride around the town.

There is a small information office near the cathedral and the recently opened Europa House on the main street offers refreshments on a terrace overlooking the castle and the attractive, wooden-roofed houses of the town.

There are more shops and accommodation opportunities in nearby Spišské Podhradie (which is also part of the UNESCO listing), from where it is a stiff hike up to Spiš Castle itself.


These articles and related information were published in Spectacular Slovakia 2009, which you can obtain from our online shop.

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