Levoča, SpišskýHrad and the Associated Cultural Monuments
Levoča, SpišskýHrad And The Associated Cultural Monuments
Cultural Slovakia Europe And North America

The area forms a unique urban-architectural and natural landscape unit of high artistic and aesthetic value. The castle is a characteristic ensemble, representing cultural, social, and artistic developments, and is at the same time comparatively intact. The military, political, ecclesiastical, and social elements are closely linked with the surrounding landscape.

SpišskýHrad (castle) stands on a dramatic site, a hill rising out of the plain of western Slovakia. The earliest occupation on the site dates back to as early as the Neolithic period, and it was subsequently occupied in the Bronze Age. Construction of the present castle began in the early 12th century, but the original structure collapsed, having been built on a geological fault. The present castle was built in the first half of the 13th century as a defence against Tatar incursions from the east. The Romanesque palace was completed in 1249 and the keep in 1270. It is one of the largest castles in Eastern Europe and important for its Romanesque and Gothic elements, which make it comparable with contemporary castles in France and the British Isles rather than those of Central and Eastern Europe. It consists of the upper keep and its courtyard, two inner baileys with internal fortified access gates, the outer bailey, with the main entrance gate and remains of the garrison's quarters, and the large barbican area, now largely ruined. Excavations in front of the castle have revealed the remains of the earlier moated circular fort, a ritual building of the Pùchov culture, the foundations of the Captain's house, and the remains of a circular tower.

The town of SpišskéPodhradie was founded as a settlement, at the base of the castle mound, which was already fortified at that time, but quickly it became independent of the castle. The first church, destroyed in a Tatar raid, was rebuilt in Romanesque style in 1258-73, probably by the same Italian masons who constructed the first castle. It was granted town privileges and became an important textile centre for its large Saxon community during the 15th century, when much of the town was reconstructed and fortified, but it fell into economic decline after the Reformation. The street pattern was laid out formally in the 14th century and extended in the 15th century. Following a fire, most of the houses were rebuilt in Renaissance style. The central point of the town is the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, surrounded by town houses. A number of stone two-storey houses still survive, embedded in the fabric of later (largely Renaissance) structures. The town square assumed its present form in the 15th century, round the church. A block of Baroque houses, along with the church and monastery of the Order of Brothers of Mercy, has closed the south-east side of the central square.

SpišskàKapitula, a unique fortified ecclesiastical ensemble, began as a small fortified settlement overlooking SpišskéPodhradie. The complex of buildings there is based on the Cathedral of St Martin, where building began in 1285 as a three-aisled Romanesque basilica with a chancel at the west end and a double spire. It owes its present form to successive remodellings and additions in the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles. The Bishop's Palace is largely Baroque, with some excellent interior decorations, like many of the religious buildings in the group. The oval ground plan of the centre of the town is due to its having been fortified in the 14th century. The various religious buildings had defensive functions in this early period. New monastery buildings were erected when the provost's residence was rebuilt and the whole area fortified. The earlier central fortifications were removed in the 18th century. It was the site of the residence of the provost of the castle, in the no longer extant St Martin's monastery, and later became a capitulary. This was destroyed by Tatars, but the pilgrim's chapel, in rotunda form and dedicated to the Virgin, survived until the 18th century and the monastery until the 15th century.

Zehra is one of the earliest Slovak settlements in the region. In the later feudal period it formed part of the castle domain, with a manor in the village. The Church of the Holy Spirit was largely built after 1275: its medieval wall paintings are especially noteworthy.