Turiec Gothic route

Turiec Gothic route could be viewed either as an alternative cycling tour or as a thematic completion of a previously mentioned Turiec castles route. Apart from castles, it takes us to other significant sights mainly of sacral character dating back to the Middle Ages.

The period of Great Moravia is generally associated with the spread of Christianity in the Turiec region. It is assumed, that the Benedictines from the Nitra Principality also helped to promote Christianity in our region, however, there are no preserved records in order to prove this assumption. The name of an extinct settlement Kostolište (Churchplace) in the territory of the present village of Necpaly implies the existence of a catholic church in Turiec as early as in the 9th century. The oldest evidence of Christianity in the Turiec basin is the burial ground in the vicinity of St. Martin´s Roman Catholic church together with the remnants of the sacral structures from the 11th-12th centuries. The first written record mentioning Turiec is a document called Zoborská listina from 1113. It proved the presence of the Benedictines in this region even before the 12th century. The period of their influence in our region could be proved thanks to usually unpreserved Romanesque churches, e.g. St. Martin´s church in Martin, St. Michal´s church in Turčiansky Michal village (nowadays part of Turčianske Teplice), St. Mary´s church in Svätá Mara (present Socovce), the original church of St. Andrew in Sebeslavce (nowadays part of Folkušová), the authentic Romanesque church of St. Peter (situated in the locality Na organoch between the villages of Turčiansky Peter and Trebostovo), the authentic minster as well as church of St. Michael in Kláštor pod Znievom and the church of Virgin Mary in Sučany. The building activities regarding Christian structures reached a new peak in the 13th century, when the Premonstratesians settled in the Zniev castle and started to build new stone churches in the villages of Vrútky, Martin, Sučany, Svätý Michal, Kláštor pod Znievom, Turčiansky Ďur, Ivančiná etc.

Because of a variety of Gothic sights in the Turiec region and their distribution all over the basin, it is inevitable to divide the cycling route in shorter parts, the eastern and the western one. The Turiec River has the role of an imaginary division line. Even this division, however, does not permit us to see all the Gothic sacral monuments in our region.

We start the eastern part of The Turiec Gothic route in Martin with the visit of St. Martin´s Roman Catholic church. It was built in the second half of the 13th century in the then Christian burial grounds and remnants of two ancient sacral structures. This fenced cemetery was used as a burial place until the late 18th century, when the new one, the present day National Cemetery, was constructed.

St. Martin´s Roman Catholic Church

This stone church in Neo-Gothic style was built as early as in the 70s of the 13th century. The first written evidence of Martin mentioning the settlement of St. Martin ´villa sancti Martini´ dates back to 1284, when the church must have already been constructed. The first written record of its existence, however, dates 1315. It is probably one of the most beautiful proofs of the Premonstratesian building activities in the region. Precious frescoes from the first half of 14th century are preserved inside. One of these portrays the secular parish patron. The authentic parts of the church are the chapel with the straight closure, raised sacristy and western emporium; walls of the main aisle, Neo-Gothic church portal and the lower part of the tower. Other parts were built after the fire in 1433. The last significant architectural intervention was the construction of the Renaissance antechapel in the 17th century. In 1754, however, a separate belfry was built in the vicinity of the church.

While visiting the church you can notice the Neo-Gothic frescoes dated the first half of the 14th century displaying not only the lives of saints and apostles, but also Zvolen district administrator Donč with his wife. Two lateral altars of baroque style coming from 1710(St. Jacob´s Altar and Virgin Mary´s Altar)and two lateral altars of rococo style with the images of the apostles Saints Peter and Paul and the wooden pulpit from 1847 could also be admired. The painting of “the Mother of Jesus” by the painter Martin Benka and the works of sculptor Fraňo Štefunko called “The Stations of the Crosses” and “Pieta” can be found in the church.

Following the green marked route number 5415 leave the town of Martin and passing through Tomčany village reach the village of Dražkovce, former part of Sklabiňa, the then village with royal privileges, founded in 1242. Follow the blue sign eastwards and reach a Neo-Gothic Roman Catholic church of St. Helena from the beginning of the 14th century situated on a hillock near the village of Dražkovce. In 1611 it was reconstructed in Renaissance style. Take the read-marked Turiec main cycle route number 032 (Turčianska cyklomagistrála) and turn to the village of Dolný Kalník. Pass through Horný Kalník and reach Turčianske Jaseno. St. Margita´s church, another surviving evidence of the Neo-Gothic architecture with the Romanesque style features, can be found there. It is located in the northern part of the village called Horné Jaseno which was once an individual settlement.

The church of St. Margita

The first written mention of the church and annual income of its parson is from 1332. The contribution of the Premonstratesians to the foundation of the church is questionable. Initially, the church consisted of an arched chapel and a ceiling aisle. The sacristy and charnel house were built later, however, in 18th and 19th centuries were pulled downed as well as the authentic belfry. Saint Margaret, daughter of a Roman noble, is the patroness of peasants and mothers. It was her father who had her beheaded by the Roman Emperor Diocletian for the persecution of Christians in 307A.D.

Medieval frescoes and wall paintings from the local artists are surely the most significant artworks preserved in the interior of the church. These are supposed to come from the last third of the 14th and 15th centuries. The church is open to the public by appointment on 043 4262 191.

Long tradition of squire families coming from the village is also manifested by a memorial room dedicated to the family of Jesenský called Pamätnica Jesenskovcov /for more info see Turiec nobility and Personalities that brought fame to Turiec/. From Turčianske Jaseno follow the Turiec main cycle route (turčianska cyklomagistrála) which in this section corresponds to the antique route ´via magna´. It connected Turiec with the Nitra region on the south and with the Orava and Liptov regions on the north. The village of Belá- Dulice is the following destination. It was founded in 1971 through a union of two formerly independent settlements. Here we can admire another evidence of the building activities of the Premonstratesians- the Roman Catholic church of the Holy Body.

Church of Holy Body came from the end of the 13th century or from the first decade of the 14th century which can be seen from the stony structure of its chapel in the Gothic style. It was originally one-aisled church with vaulted chapel and ceiling of timbers. It was not until the 17th century when the tower, with well-preserved painted corner ashlars, sacristy and stone wall were built. In 1749 the church aisle was vaulted.

Easter lamb representing Christ´s body, the symbol of the village of Belá-Dulice, was engraved on the sealing stick from the 16th century. A field altar in the Late Gothic style from 1517 with panel paintings and wood carvings is among the precious survivals of the Gothic architecture that can be seen in the interior of the church.

Sequence of granaries with typically forged window shutters and iron doors were built near a stream in the vicinity of a church. Following the Turiec main red-marked cycle route the village of Necpaly will emerge. The Early Gothic church of Saint Ladislav from the middle of the 13th century, with the most precious fresco decoration in the Turiec region, is situated on the hillock near the village.

Saint Ladislav´s Church

The church is supposed to be constructed in the second half of the 13th century but the first written record comes from 1332. Probably in 1320 the sacristy was also built. The precious sculpture of Madonna which can be nowadays found in the National Museum in Budapest graced the interior of the church. In addition to that, the Gothic frescoes of the local origin dating back to the last third of the 14th century can be admired inside the sight as well. These works of art, proclaimed a part of national cultural heritage, depict scenes from Bible such as Kiss of Death, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, putting a crown of thorns on his head, whipping, Ascension Day, the images of two from the total of nine prophets etc. The best-preserved frescoes are those in the ceiling part which display Pietà with Two Angels, head of a bishop, the mural epitaph with four female saints and the Legend of Saint Ladislav. Fresco painting illustrating the fight with the Cumans is the most impressive and the best preserved. The ceiling frescoes were originally fused with the paintings on the side walls but because the church aisle was barrel vaulted at the end of the 16th century, its height was lowered and side walls became parts of the ceiling. The members of the local squire Jušt family are buried in the crypt beneath the church.

After the visit of Saint Ladislav´s Church turn westward in order to reach the village of Žabokreky. There are two possible ways. Follow a yellow sign, return to Belá-Dulice and take the yellow-marked route number 8413, or choose the unmarked cycle route leading from Necpaly to Žabokreky. The second option gives you a chance to admire all four manor houses situated in the village /see The Turiec nobility/. Archaeological finds from this locality prove settlements from the Great Moravian Empire period. The extinct settlement of Kostolište that was situated to the south of Necpaly stream is of a particular importance since the existence of a church from this period is presumed there. From Žabokreky take the westward yellow-marked cycle route number 8413 to the village of Košťany nad Turcom. The name of the village might refer to the beginnings of Christianity in the Turiec region is derived from the Slovak word ´kosť´ (a bone) which is connected with the burial grounds near the presupposed church in the Kostolište settlement. This is the end of the eastern part of the Turiec Gothic route. In you decide to return to Martin it is possible to leave a marked cycle route and visit another unique evidence of the medieval religious architecture in our region. The Roman Catholic church of St. Stephen the King in late Gothic style, the only preserved wooden church in the Turiec basin, can be found in the Open Air Museum of Slovak village in Martin. Based on the dendrochronologic research from 2008 it was built after 1484.

The western part of the Turiec Gothic route starts at the village of Košťany nad Turcom. Continue the ride taking a blue-marked Zniev cycle route (Znievska cyklotrasa) in a westerly direction to the village of Turčiansky Peter. Originally it was called Saint Peter (Svätý Peter) according to the patron saint of its church. It was founded as an independent settlement after the separation from the village of Trebostovo.

St.Peter´s church

At the beginning of the 13th century the Benedictines from the Zniev castle had a Romanesque church built in the area called ´na Organoch´ placed between the villages of Turčiansky Peter and Trebostovo. In the middle of the 14th century, however, it was necessary to build a new church in the Gothic style that had the same patron saint as the former temple. It was Saint Peter according to which the new settlement in the vicinity of a church was called. It originally consisted of a vaulted chapel, unvaulted aisle, sacristy and a tower with three floors which were built according to the building features of the Premonstatesian order from the village of Kláštor pod Znievom. These parts of the church were vaulted in 1620-1630, the ceiling was reconstructed into pavilion roof in 1910 and in 1946-1947 the church was inappropriately re-constructed.

The cycling tour continues alongside the manor house in the Trebostovo village/see The Turiec nobility/ passing through the village of Trnovo to Valča. The first written evidence referring to Valča is either in the document from Zobor abbey from 1113 mentioning the settlement of Veščany /Wesscan/, or from 1252 under the name of ´terra Wolka´. In 1480 the settlement belonged to the Premonstratesians from the Zniev castle. A Roman Catholic church of the Ascension of the Holy Cross from the turn of the 15th and 16th centuries can be found in the northern part of the village. The elements of Gothic figural wall painting were preserved above the semicircular doorway in the central aisle.

The cycle route passes through Valča and continues upwards the Slovianska valley at the end of which it turns southwards to the village of Kláštor pod Znievom. As early as in 1113 the settlement referred to as ´the property of St. Hyppolite´ belonged to the Benedictines from Zobor abbey which had started the religious mission in the area from the 11th century. The monastery gradually passed through many owners e.g. The Benedictines, Dominicans, Premonstratesians and Jesuits.

The monastery and the church of the Blessed Virgin Mary

It is assumed that the Benedictines obtained the properties in the village of Kláštor pod Znievom only at the end of the 11th century when the Turiec region became a part of the Hungarian Empire. After the Tartar invasion in 1243 King Béla IV decided to have the Zniev castle, formerly called the Turiec castle, reconstructed and strengthened its positions. Consequently, the Benedictines left the monastery and even the Dominicans, new owners, abandoned it as early as in 1248. Three years after King Bela IV invited the Premonstratesians to settle at the castle. It was only the mentioned religious order that thanks to King´s financial support achieved economic stability and influence over the Turiec region. From 1263 legal activities essential for drawing up a deed or its transcription were carried out in the monastery. In the fourth decade of the 16th century the Premonstratesians left the place because the Zniev castle and other properties were seized by Peter and Mikuláš Kostka. The church devoted to Virgin Mary from the 50´s and 60´s of the 13th century is the surviving evidence of the Premonstratesian activities in the area. Originally it consisted of a vaulted sacristy, chapel, emporium and a partly vaulted aisle. In about 1520 a chapel and a tower on the western side of the church were constructed.

The monastery experienced the boom period in 1586-1773, when it belonged to the Jesuits. They established a school for religious youth, the Priest Seminary (in 1599 was transferred to the town of Šaľa), in 1728 built the church of Saint Cross near the Calvary and improved the education system in the Turiec region. Thanks to their precious knowledge the local people managed to enrich their skills in folk medicine (oil-making, herb practices). Apart from the church of Blessed Virgin Mary, a parish Roman Catholic church of St. Nicolas form the 13th century is situated in the northern part of the main square. Kláštor pod Znievom, the former extramural settlement, was the first village in the Turiec basin to receive the town privileges as early as in 1266. Consequently, it was given the secular and ecclesiastic independence. The church was built in about 1260. In 1728 it was partly reconstructed in the Baroque style.

The remains of Gothic architecture were preserved in the early-gothic baptistery, an entrance Gothic church portal leading into sacristy with authentic doors and in the authentic Gothic windows in the East facade of the church. It is important to mention the ruins of the Zniev castle, the significant Gothic sacral monument, which are perched on the hill above the village /see Turiec castle route/.

Take the blue-marked Zniev route (Znievska cyklocesta) to the village of Socovce. In this section the route corresponds to the ancient trade route that lead from the Ponitrie region through Kláštor pod Znievom to the ford near Svätá Mara /Socovce/. On the right side we spot the village of Turčiansky Svätý Ďur and its dominant feature- the Gothic Roman Catholic church of St.George. It was the Premonstratesian order that contributed to its erection at the beginning of the 14th century. In Socovce is situated the jewel of the Gothic architecture in Turiec. The Roman Catholic church of the Birth of Virgin Mary /also called Saint Mara/ was a significant religious centre of the Turiec and Orava regions in the times of establishment of the administrative structure of the Christian Church. In addition to that, the area near the church became the first medieval marketplace in the region as well as the seat of the archdiocese of the Turiec and Orava regions.

St. Mara (Svätá Mara)

Several reconstructions gave the Gothic church its present form. Initially, the one-aisled structure in the Romanesque style covered the same area as the north aisle of the modern two-aisled church. At the beginning of the 14th century a rectangular sanctuary and sacristy were built, the late-Gothic south aisle with cross-ribbed vault came from the 15th century. Later on, the northern aisle was covered by Prussian vault from the Baroque period. Madonna, found in the interior of the church of St. Mary, is one of the most precious remains of late-Gothic sculpture in Turiec. The late-Gothic stone baptistery is also worth mentioning. Štefan, the first known stonemason and constructor in Turiec contributed to the erection of the church. He had also worked on the reconstruction of the Zniev castle. As early as in the 12th century regular markets were held in the vicinity of church after Sunday services. The written document confirming it dated back to 1258.

Following the blue sign continue in a southerly direction through the village of Blažovce to the Jazernica village, where the Roman Catholic church of St. Barbara from 1517 can be admired. The presbytery has the six-part cross- ribbed vault. The field altar with late-Gothic paintings reflecting the scenes from the lives of St. Anna, Joachim and Barbara is of a significant importance. This is the end of the western part of the Turiec Gothic route since it is easily accessible from the railway communication in both directions. In the case of interest, there are some other remains of Gothic architecture in the surroundings of Jazernica village such as the Roman Catholic church of John the Baptist in the village of Ivančiná or the Roman Catholic church of Saints Kozma and Damian in Abramová village.