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Gothic art - Master Paul of Levoča


Master Paul of Levoča - an excellent carver, sculptor and creator of the highest wooden Gothic altarpiece in the world

He is certainly the most famous artist of the late Gothic period in Slovakia. Unfortunately we know little about his life, because archives in the City Hall in Levoča were burned in a fire 1559. There are many assumptions and theories in literature as far as his life concerns. Based on the dating of his works and available official entries we can at least partially reconstruct the bibliographic data.

We do not know where he was born or when. Considering his first dated work (1503-1509), which is work of an already experienced artist, Paul not only had to passed his learning period but he was also very skilled – it can be assumed that at that time he was about 25 -30 years old . Therefore, we suppose he may have been born around the year 1475. There is an entry from 1506 directly in Levoča, which says the sculptor Paul (Paul Schnitzer ) became a member of the brotherhood of Corpus Christi, later in 1515 a member of its Executive Board. About his stay in Levoča there are several other records, in 1522-1527 was name Paul Schnitzer or sculptor Paul mentioned several times in connection with his house in Prešov. In 1527 Paul became a member of the City Council in Levoča. Several records document excerpts from his life until 1537. Then in 1542 the tax records mentioned only his widow. So it can be assume that he died in the years 1537-1542.

His work:

The literature often refers to several people who may have been Paul's role model or teacher. First of all it is Veit Stoss. But sure is only that Master Paul was very familiar with work of Veit Stoss - this can be seen in some of his works. Another sculptor is Tilman Riemenschneider, he was mainly active in Würzburg and Franconia. Master Paul had to know from his works several motives. According to some authors inspiration for Master Paul were paintings of Rogier van der Weyden and Hugo van der Goes and works of Schongauer, the Master ES, Israhel van Meckenem or Albrecht Dürer and Lucas Cranach the Elder. In the second half of the 15th century many little-known or anonymous workshops in Spiš or in middle Slovakia created a lot of many sculptures.

But workshop of Master Paul was characterized by a high level of invention and mastering technologies .


Works of Master Paul from Leutschau, which are located in Zips,  are on UNESCO World Heritage List.


Here his major works: 

Levoca002Altar of St.James, Church of St.James in Levoča  - surely the most important work of Master Paul. There is no doubt that the altar is the work of Master Paul. The inscription on the epitaph from Martin Urbanowitz from 1621 states that his wife Margita was granddaughter of the famous sculptor Master Paul, creator of the main altar in Levoča. The magnificent altar was made from linden wood, 16 m high altarpiece is the world's tallest and together with mensa and stipes has a height of 18.62 m. All parts of the altarpiece are replete with carvings. Wooden sculptures were made in 1506-1507, polychromy and gilding in 1513-1514. The altar was excellent restored by Brothers Kotrba in 1952-1954. They have made also a detailed list of all parts of the altar, as well as detailed descriptions and photo documentation and copies of individual sculptures. The altar is really worth to see, you will not regret.


Sculpture of St. George and the Dragon, Church of St. James in Levoča
In the church of St. James in Levoča, in the chapel of St. George, there is a beautiful sculpture of St. George and the dragon. Sculpture was made from linden wood, is 1.5 meters high and stands near the wall. The whole composition is supplemented by mural with Princess and a part of the Castle Spišský hrad. Sculpture is the work of Master Paul and has a readable date 1515.


Sculptures of the Nativity altar (so-called Csaky altar), Church of St. James in Levoča

In the Church of St. James you can see also Nativity altar. A special feature of this baroque altar here is that you can see a nice symbiosis between Gothic and Baroque art. The Nativity statues are gothic (1510-1515) and Master Paul has made 7 of 10 statues. Most likely, the statues were placed originally separately somewhere as a unit, later bricked up in a Levoča City Hall and rediscovered in 1698.


Spisska Sobota 008St. George Altar, Church of St. George in Spišská Sobota

The magnificent altar is the work of Master Paul and his workshop. Altar is made from linden wood, dated 1516. You can see in the shrine sculpture of St. George, in the predella sculptures - Last Supper.

St. Barbara Altar, Church of Assumption of Blessed Virgin Mary in Banská Bystrica

Picture - see Impresie Banská Bystrica

A beautiful altar, the work of Master Paul and his workshop is located in central Slovakia, in the town of Banská Bystrica. (Description to the city Banská Bystrica see Banska Bystrica )


In many other places in Slovakia we can admire works of Master Paul and his workshop - here are just some: Chyžné, Mlynica, Bardejov, Ves, Kežmarok, Strážky, Sabinov, Lipany, Prešov, Očová (Altar in Očová - see Impresie Očová ), etc.

Do you wish to know more? Just come to Slovakia.





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