National cultural site: Memorial cemetery – National Cemetery. The site is open to the public.
The general public automatically associates the town of Martin with the National Cemetery. This place of reverence inspires respect not only due to the fact that important personalities have been buried there, but also by its design.
Originally a town cemetery, it is located near the town centre on sloping terrain. It was created in 1780 after Queen Maria Theresa had issued an order banning burials in the inner town for health and hygienic reasons. The cemetery was used by both Catholics and Lutherans. The Jewish cemetery stood separately in the vicinity.
The visual appearance of the cemetery evolved gradually. Its area was first enlarged in 1879, and it acquired its final triangular shape in 1909. The construction of its fencing started in 1860 and it was reconstructed several times according to the needs of the town. A relatively large town cemetery was established on the east side, just behind the fence of the old cemetery. As this new cemetery is nearly full, most recent burials have taken place in the KolóniaHviezda borough.
Right after the establishment of MaticaSlovenská in 1863, its representatives came up with the idea to bury prominent personalities of the Slovak nation in one place and thus create a national pantheon. Coincidentally, the first time this idea was implemented was three years later (1866) when Matica’s vice-chairman Karol Kuzmány died. He had a lavish funeral. Writer JánKalinčiak, who gave a speech during Kuzmány’s funeral, was the second to join the pantheon in 1871.
Numerous Martin citizens contributed to the cultural and political development of the emerging nation at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, so it was natural that they were laid to rest in this place. Martin citizen SvetozárHurbanVajanský, who was a respected authority in the national movement of that time, had a funeral attended by the masses. Later, other personalities, who were brought there from other places, were buried in the National Cemetery too. For example, in 1928, the remains of Martin Kukučín were brought from Croatia. In 1940, the remains of poet Janko Kráľ were exhumed and ceremoniously transported to the National Cemetery from ZlatéMoravce – although it is not certain whether his exhumation from a common grave was accurate. After 1989, the remains of other personalities, who had previously been rejected for political reasons, were brought from exile: JozefCígerHronský (writer and manager of MaticaSlovenská), Milan Hodža (important politician, Prime Minister of the Czechoslovak Republic) and others.
Appropriately for its importance, the National Cemetery is also remarkable from the architectural point of view. There are many unique tombstones created by famous artists. The tombstone of Andrej Kmeť was designed by Blažej Bulla. Architect DušanJurkovič designed the tomb of S. H. Vajanský – it has the form of a massive travertine sarcophagus. FraňoŠtefunko also designed several tombstones. The designs of academic sculptor Tibor Bártfay are also worth mentioning, but there are many more well-known artists who created tombstone designs for the personalities buried in the National Cemetery.
The first cemetery regulations which introduced a burial system and design rules were issued in 1877. (For the sake of clarity for visitors, the National Cemetery is currently divided into five sectors A – F.) In the 1945 cemetery regulations, the public interest was given priority, and some graves were subsequently moved from behind the front gate of the cemetery. In 1967, the National Cemetery was declared a national cultural site and MaticaSlovenská was entrusted with the administration and management of the cemetery. After 2000, the town of Martin and, quite unusually, the Slovak National Library were in charge of the site for several years; currently, it is only the town of Martin. A special commission decides which personalities will rest in the cemetery.
A walk in the cemetery is a compelling experience. The crowns of massive trees that were planted there years ago create a vault, similar to that of a cathedral, above the heads of visitors.