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Exploring the art of medieval murals

Exploring the art of medieval murals
Exploring the largest and most varied preserved collection of Gothic murals north of the Alps

Study tour


Medieval murals in religious buildings in Slovakia are a great attraction for art lovers as well as specialized experts. Their varied quality – from the examples of technical routines up to works of individual creativity – identifiable roots of origin, a great number of preserved examples – all of this leads to interesting historical and art-historical explanation. The particular stories of these artworks are very varied.

Similarly as in Italy, the Balkan and transalpine countries of Europe, the medieval murals in the territory of Slovakia cannot hide their Byzantine roots – in the style of imagery, lines colours, themes and compositions. Before 1300, we can meet here already the monastic style of Rhineland, after 1315 fastening on the art of the Naples Anjou court, as well on the elements of post-Giotto Italian painting. Around 1400, the painters are obviously familiar with the patterns from the workshops in Swabia and in the Prague court, and we will also see remarkable murals of local style.

The reason, why there are so many of them in this particular part of Europe (with annually increasing number of discoveries of paintings hidden until then under plasters), lies in the type of architecture of medieval churches, as the unstructured and “blank” walls naturally asked for being filled with paintings, as well as in the resources of the individual parish communities (mining villages, where even the simple people had little extra resources) and of the donors. The political and commercial relations with northern Italy – the source of this painting art and craft – also played a role in this. Finally, the number of the preserved medieval murals is also due to the poverty of the following centuries, when the funds for the reconstruction of the churches were available only in larger settlements, as well as due to the fact that part of the churches, in which the murals were found, have belonged from the Reformation period on to the Evangelic parish communities. The Protestants have modified them only moderately and simply painted over the murals.

On our way we can visit only a part of these monuments. Since it is a study tour, the contact of our expert tour guide with the tour participants will be very close. The time spent visiting each mural will be adjusted according to the interests and wishes of the participants. It will be a pleasure for us, if you opt for a broader and more demanding programme and we will manage to see some of the monuments marked with ( ++ ). During the tour we will have high-quality picture and text materials at hand for your decision-making.


Saturday: Meeting in Vienna at the railway station Westbahnhof at 16:00. On the way to the place of accommodation we will see the Romanesque church in the village Hamuliakovo (from around 1180) with Late Romanesque murals and multi-layered Gothic murals in the town of Šamorín, the artistic complexity of which resulted from the fact that the parish belonged to the priory in Bratislava.

Sunday: In the morning we will visit the famous and important castle in Esztergom, which, standing on the right side of the river Danube, lays in the territory of present-day Hungary. In this ancient seat of Hungarian kings and bishops – primates we will see the remnants of the murals from the period around the year 1340, which, belonging to the royal art and created directly by Italian artists, were ideal models in the entire country. Then we will return to Slovakia and see the “Giotto-like” murals in the small church in the village Sazdice, which are undoubtedly related to the murals in Esztergom (or precede them). We will see dramatic scenes in the murals (from around 1380) in the church in Želiezovce. In the church in the foothill village Kostoľany we will see paintings documenting the rarely preserved art of the 9th century. Finally in the region of Upper Nitra we will see a large collection of murals in the church in the village of Poruba (from around 1400).

Monday: In the region of Turiec, in the church above the village of Horné Jaseno we will see scenes of ancient symbols (before 1300) as well as an interesting scene from the life of Saint Elisabeth of Thuringia. After entering the region Liptov we will visit the village Martinček, where in the presbytery of the church recently discovered murals documenting the presence of Benedictines from the Western Europe (before 1300) can be found. Then we will visit the church in Ludrová, the presbytery of which features also completely preserved large Gothic murals (from around 1420), the style of which, however, is typical for the local environment. We will gain a notion on the sacral space being completely furnished with artworks in the unique church in the village of Smrečany, where murals are represented by devotional portraits of the saints. (++ On request we can also visit the church in the village of Sliače with a unique Passion cycle, which has been preserved in the attic space, a preserved scene from the “Ladislav” legend in the church in the village of Liptovský Ondrej (from around 1420) and a fragment of the scene the Daniel’s judgement (from around 1330) in the museum in Pribylina ++) We will stay for the night in the town Spišská Sobota, where we will also take a look at the parish church, the interior of which is a unique collection of the art of the Spiš region.

Tuesday: The first stop in the Spiš region will be the former monastic church in the village Dravce with very interesting painting from two stages – the Byzantine-Balkan style and the royal Naples style (around 1280 and after 1315). Then we will visit the town of Levoča, where in two magnificent temples – the parish and the “old minorit” one – we will see the exemplar paintings of different dating and artistic origin. In the cathedral of the Episcopal town Spišská Kapitula (Spiš Chapterhouse) we will see the painting – The coronation of the king Robert of Anjou by Madonna (1317) – a painting with crucial importance in the development of this kind of art in the region. We will see the perhaps most famous murals preserved in the territory of Slovakia in the church above the village of Žehra. Besides admiring the famous painting of the Living tree full of symbols we will learn about the specific theme of the murals in the Kingdom of Hungary – the Legend of the king Ladislav. (++ Our excursion can be extended by the sightseeing of the recently discovered medieval murals in the village of Slatvina and the mural depicting the Ladislav legend in the nice church of local style in the village of Vítkovce ++). At the end of the day we will make a stop in the church in the village of Veľká Lomnica, where we will see the perhaps most famous painting of a part of the Ladislav legend in the Kingdom of Hungary (from about 1315), as well as the most recent remarkable discoveries.

Wednesday: We will spend the day travelling around the monuments of the upper (northern) Spiš and the region of Šariš. In the church in the village of Strážky we will see cycles of Late Gothic murals (from around 1520), in the town Podolínec large Gothic paintings (from around 1350) with a rich content. (++ We can make a brief stop in the village of Veľká Lesná, where the murals in local style (from around 1650) are painted in Renaissance style already ++). We will visit the renowned Červený Kláštor (Red Monastery) with Late Gothic paintings in the chapter hall (from around 1510). Then we will travel to the culturally important valley of the river Torysa in the region of Šariš, where interesting discoveries can still be expected to be found in the future. So far we will see parts of the paintings in the church in Jakubovany and the small town Veľký Šariš (from around 1230).

Thursday: To the east of the city of Košice there is an important monument – the church above the village Svinica. There are fragments of interesting paintings of post-Giotto patterns from the period around 1330. (++ In case of interest we will head to the remote legendary priory Leles, in the chapel of which is a recently restored cycle of murals from the period around 1380. Along the way we can also make a stop in the church in Čečejovce and Turňa nad Bodvou ++). Later that day, we will come to the Gemer region, the most important cultural heritage of which (by quantity and quality) are medieval murals. We will see the first in the site called Plešivec. In the church of the important aristocratic family Bebek, there are exposed parts of the paintings (from around 1350), which are attributed directly to an Italian master by experts. Then we will visit the three-nave church in the originally mining town Štítnik, which contains up to 220 square meters of Gothic paintings (in layers from 1340 until 1430) with particularly notable motifs, as well as equally important paintings in the churches in neighbouring villages Ochtiná and Koceľovce (from around 1415).

Friday: On the second day spent in the Gemer region we will visit the rotunda close to the village Šivetice with five layers of paintings – from the Late Romanesque ones of western European style (from around 1230) to the paintings of the mystic Gothic period (from around 1370). In the small church in the village Chyžné we will admire the paintings and the interior of a high quality. Paintings notable for their motifs can be seen in the church in Rákoš and we will travel to the valley of Rimava, where in four churches – Rimavské Brezovo, Rimavská Baňa, Kraskovo, Kyjatice – only a few kilometres distant form each other, we will study the fascinatingly different Gothic murals, differing both in style and content (from 1380 until 1480).

Saturday: In the neighbouring southern region of Novohrad we will see a church in the village Stará Halič, where one of the layers bears a fragment of the paintings echoing the pattern and style of the famous master Vitale da Bologna (after 1350). Then we will visit three churches in former mining villages under the Poľana mountain – Zolná, with a traditional Byzantine composition – Čerín, where among the paintings of different layers the scenes from the “mystic” period around 1380 stand out – and Poniky with large paintings of complicated scenes (from around 1420). At the end of the tour we will see Late Gothic paintings containing secular themes in the “Green room” (from around 1475) in the so called Thurzo’s house in the important former mining city of Banská Bystrica.

Sunday: Return to Vienna in the morning.

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 WAM 8 is 928 EUR per person in double room,
Extra charge for a single room is 180 EUR.
For tours of the type Group tours and VIP tours the price is calculated individually


Dates 3th – 10th November 2012 (SR WAM 8)

Dates for groups – by appointment

Dates for VIP – by appointment

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