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Banská Štiavnica

Banská Štiavnica Banska Stiavnica Banská Štiavnica – the historic town and the technical monuments related to mining history in its Vicinity are those tourist attractions in Slovakia, which are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Also 33 water reservoirs, which were in the past part of water management system, are registered there.

Historical events:

The whole history of Banská Štiavnica is associated with mining. Already in the first half of 12th century mining specialists from Tyrol and Saxony have settled in this area. The first reliable record about Banská Štiavnica dates from 1217 and is explicitly related to silver mining. According to this document was the annual production of silver 613.85 to 736.62 kg. In other written document about silver mining dated from 1228 there is argenti fodina mentioned – what means silver mine. The town charter received Banská Štiavnica latest in 1328 as the first mining town in the Kingdom of Hungary. The largest silver production was here in 1690, when 29 000 kg of silver and 605 kg of gold were produced in this area.

Many technical inventions were used here – some for the first time in the Kingdom of Hungary or in Europe or in the world. 2/8/1627 Kaspar Weindl, miner from Tyrol, led here for the first time in the world blasting with gunpowder (black powder) in mining. This new mining method spread over Germany, England and Sweden in the whole Europe and beyond.

Well-known was also the Hell family. Father, Matthias Cornelius Hell, has built in the 20-ties of 18th century several water-driven pump machines with lever transmission. These machines enabled to pump water from flooded and abandoned mines.  Abilities of this man appreciated also the French King Louis XIV, he offered him to enter his services and to raise him to peerage. Hell has not accepted this offer and until his death he lived in Banská Štiavnica. One son of Matthias Cornelius Hell, Jozef Karol Hell, built several mechanism – most important was in 1749 in Leopold mine shaft the water-column machine, in which he used for the first time compressed air. Another son of M.C.Hell was famous astronomer Maximilian Hell, who worked in Vienna.

For water-driven pump machines it was necessary to accumulate enough water – and therefore was there a unique dam-and weir system created – from water reservoirs and connecting channels. Samuel Mikovíny, Slovak engineer, mathematician and map maker has considerably contributed to creating of this system – he was an architect of this system. Till the end of 18th century were 60 water reservoirs built, of which 23 remain until present. It had been the most advanced water economic system created before the end of the 19th century in Europe.

In 1735 Charles III appointed Samuel Mikovíny imperial geometer and commissioned him to teach at the first mining school in the Kingdom of Hungary – in Banska Stiavnica. This school was the first educational institution in Habsburg Empire under state and not church leadership. 1762 the Vienna Court Chamber decided about founding a High School for mining and Banská Štiavnica was most suitable for it. The first department Department of Chemistry, Mineralogy and Metallurgy was established in 1763 and Nicolaus Joseph Freiherr von Jaquin (1727-1798), the well-known scientist for chemistry and botany was appointed as the first head of this department. 1765 was established the second department –Department of Mathematics, Mechanics and Machinery –appointed head of this department was Nicolaus Poda (1723-1798). Mining as independent department was established in 1770. The first professor – head of department – was Christoph Traugott Delius. He was author of a book – Anleitung zur Bergbaukunst (Quidance for mining art), which was many years the best-known textbook for mining in Europa. With 3 departments established in 1763- 1770 the school became the first academic institution focused on mining in the world (before Freiberg). With a certificate dated from 3.4.1770 was this school renamed in Mining Academy.

Many famous people have visited Banská Štiavnica.

Places of interest:

Perhaps the most famous view of the town of Banská Štiavnica is the Baroque Trinity Column located in the square, which has the same name. Many documents write this work to Dionysius Ignatius Stanetti and Karl Holzknecht. According the two gentlemen have made the realization of construction, but patterns and a model for this work have created Ignaz Peter Goetz and Hans Lorenz Janda.

Not far from this Column there is a house called Mining Court (1792-1854 this building was the seat of the Mining Court). 3.-13.6.1751 was housed in this building Francis I Stephen, husband of Maria Theresa, during his visit. Today can there visitors - Minerals fans - in the Mineralogical Museum admire more than 400 mineral species - mostly from Slovakia, but also from abroad.

Not far from the square there is Old castle with lots of architectural details - several architectural styles - Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Gothic Revival -are represented here. Like in all other Central Slovak mining towns as the first was built a church.  Originally it was a Romanesque basilica, later started the Gothic reconstruction of the church. Mainly because of the danger of Ottomans was the whole area rebuild into a fortification. In the area you can see the Romanesque Ossuary and / or the church. Very interesting are also several exhibitions - Archaeological discoveries, Art of forging (grave crosses in open-air), Baroque sculptures, Exhibition of historical targets (from 1754 to 1939, mostly painted in oil on wood) and weapons, Pipe crafts and Lapidary.

There is also New Castle in the city. The little white fortress was built in the years 1564-1571. The reason for that was that the Ottomans conquered Buda in the year 1541, 2 years later Esztergom and the rich Central Slovak mining towns were very attractive. For their defense the cities have made a warning system with watchtowers on the hills in the area from Pukanec to Ľubietová and danger was signaled by fire and smoke. The small fortress was part of this system. The fort was later rebuilt, the current 4-storey building with corner bastions houses museum, which documents the history of struggles against Ottomans on the territory of Slovakia.

Not to forget is also the house called Kammerhof. The largest building complex, which was rebuilt in the 12th-19.Jh several times, was once seat of Colonel Chamber Count Office and also seat of Management of Mining Academy. Today the building houses an especially interesting museum, which consists of many departments. Perhaps working models of mining equipment and the entire department of mining engineering attract the visitors most, the departments like Education for mining, or Imperial visitors, or History of book culture are well worth a visit.

There are also many interesting churches in Banská Štiavnica. Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria is located near Holy Trinity square. Late Gothic church is one of the few medieval architectural monuments in Slovakia, which were built in one period and have been preserved almost without modifications. The church originally had a late Gothic altar made by Master MS - Marten Swarcz (or in Krakow he was known as Martin Csarny) with dating the 1506th. 3 sculptures and 7 panel paintings have been preserved from this altar.  Panel paintings are placed in different collections – one each in the church in Svätý Anton, National Gallery Budapest, Musee des Beaux-Arts in Lille, four are in the Christian Museum in Esztergom. Sculptures u can see in Banska Stiavnica.

The youngest, Protestant church was built by the architect Johann Joseph Thalherr. The Lady of the Snows Church is well-known because of its late Gothic flying rib vault.

Visitors, who are interested in mining but have no time for Open-air mining museum, can visit drainage adit called Glanzenberg near the city centre.


Many famous people have visited Banská Štiavnica.

Pictures see Impresie Banská Štiavnica


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