Trnava is the seventh largest town in the Slovak Republic with a population of almost 70 000, lying in the south-west corner of the country. Three European capitals: Bratislava, Vienna and Budapest lie within a radius of less than 200 km.
Trnava is one of the oldest and most beautiful mediaeval towns in Slovakia. It was the first town to be granted the privileges of a Free Royal Town. In the Middle Ages it ranked among the largest gothic towns in Central Europe. In the sixteenth century, after the Esztergom Archbishopric and Chapter had been transferred to Trnava, it became a centre of religious, social and cultural life in the Hungarian Kingdom. Trnava was in its heyday during the active period of the Trnava University in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Dozens of notable domestic and foreign architects, master-builders, sculptors and painters gave proof of their knowledge and talents in imposing works. For the generation of today, the rich history of the town is a spiritual message and a precious heritage, materialized in the beauty of architectural treasures both sacral and secular. Their styles include gothic, renaissance and baroque, from its early phase until baroque classicism. The skyline of Trnava is dominated by numerous church towers due to which the town received the epithet “Little Rome“.
Modern Trnava is a regional capital, an economic, political, and cultural centre of Western Slovakia and a university town. It offers rich opportunities to participate in cultural activities. Every year, the town hosts various cultural events, festivals and important sports fixtures.
1. The Town Tower
This Renaissance dominant of the Trinity Square was built in 1574 to serve as an observation post. It has a square ground plan and eight storeys. The observation gallery is 29 m above the ground and the overall height of the tower is 57 m. The upper storey and the corners of the tower are decorated with painted quasi-ashlars. The baroque cupola bears the gilded statue of Virgin Mary. The tower clockwork driving five dials was constructed in 1729. The bells, dating from 1692, chime every quarter of an hour and the full hour. On the southern wall there is the only preserved sun-dial in the town.
2. The Holy Trinity Sculptural Group
This impressive baroque sculptural group was created by Johann Christopher Khien in 1695. On the corners of the pedestal stand the statues of St. Florian, St. Agatha, St. Francis-Xaverius and St. Anthony of Padua, the statue of St. Rosalia lies in a stone grave. The top of the four-metre pillar bears the sculptural group of the Holy Trinity in the act of crowning Virgin Mary. Stone cartouches mounted in the centres of the pedestal walls contain the coats of arms of the Town of Trnava, the Hungarian Kingdom and Bishop Stephen Dohnány, as well as the relief of Virgin Mary.
3. St. Anna Church – Church of the Ursulines
The church was built by the Ursulines by the end of the 18th century, with means from the sisters’ dowries and donors’ gifts. The one-nave church has an oval ground plan, very rare in Slovakia. The centrepiece of the classical pillar High Altar is the large painting by Joseph Zanussi: “St. Anna Tutoring Virgin Mary as a Child”. In the western part of the church, another painting by the same artist can be seen: “Christ on Olive Mountain”. Under the Virgin Mary Altar there is a decorated tin coffin containing the relics of the Holy Martyrs of Košice.
4. St. John the Baptist Cathedral
The Cathedral is the first early-baroque building in Slovakia and it ranks among the most beautiful in Europe. It was built by the Italian architects Pietro and Antonio Spazzo. It used to be part of the University complex. The showpiece of the interior is the original all-wood High Altar dating from 1640, 20.3 m high and 14.8 m broad. The altar is lavishly gilded and polychromated. It consists of three altar paintings, 27 larger than life statues of saints from both the Old and New Testaments and a number of smaller ones. The main painting of the altar shows the Baptism of Jesus Christ, a theme taken up by further scenes from the life of St. John the Baptist painted in cartouches on the ceiling. Under the church there is a crypt where members of the Society of Jesus are buried as well as members of Palatine Nicholas Eszterházi’s family. In 1977, the church was promoted to become the Cathedral of the Trnava diocese. In 2003 Holy Father John Paul II honoured the Cathedral with his visit.
5. The Theological and Philosophical Faculties
The impressive buildings of the first faculties of the Trnava University were built one after the other after 1640. They housed a printing workshop, a pharmacy, a rich library, a theatre hall, laboratories and an astronomical observatory, designed by Maximilian Hell, an astronomer of European importance. At present the complex accommodates the Military Archives.
6. The Medical Faculty
This classical two-storey building was built in 1770-1772, according to a project by F. A. Hildebrandt. After the Trnava University had been transferred to Buda, the building accommodated the Royal Academy. Since the restoration of the Trnava University it has been the seat of the Faculty of Health Care and Social Work. One of the outer corners is decorated with the statue of St. John Nepomuk.
7. St. Adalbert Seminary – Adalbertinum
Archbishop Peter Pázmány had it built in 1619 for poor students of the Jesuit grammar school. The building was completed in 1623, extended in 1710, and at the beginning of the 20th century a third storey was added to it. During its history, the building also accommodated alternately the burgher school, the town library and the collections of the first town museum. The early baroque porch with a statue of St. Adalbert dating from 1710 is a reminder of the original appearance of the building.
8. The General Seminary – Rubrorum
It was founded in 1649 by Archbishop George Lippai for divinity students from the whole Hungarian Kingdom, in imitation of a similar seminary in Rome. The name is derived from the red cloaks of the clerics. At the beginning of the 20th century another storey was added to the baroque building and the façade was given a renaissance appearance. The original early baroque porch with a Latin inscription and the founder’s coat of arms was preserved, though. After 1853 the building housed the archiepiscopal grammar school, later a state grammar school.
9. The Seminary of Virgin Mary – Marianum
From the original appearance of the baroque building only the porch with the coat of arms of its founder, George Szelepcsényi, and a statue of Virgin Mary was preserved. The Seminary contained one of the University’s theatre halls. During a radical reconstruction at the beginning of the 20th century, a large social hall was created. Mikuláš Schneider-Trnavský, a significant Slovak composer, used it to premi?re a number of his works. Today, the reconstructed hall is a representative room for social events in the town.
10. Aristocratic Seminary (Convictus Nobilium)
On the behest of Empress Maria-Theresa this pompous three-storey four-winged building in the style of the Viennese high baroque was built for aristocratic students of the Trnava University. The front façade is dominated by a representative balcony porch with the statues of Fortuna and Grace, as well as by baroque basket gratings on the windows. In the corridors, staircases, and the dining hall there are rococo stucco decorations. The southern wing contains the St. John the Evangelist Chapel with a ceiling fresco of the Apocalypse by Lorenz Mussinger dating from 1758. The building is the seat of the Archiepiscopal Administrative Office.
11. St. Stephen Seminary – Stephaneum
The seminary was built for the divinity students at the behest of Archbishop Peter Pázmány. The reconstruction in 1724 into a four-winged two-storey building was the work of an unknown Viennese master-builder from the circle around J. L. Hildebrandt. After the archbishopric had returned back to Esztergom, it was the seat of the archiepiscopal vicar, later it accommodated a boys’ orphanage. The façade is dominated by a baroque porch showing a procession of the kingdom’s dignitaries attending the coronation of a king, most probably that of St. Stephen.
12. The House of Music
It is a baroque building erected on older mediaeval fundaments. During Gabriel Bethlen’s uprising, the crown of the Hungarian Kingdom was deposited there, which is hinted at by the Latin inscription on the attic: “I, a stranger, once used to dwell under this roof”. The main room of the building is decorated with an illusive fresco showing an exotic landscape. The House of Music accommodates expositions concerned with the life and work of the significant Trnava-born Slovak composer, Mikuláš Schneider Trnavský, and a Hall of Fame devoted to the Dobro resonator guitar.
13. St. Nicholas Basilica
This characteristic dominant of Trnava was built in 1380-1421. The gothic three-nave basilica with a two-tower frontage and baroque chapels has a sanctuary with eight high stained-glass windows with stone tracery. The oldest altar is the early baroque All-Saints Altar dating from 1659. In the baroque Virgin Mary of Trnava Chapel there is her gracious painting, thanks to which Trnava became a well-known place of pilgrimage. In the side chapels there are precious renaissance and baroque epitaphs of Esztergom archbishops. On the southeast side of the presbytery of St. Nicholas, Roman ossuary was discovered - charnel house, the oldest sacred building in Trnava.
14. Oláh’s Seminary
This renaissance building dating from 1561 was the first divinity seminary in the Hungarian Kingdom, built on the behest of Archbishop Nicholas Oláh, following the resolutions passed by the Council of Trent. The present appearance of the two-storey three-winged building is the result of several reconstructions. From the beginning of the 17th century until the mid-20th century it served as a home for old priests. Since 1979 Oláh’s Seminary has accommodated the Museum of Book Culture.
15. The Town Fortification
It is one of the few preserved oldest brick fortifications in Slovakia. It had a rectangular ground plan with dimensions of 800 x 700 m. It enclosed an area of 56 hectares which made Trnava one of the largest towns in the 13th century Central Europe. In places the town wall was up to 10 m high and 170-230 cm thick and it was reinforced by 35 four-storey towers. There were four gates in the fortification, two in the southern and two in the northern part. Besides these gates there were two small ones for pedestrians, in the eastern and the western part of the town wall.
16. The Sculptural Group of St. Joseph
This sculptural group dating from 1731 was created by sculptor I. Melczer as a sign of the burghers’ gratitude for the end of the plague. On the sides of the triangular pedestal there are reliefs showing St. Rosalia, St. Sebastian and St. Rochus. On the corners of the pedestal stand statues of St. Nicholas, St. Charles Borromeus and St. Catharine of Alexandria. Above the saints’ heads there are angels with carpenter’s tools in their hands and a relief coat of arms of the town. The top of the obelisk is occupied by the sculpture of St. Joseph holding little Jesus.
17. The Archiepiscopal Mansion
An important historic building in the renaissance style built on the behest of Archbishop Nicholas Oláh in 1542–1562 on the fundaments of several mediaeval burgher houses. The street wing was built as the first, later the courtyard wing was added as well as sections housing the archives and library, where lectures of the law faculty used to be held after 1668. After several reconstructions the residence received the form of a mansion with a closed-in courtyard. The baroque porch is decorated with Archbishop Francis Forgách’s coat of arms. On the façade there are the coats of arms of the Archbishops Nicholas Oláh and George Széchényi. The mansion was the seat of Esztergom archbishops until 1820.
18. The synagogues
In the town there are two synagogues. Both of them show distinctive oriental elements in their architecture. The orthodox synagogue has a simple frontage without towers, decorated only with the stone panels of the Decalogue. The Status Quo synagogue is a representative two-tower building whose frontage is characterized by semi-projecting towers and the stone panels of the Decalogue at the gable top. The Ján Koniarek Gallery has founded a centre of modern art in it. In front of the synagogue stands a memorial for the victims of the Holocaust.
19. St. Joseph Church – Church of the Paulists
Originally, this church belonged to the Calvinists, who started its construction in 1616. Its architecture shows distinctive elements of German baroque. After the Paulists had settled in Trnava in the 17th century, the church was acquired by their order. The Paulists made some adaptations to the building, in 1701 they added the Loretto Chapel and in the 19th century a wooden bell-tower with a baroque cupola. The High Altar is dominated by the painting of St. Joseph the Foster-Father. The decorations on the ceiling include four oval cartouches with scenes from the life of St. Joseph.
20. Church of the Assumption – Church of the Clarists
The Clarists’ monastery and church form one of the oldest monastery complexes in the town. It was mentioned as early as 1239, when Pope Gregory IX took it under his patronage. The sanctuary of the one-nave church is still covered by the original ribbed vault. In the 17th century the church was reconstructed in the baroque style and the rear part was divided into two storeys. In the upper an oratory with rich stucco decorations was created, in the lower a dining hall. Since 1954 the complex has accommodated the West Slovakian Museum.
21. St. Helen Church
The church is an architectural monument dating from the mid-14th century. The front porch bears an aedicule with the sculptures of St. Anna, St. Helena and St. Barbara. The central sculpture of St. Helena is a gothic piece dating from 1400. Like other gothic sacral buildings, this church, too, was later rebuilt in the baroque style. From the original appearance of the building the ribbed vault and the gothic pastophorium in the wall of the sanctuary were preserved. In the sanctuary there are stained-glass windows. The southern chapel has the oldest and only preserved table altar in Slovakia.
22. The Evangelical-Augsburg Church
The church is an atypical building constructed according to the project by architect Josef Marek in 1924. The whole of the interior was to focus on the pulpit, which is why a semicircular ground-plan was chosen, with amphitheatrically arranged rows of benches and gallery. In 1974 a modern suspended lower ceiling was installed. The impressive three-tower building has a square main tower with a tower clock, bells and a glockenspiel, and two lower rounded ones.
23. The Town Hall
Actually, the Town Hall is a complex of buildings ranging in styles from the gothic to the baroque. The cross-vaulted baroque building with bay windows on the corner of Radlinský Street dating from the beginning of the 18th century has rich stucco decorations created by Italian stuccoers. The Town Hall proper is a baroque-classical palace-like building. The frontage has a protruding balcony supported by Tuscany pillars and decorated with the town’s coat of arms and a chronogram. In the mid-20th century the neighbouring burgher house dating from the 13th century was included in the Town Hall complex. On the street façades under its roof there is a cresting formed of figural and animal motifs.
The West Wing Hall
Trnava city hall, four-winged complex crimped courtyard, encapsulates an important and rare sight. The west wing is a valuable example of the medieval town hall as a whole. A unique is built and maintained the state‘s oldest authentic building in Trnava municipality from the turn of the 14th and 15 century, which is rare in Slovakia. The most precious element from the time of establishing the town and the autonomy is a three-Gothic windows. Outstanding value has the Gothic cellar, which probably served as a prison with three fields of cross-vaults, Renaissance prison on the ground floor with preserved drawings and inscriptions of prisoners. Especially valuable is the Baroque jail cell and a small vaulted room for jailer. The interior is complemented by a replica of the original furniture. The West Wing Hall presents history not only of autonomy, but also creates an attractive room for art exhibitions and concerts.
24. The Theatre
The classical theatre building was constructed according to the plans by architect Bernhard Grünn in 1831. In 1907 a representative mirror hall, the Pannonia, was created. The 548-seat auditorium and the stage were rather large for their time and local conditions. The first performance in German was given at Christmas 1831 and the first performance in Slovak in 1869.
Since 2001 the theatre has borne the name of the significant Slovak playwright Ján Palárik.
25. St. Jacob Church – Franciscan Church
The church was erected with the support of Hungarian King Louis I in 1363-1383. In the 17th century it underwent several reconstructions. On the sides of the gable there are the statues of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Anthony of Padua. The church contains the largest number of altars in Trnava: 2 in the sanctuary, 1 in the sacristy, 10 in the nave and 1 in the chapel. The central painting of the High Altar shows St. Jacob standing on a cloud and surrounded with an aura. An interesting architectural piece is the St. Anthony Altar in the sanctuary. In its centre there is a statue of Virgin Mary, the border contains oval paintings with scenes from St. Anthony’s life.
26. The Church of the Holiest Trinity – Jesuit church
The church was built by the Trinitarians in 1710-1729. After 1853 it passed into the hands of the Jesuits. The most significant work of art in the interior is a painting on the High Altar showing the founders of the Order of the Holy Trinity, St. John of Matha and St. Felix of Valois, by the Austrian painter F. A. Maulbertsch. On the Virgin Mary Altar at the southern wall of the church, the relics of the Holy Martyrs of Košice are kept in a glass reliquary. The carved altar in the St. Joseph Chapel is a work of art dating from 1900.
27. Koppel’s Family Mansion
It was built at the beginning of the 20th century for the family of the big landowner Koppel. At present it accommodates the Ján Koniarek Gallery. In 2007 two permanent expositions were installed: “Ján Koniarek – the Founder of Modern Slovak Sculpture” and “Gems of Home – Classical Slovak Plastic Art of the 20th Century”. The gallery stages exhibitions of works of art from the latter half of the 20th century as well as older ones, and it also offers space for the promotion of local artists.
Photo: Andrej Grossmann, Dano Miština, Tibor Rendek, Blažej Vittek