Slovak Chamber Theatre – National House

Martin Sightseeing Guide

National Cultural Monument: Theatre and Memorial Plaque – National House. The building is open to the public.

Although it is an honour for a building to house a theatre, this Martin theatre building also deserves a lot of respect and recognition for what it used to be in the past and what significance it had.

The unfortunate end of MaticaSlovenská’s first stage of existence came too quickly and the unfinished building of this institution was confiscated by the Hungarian government. It became necessary to create another space where the emerging Slovak culture could be developed. The citizens of Martin assumed the duty of fostering Slovak culture, and twelve years after the closure of Matica, they established the Association of Co-Owners of the National House (Spoločnosťspolumajiteľovnárodnéhodomu). The minimum share of 50 gold coins allowed people to become co-owners. In addition, public fundraising took place as well. The initial budget for the building was 30,000 gold coins, but it was later increased to 40,000 gold coins. The land was bought for 6,200 gold coins. The project of the building was designed by Martin architect Blažej Bulla for 2,000 gold coins.

After the funds had been collected, the foundation stone was laid on April 30, 1888 and then construction commenced. It proceeded at an incredible pace, and on New Year’s Eve of the following year, 1889, the building was ceremoniously opened. On that occasion, a New Year’s Eve party was held there and is said to have been attended by 700-800 guests. It took place just 20 months after the start of construction.

Most people know the building only as the seat of the theatre – currently the Slovak Chamber Theatre. No wonder, as this is what the building has been used for in the last seventy years. However, originally, the building was designed for multifunctional use: the Slovak Ensemble gave its performances in it; but there were also spaces for a casino, a library and a bookstore. The museum (later National Museum) kept its collections there. On the ground floor in the eastern part of the building, there was a restaurant (inn) which also provided accommodation in five guest rooms. The whole complex was supposed to be called the National House, but this had not been approved by the Hungarian authorities, so it was just called House.

Much could be said about the architectural side of the building but at this point, it is enough to mention that it was built in the neo-Renaissance style. At that time, it was the most representative building in the town in terms of its size and decoration. The lighting in part of the premises was solved in an innovative manner by a glass skylight which let the light in through an atrium across two floors. Decorative folk elements were used in the interior, especially in the casino.

During its existence, the building went through many modifications and reconstructions. It was extended on the east side where the so-called small theatre hall was built in 1910. Due to this extension, several windows were added to the east facade, thus breaking the symmetry of its main facade. This extension was carried out by B. Bulla. In 1927, the wooden ceiling was replaced with a concrete-steel one. In the years 1941 – 1942, the theatre hall was adapted to the needs of a cinema. In the years 1952 – 1953, the building was rebuilt again, solely for the needs of a theatre. This reconstruction brought about a lot of changes in the internal and external layout. The main entrance from the south side was blocked off and a three-door entrance was built from the east side. The entrance was decorated with columns which were inappropriate to the style of the rest of the building. There were also two statues on the pedestals created by FraňoŠtefunek – these are allegories: Song of the Mountains and Song of the Meadows.

From 1987 to 1993, a long-term general reconstruction divided into two stages took place. During this reconstruction, an extension housing a theatre studio was built on the north side according to the project of the architect VladimírKordík and his team. The Studio building is attached to the old theatre building in a very organic way. It was temporarily used for performances when the main theatre stage was closed. However, the reconstruction was faced with many problems, and in the end, work stopped for ten years. The second stage eventually took place from 2004 to 2008 when it became necessary to deal with the emergency state of the building. The reconstruction was successfully finished and the town centre is now decorated by an architecturally magnificent building.


Gallery of historical photos: