St. Martin’s Church

Martin Sightseeing Guide

National cultural monument: Church and its premises. The building is open to the public, but  access is limited.

St. Martin’s church is the oldest building in the city. It has certainly witnessed many events, but it talks about them very little. Nevertheless, one can get some information from archaeological research, while other information has been preserved in documents. Despite everything it has endured, it is the richest monument in the city in terms of its history, as well as interior decorations.

Originally, a rotunda dating back to the 12th or 13th century stood on the site of the church, and its foundations are partly hidden under the church. The early-medieval burial ground located on the premises of the church is even older than the rotunda. St Martin’s church was built around 1255. The first written mention of the church is from 1315. Initially, it was a single-nave structure with Gothic vaults. Thanks to their structural purity, the ribbed vaults make an aesthetically pleasing impression, and their antiquity also attracts the attention of the viewer. The only Gothic sculptural element decorating the vaults is the Lamb of God relief. Later, two chapels were added to the church: Jahodnícka and Priekopská. The arcaded vestibule at the entrance was built in 1642. The original shingled roofs of the church and tower were replaced with tin roofs, and four turrets in the corners of the tower roof were removed. Since 1982, the church has had a copper roof. The facades of the church are not decorated. The floor plan of the building is elaborate and the building is fitted with buttresses. The original altar (beautiful by all accounts) was destroyed in the fire of 1871, which was caused by a careless sacristan. The current altar was designed by L. Záborský. The current furnishing of the church dates from 1974.

The church has been plagued by several disasters. In 1433, the town and the church were looted by Hussite troops. Ten years later, it was damaged by an earthquake. There might also have been several fires in the church; those mentioned in historical documents are the fires of 1718, 1843 and 1881.

In the 16th century, the patronage over the church was given to the aristocratic Révai family. When they converted to the Lutheran faith, the church became Lutheran too. Approximately one hundred years later, the Révais converted back to the Catholic faith. During the turbulent 17th century, changes of denomination took place several more times. It did not stabilize until 1710, since when the church has been Catholic.

In 1871, medieval frescoes were accidentally discovered on the walls of the sanctuary. It is estimated that they date back to the middle of the 14th century. In 1908, the frescoes were restored in a rather insensitive manner. Thanks to the follow-up restoration in 1953, the frescoes regained their original beauty. In 1982, a large painting of St. Christopher was found on the eastern facade. Because the painting was severely damaged, it was documented and covered by paint again.

In 1921, the interior was decorated with Catholic modernist paintings which sought to imitate medieval paintings. In 1966, abstract stained glass was fitted in the windows. It was designed by LadislavZáborský and the artwork depicts Grace, Prayer, Sin, Forgiveness, and the Blood of Christ. The interior is also decorated by other artwork from the recent past: a painting of the Virgin Mary the Helper by Martin Benka (her cloak is decorated with folk ornaments) and reliefs of the Stations of the Cross by FraňoŠtefunko.

On the premises of the church, there is also a bricked Baroque bell tower, which replaced a wooden one destroyed in the fire of 1718. There are four bells in the bell tower, three of which are a 1926 replacement of the bells requisitioned during World War I. At the church, there is a garden with trees enclosed by a metal fence on a low wall, dating from 1930. There was a baroque rectory next to the church, but it was replaced with a new one built in 1976. There was also a Catholic school at the church, but it was demolished in the 1970s.

The defunct church cemetery was archaeologically examined in 1942. The oldest graves date from the 11th century. People were intombed one above another until 1780 when the cemetery fell into disuse. In the oldest graves, bronze earrings, silver rings and two silver coins of King Koloman from the turn of the 11th and 12th centuries were discovered.



Gallery of historical photos: