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Mining towns and anti-Turkish fortifications of towns, castles and manor houses

Important mining towns with precious metal wealth and the border of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, which for hundred and fifty years ran through the half of the Kingdom of Hungary, were the prominent topics of interest for Europe of the 16th and 17th century. Even today they belong to the greatest sights of the historical and cultural heritage on the territory of current Slovakia.

Study tour


The Battle of Mohács in 1526, in which the Turks defeated the Hungarian aristocratic, clerical and military elite, had fatal consequences on the development in this part of Europe. By 1524 the Turks had occupied the entire lower part of the Kingdom of Hungary up to the river Danube. Thereafter, the Kingdom of Hungary existed for one and a half centuries only on the territory of the current Slovakia and Transylvania. The fortifications on this new border were the focus of attention of the whole of Christian Europe. They served primarily for the immediate defence of the mining towns, because it was these with their wealth and importance, which were the next target of the Turkish expansion. A political target was the conquest of Vienna. Thanks to these fortifications, but also at the cost of a huge number of victims neither Vienna, nor the mining towns were conquered by Turks in the end.

Of course, the legendary mining towns had been known long before that. Traces of ore exploitation go back to pre-historical times, with the precursors of these towns in medieval times being gords (hradisko). After the medieval state had been consolidated, the mineral wealth was the property of the king. However, the development of its mining was provided only by invited “guests” – mining specialists and metallurgists, who were also responsible for the donation of shares to the privileged and initiative persons, monasteries and towns. There were strict rules governing here and the king was represented by the Chamber count appointed by the king himself. Administrative measures, coinage, privileges, regulations, as well as the capital of the patricians, “waldbürger“ (“mining guilds”), their shares, all of this ultimately affected the economic functioning of the state. Churches, as well as townhouses of the mining towns housed valuable artworks. In the 15th century, 60 % of European silver, 40 % of European gold and ?? % of European copper was mined in the territory of the current Slovakia. After 1490 Thurzo invited Fuggers from Augsburg with their financial capital to come to this area.

Thus, after the Turks had occupied the southern parts of the country, the town churches, monasteries and the walls were rebuilt into fortifications in mining towns and their surroundings. Originally, medieval castles were equipped with modern fortifications, consisting of cannon bulwarks, bastions and barbicans situated outside the main line of defences.

Available deposits were gradually exhausted, but new inventions and investments into technologies brought about a new boom after the year 1700 lasting for almost two centuries. The very important iron also supplemented the precious metals. During our tour we will learn about the great personalities of technology who worked here; about the oldest technical university, about the constructions that have made up the image of this unique type of cultural landscape until today. The mining operations in these ancient towns stopped. They represent the treasures of material cultural heritage and the still continuing mining traditions.


big SR BBS8 map

Saturday: Meeting in Vienna, raiway station WestBahnhof at 16:00. Bus transfer to a hotel in Bratislava.

Sunday: In the capital of Slovakia, Bratislava we will see a part of the castle fortification, the cathedral and other monuments that relate to the period when during occupation of the Pannonian part of Hungary, Bratislava was the capital of the kingdom (instead of Buda) and the coronation city of the Hungarian kings. Consequently, in the city of Nitra, originally an ancient seat of Slavic princes (8th and 9th century) and an important Episcopal see, we will visit the Bishop’s Castle, which was occupied by the Turks for some time in 1663. Therefore, based on the initiative of the Habsburg royal court, the castle was equipped with even more massive fortifications, which have been preserved to this day. Then we will make a short stop in the monastery complex of Hronský Beňadik. This originally Benedictine abbey was radically rebuilt into an anti-Turkish fortress. In the old town hall of the city Nová Baňa we will see the mining exposition. It was here, where for the first time in continental Europe (1721) the “fire engine” of the engineer Isaac Potter for water pumping was constructed. We will be accommodated in a pension close to the town of Kremnica.

Monday: We will spend the day in the “golden” town of Kremnica. We will visit the complex of the town castle which consists of several notable buildings, which show signs of belonging to the architectural style of the Danube region (the ossuary), of Vienna (the nave vault of the church) and, finally, of Swabia (the presbytery vault). We will visit the remarkable museum and underground exposition of mining. We will see unusual types of Late Gothic townhouses and peer into the exposition of the oldest functioning mint in Europe. We will see, how the original wooden houses of miners looked like. The excursion in the surroundings will lead us to the village Kremnické Bane and other sites with traces of mining activities.

Tuesday: In the morning we will begin the tour in the “silver town” Banská Štiavnica by visiting the fortress Nový zámok (New Castle) with an exposition of the battles against the Turks, we will also see the Starý zámok (Old Castle), which is a remarkable construction of a Romanesque to Late Gothic town church, which had to be rebuilt into a fortified castle during the times of Turkish threat. We will see the art-historical collection in the gallery and the unique interior of the town church of Saint Catherine. We will visit the Open-Air Mining Museum Banská Štiavnica, where we will see underground shafts and tunnels, as well as exhibits illustrating the development of mining. On the way through the mining village Štiavnické Bane we will see further mining works, as well as the famous water system. In the originally mining town of Pukanec we will see the Gothic parish church, the architecture of which is related to Banská Štiavnica and which has five Gothic wing altars in its interior. We will return to the place of accommodation.

Wednesday: We will spend the day travelling around the castles, which have played an important role on the border with the territory occupied by the Turkish Ottoman Empire – Bzovík (a Premonstrate abbey rebuilt into a fortress against the Turks), the castles Fiľakovo and Šomoška. Along the way we will also have a look at some former mining villages and smaller towns – Rimavská Baňa, Kraskovo, Muráň, Jelšava, Štítnik. Their “golden age” was iron production in the 17th – 19th centuries. The target of our tour that day will be the city of Rožňava, which belonged to the eastern group of mining towns – “Upper Hungarian royal mining towns” in the regions of Gemer and Spiš.

Thursday: After sightseeing the city of Rožňava and of the cathedral we will walk up to the preserved castle Krásna Hôrka with an exemplary fortification. Then we will shortly visit the now silent and forgotten, but once extremely busy and important mining towns of the region Lower Spiš in the valley of the river Hnilec – Nižný Medzev, Smolník, Švedlár and the town Gelnica with an interesting square, town hall, museum, Catholic and Evangelic churches. Until recently, the town of Gelnica has been an important cultural centre of the Carpathian Germans. We will conclude the day in the city of Spišská Nová Ves.

Friday: We will see the sights of the busy city Spišská Nová Ves and along the way we will stop to see the church and chapel in the village of Spišský Štvrtok. This village used to be the seat of the Thurzo family, the members of which Ján II. and Juraj III. played an important role in the mining business of the late Middle Ages. On the way back to the central Slovak mining region we will notice the traces of mining activities also in the region of Liptov – Liptovský Hrádok and Nemecká Ľupča. We will use the mountain passage close to the formerly mining village of Donovaly to get to the surroundings of Banská Bystrica. Here we will see further former mining villages (for example Staré Hory with a pilgrimage church) and we will look thoroughly at the mining relicts in renowned mining village Špania Dolina.

Saturday: Our tour will culminate in the city of Banská Bystrica, where we will visit a precious monument – a parish church in the complex of a town castle. There, we will see a number of artefacts of the highest quality – a unique Late Gothic architecture, altars, stone statues, craftworks and Baroque artworks. We will see very interesting museum expositions – Matej’s house and Thurzo’s house. Approaching the starting point of our tour we will visit the fortified castle Červený Kameň (Biebersburg) in a typical wine-growing area. The building of its fortification system was ordered by the Fugger family after 1535 to protect their transports of copper based on the sketches of Albrecht Dürer.

Sunday: Return to Vienna in the morning hours.

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.
  • 8x accommodation in double and single rooms in three/four star hotels and guesthouses
  • Full board in carefully selected stylish restaurants - 8x breakfast, 7x lunch, 8x dinner
  • Entrance fees (except Group tours and VIP tours)

The price of the tour does not include the following:

  • drinks
  • voluntary 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 SR BBS 8 is 994 Euro per person in double room,

Extra charge for a single room is 180 Euro.

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


6th – 13th October 2012 (SR BBS 8)

Dates for groups – by appointment

Dates for VIP – by appointment

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