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The art of Spiš

Levoca Juraj

Regions like Spiš, Transylvania or Alsace are an amazing phenomenon of Europe. During the advancing (building) period in the Middle Ages, more cultures were meeting in these regions and existed side by side and enriched each other. Exploring the cultural heritage of these extraordinary regions poses a valuable experience.

Cultural tour


The cultural region of Spiš on the northern border of the former Kingdom of Hungary is a relatively well-known term in the milieu of cultured Europeans. The quantity and quality of its (especially medieval) cultural heritage was influenced by its location, the traces of old settlements, the diversity and vitality of the ethnic groups living here, the privileges granted, the autonomy of the towns and as the seat of the priory, as well as the proximity of ore wealth.

Regarding the location, it was the neighbourhood of the kingdoms of Poland and Galicia, of trade routes as well as of routes of art knowledge that were important. The continually inhabited ancient settlements were replaced by settlements of Slavic peasants and craftsmen. Around 1200 A.D., and also later in further stages, the Hungarian kings invited “guests” from German regions (Saxony, Bavaria, Swabia) to come here and granted them initial as well as permanent privileges. Thus, in addition to the villages and mansions of the original nobility (the Spiš lance-bearers) a dense network of towns was created, most of which were independent from the feudal state. Many of them had permanent contacts with the towns in Saxony, German and the Austrian Danube region, but also with the towns of Krakow or Wroclaw. Through the Chapter House (priory) and the seat of the county castle, the Spiš region was influenced by the royal court in Buda and archbishopric in Esztergom. Scattered throughout the Spiš valleys of the river basins of Hornád and Hnilec rivers were the so called Upper Hungarian mining towns.

This blend of natural, social and legal conditions formed the basis for the heyday, especially from the 13th until the 17th century. The most famous artist of the Late Gothic period is the Master Paul of Levoča, whose works (and the works of his workshop) have been preserved here at more than ten locations. Nowadays, we also appreciate the sculptures of the unknown “Master of royal figures” and panel-paintings from the workshops in Spišská Kapitula (Spiš Chapter House), Levoča and Kežmarok.

The fullness of the construction and art programme and the change of conditions in the last three centuries have led to a certain stagnation of the material culture, thanks to which, however, we can enjoy the uniquely preserved wealth of construction and fine art of the Gothic, Late Gothic and Renaissance style. Of course, even after these periods Spiš has been a region of a unique educational system and cultural associations. Both Late Gothic and Late Renaissance artworks stemming from Spiš workshops can also be found in neighbouring regions. Therefore, our sightseeing tour of the artworks of Spiš leads also to the churches in Liptov, Bardejov, as well as to the mining towns in Central Slovakia.


BigKR ZIP 7map

Saturday: Meeting in Vienna, railway station Westbahnhof, at 16:00. Bus transfer to a hotel in Lower Liptov.

Sunday: The excursion begins in the region of Liptov. As a prelude to the introduction of the art of Spiš region, we will visit the church above the village Martinček, where the recently discovered murals represent the artistic movements which appeared before the year 1300 A.D. In the church in the village Liptovské Matiašovce we will meet the less known art of Spiš Baroque. The sightseeing at the church in Smrečany is already a full-fledged experience of pieces of Gothic and Late Gothic art, the production of which in the Spiš workshops was ordered and financed by the local donors. An extraordinary echo of the royal art and traces of the Spiš art can be found in the monastic church in Okoličné. Before being accommodated in Spišská Sobota, we will visit the local parish church. Its Romanesque parts, the typical Gothic “Spiš double nave” and its interior belong to the supreme collection of the Spiš Gothic and Baroque art.

Monday: The first destination of our tour cannot be anywhere else than the Spiš Castle (the largest medieval castle complex in Central Europe), which was already called “Zipser Haus” by the Spiš Saxons in the 13th century. In the beautiful Gothic church in Žehra we will have a look at the murals with unique scenes, and then we will visit the small fortified ecclesiastical town of Spišská Kapitula with its Romanesque cathedral and canonical houses. In the interior of the cathedral we will see Gothic altars with panel-paintings, which were produced by the workshop which led the way for Gothic painting in the Spiš region. In the afternoon we will make a rather demanding trip to the mountain range Slovak Paradise, where on a plateau the excavations of the famous Carthusian monastery “Lapis refugii“ can be found, a monastery, which was erected here so as to remember that the people of Spiš had found here refuge during the invasion of Mongols. We will also make a stop at the church in Hrabušice, where we will see the main altar from the workshop of Master Paul from Levoča.

Tuesday: On the way to the “capital of the Spiš Saxons” – Levoča – we will see the renowned Gothic chapel in Spišský Štvrtok and the Gothic double-nave church in the village of Dravce with its remarkable murals and Gothic wooden stalls. Seeing the architecture and indoor decoration of the Levoča parish church (9 Gothic wing altars, among them the main one being the highest Gothic altar in the world, and other more than one hundred artistic and handicraft works in the interior) is undoubtedly the greatest experience of the tour. In the city of Levoča we will also visit more religious monuments and museum expositions. We will listen to a concert of music from the 17th century, the records of which come from Levoča. We will make a bus journey with unique panoramic views of the Tatra Mountains and the Spiš basin with the Spiš Castle. The route leads through villages with Early Gothic churches and interesting examples of folk architecture – Repaše, Oľšavica, Brutovce, Spišský Hrhov. Finally, we will make a stop in a small church in the village of Gánovce, where we will admire the great Gothic carving, the figure of Saint Stanislav.

Wednesday: That day we will acquaint ourselves with the monuments of the northern part of Spiš, where the rivers Poprad and Dunajec leave the territory of Slovakia (and also of the former Kingdom of Hungary) and which are the only two rivers from within the Carpathian basin which flow northwards into the Baltic Sea. We will make our first stops in the neighbourhood of Spišská Sobota – at the architecturally valuable medieval churches of Matejovce and Mlynica with unique examples of Gothic wing altars. After visiting the Gothic church in Lendak, the oldest one among the Spiš double-nave churches, we will see the medieval church in Výborná with a colourful Renaissance wooden ceiling on pillars. Then we will pass the Magura mountain range to a region named “Zamagurie”, a substantial part of which belongs to the protected Pieniny National Park. A renowned sight here is the monastery in Lechnice, also called the “Red monastery (Červený kláštor)”, of Carthusian origin, later Camaldusian. This tour around the cultural heritage site of Spiš also includes a touristic rafting of the Dunajec river rift, which has a tradition of more than 150 years here. On the way back to Spišská Sobota we will visit the historically significant castle of Stará Ľubovňa, the town of Podolínec and the church in Veľká Lomnica with important Gothic murals.

Thursday: Our tour will focus on the second most important city of Spiš: Kežmarok. Along the way we will see Gothic double-nave churches in small villages of Vrbov and Ľubica. In the city of Kežmarok we will see the interesting layout of its streets, relics of the parish church, a Renaissance bell tower, the town castle and the world famous wooden evangelical church with an incredibly colourful interior. We will have lunch in one of the historical touristic villages in the High Tatras, in Tatranská Lomnica, in a hotel from the Art Nouveau period. Then we will see the relics and the museum of the inventor J.M. Petzval in the town of Spišská Belá and a Late Gothic church, Renaissance bell tower and Renaissance chateau in the village of Strážky which hosts the exposition of the Slovak National Gallery with pictures of the very interesting painter Ladislav Mednyánsky, who grew up and worked here.

Friday: In the city of Spišská Nová Ves we will see an incredibly large square of lens shape (a type we have commented on in the village of Hniezdne and the town of Podolínec) and a large parish church with a gallery of stone Gothic reliefs on the keystones of the vault. Then we will visit a complex of Renaissance and Rococo secular architecture – the chateau in the village of Markušovce with the museum of interiors and keyboard musical instruments. Following that we will have a look at the parish church in the town of Spišské Vlachy, the Late Gothic interior of which (with remnants of Romanesque architecture) is filled with Rococo altars. We will pass through the mountains to the valley of the river Torysa in the region of Šariš. In the village of Ražňany and the towns of Lipany and Sabinov we will see the interiors of the parish churches with remnants of Spiš art (also from the workshop of the Master Paul from Levoča), as well as with unique architectural details of the early “Hungarian Adriatic Renaissance”. Then we will visit the pearl of the Gothic-Renaissance cities – Bardejov – the main square, the town hall with the exposition of extremely valuable artefacts and the parish church with the preserved eleven Gothic wing altars and unique architecture. In the neighbouring village of Hervartov we will become acquainted with the renowned Gothic wooden church with a unique interior.

Saturday: The last day of our tour will be enriched by visiting unique monuments of Spiš and Danube Gothic (Vienna, Nuremberg) art in the mining towns of Central Slovakia. In the small church in Sásová we will see a unique collection of Gothic wing altars. In the city of Banská Bystrica we will visit the museum in the house originally belonging to the enterprise Thurzo – Fugger and the town parish castle church with many valuable architectural and sculptural works. Among others can be mentioned the architectural finesses of the Vienna building guild, the “Veit Stoss“ sculptural group of Christ on Olive Mountain, a large wing altar from the Master Paul from Levoča and Baroque frescos from Anton Schmidt. Arrival in Vienna in the evening.

Levoca Jan Pavol

Service package:

The price of the tour covers:

  • A qualified guiding service
  • Expert guiding by a renowned art-historian
  • Travel from Vienna, around Slovakia and back to Vienna in a comfortable bus.
  • 7x accommodation in double and single rooms at three/four star hotels and guesthouses
  • Full board in carefully selected stylish restaurants - 7x breakfast, 6x lunch, 7x dinner
  • Entrance fees (except Group tours and VIP tours)

The price of the tour does not include the following:

  • drinks
  • contributions
  • insurance
  • charges for taking pictures in museums and monuments
  • individual transportation from the residence to the point of departure (except Group tours and VIP tours)

Tour price

The price for the tour KR ZIP7 is 925 Euro per person in double room,

Extra charge for a single room is 166 Euro.

For tours of the type Group tours and VIP tours the price is calculated individually


Dates for groups – by appointment

Dates for VIP – by appointment

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