Nitra is the oldest Slovak city situated in western part of Slovakia with beautiful panorama of Zobor hill. Zobor belongs to Tribec mountains and it all to Carpathian mountains. The splendid scenery is multiplied by a meandring river of the same name and several little hills. The average year temperature is nearly 10° C with July being most warm with average temperatures about 20° C and January being most cold, the average slightly below zero. There are not so many towns endowed with such beautiful surroundings and such an ideal location as Nitra. They say that Nitra, like Rome, was founded on seven hills. Its name is connected with the beginnings of the history of Slovakia, with the names of Pribina, Svatopluk, Sts. Cyril and Methodius and even with the mention of the first Christian church on the territory of Slovakia and with the introduction of the old Slavonic alphabet.
Origin of name Nitra
The ancient form of the name of the town is Nitrava and that was later shortened to Nitra and seems to be of Slavic origin. Although, there are also another hypothesis:
1. The name is given by Quadi.
2. The name originates from germanic Niederau - low land.
3. The name is based on the sources of "nitre" that are nearby.
The first traces of settlements reaches back 30,000 year in the Paleolithic period. The oldest known ethnic were Scythian nomad tribes 7. - 4. century BC. In 4 - 2 century BC Celtics arriving in several waves in our territory. They knew pottery and smithery and their society was socialy devided. In 60 B.C. was defeated by Dacians. In 6. AD Danube river was crossed by Roman troops and shortly after Germanic Quadi penetrated southeast of present-day Slovakia. In the half of the first century they created kingdom with Vannius being the King. However, they were vassals to the Roman Empire. The first Slavs came here during Migration of Peoples at the turn of 5th and 6th centuries.
The Slavic history of Nitra started near the end of the 5th century when the first Slavs arrived here. As early as the first half of the 7th century, some western sources mention a state formation of Slavs, the Samo Empire. The Samo Empire was a predecessor of the subsequent state formation - the Great Moravian Empire, one of whose centres was Nitra. Precisely during the time of the Great Moravian Empire, the foundations of the renowened fame of ancient Christian Nitra were laid, as was recorded in extremely precious documents from the 9th century. One of these fortified settlements may have been the residence of Prince Pribina under whose rule Nitra was an important political, military and economic centre. Pribina showed great wisdom as a statesman and had great insight into European politics, when in about 828 A.D.,he, being a heathen himself, allowed the first Christian church in Nitra to be consecrated. This act was performed by Adalram, the Archbishop of Salzburg. The Pribina church is the first historically documented witness to the Christianity of the Slavs on the territory of Slovakia. This great events is mentioned in a document "Conversione Bagoariorum et Carantanorum" dating back to 870-871. Unfortunately, the exact site of the shrine has not as yet been located, but it is probable that the church did not stand on today's castle hill. In its later development, the Nitra principality was forcibly annexed by Mojmir to the Moravian principality in about 833, and a new state entity was formed which is mentioned in sources under the name Great Moravia. After the dethronement of Mojmir, Rastislav became the ruler of Great Moravia. His reign is connected with a very important event, namely the comming of the Byzantine missionaries, Constantine-Cyril and Methodius to Nitra, in 863.
Constantine-Cyril developed the first Slavic alphabet, which was called "glagolitic", he also translated the first liturgical texts into Old Slavonic. Methodius, whom Pope Hadrian II had authorized to be consecrated as a bishop in 870 and later as archbishop, was named as a papal legate for Pannonia and for the Upper Danubian Slavs.
Nitra was at the height of its fame during the reign of King Svatopluk . In one of the most valuable written documents for Slovak history, in the letter from Pope John VIII to Svatopluk, dating back to 880, "Indistriae tuae", Svatopluk is addressed as king and the Pope informs him of the appointment of Viching as bishop of Nitra, by then, probably had a municipal character, and it consisted of five fortified settlements and twenty communities where skiled craftsmen plied their trade.
Until the beginnig of the 14th century Nitra remained the resedential town of the principality that bordered the newly formed Hungarian monarchy. Also, during the Middle Ages it was the site of important historical events, and it was often plundered by various armies. The Benedictines took up the organization of ecclesiastical life, their monastery of St. Hyppolite on the slope of Zobor hill was the oldest in Slovakia.
In 1248 the ruler Bela IV, in appreciation for protection from the Tartars, promoted Nitra to the status of free-royal town with privileges similar to those of Székesfehérvár.
The medieval Nitra was divided into the Upper Town and Lower Town, the latter being further divided into several separate parts, each with its own alderman and local seals. Four new independent parishes came into being in connection with the churches of St. Michael in the square Na vrsku, St. James in the central square, St.Stephen in Parovce, and Our Lady on the Calvary hill.
The Nitra castle on the rock has always had a strategic importance because it was a natural fort standing above a meander of the river Nitra. It was already well fortified in 13th century which enabled it to withstand a raid by the Tatars. The longest preserved building is the Romanesque church of St. Emeram. The dominant features of the castle area are the cathedral, the bishop`s palace and the massive fortification of the jutting bastions. The buildings were rebuild several times and the present shape of the castle basically dates from the end of the 17th century when it was fortified following battles with the Turks.
Nitra castle is the most precious heritage left to Nitra by its ancestors and dominates the panorama of the city. Since 1981 the castle has been ranked National Cultural Monument. It is situated on a small hill above the level of the city and unlike most of Slovak castles is still fully functional. In the Bishop´s Palace is the office and the residence of the bishop and serves as a seat of archeological department too.
During its existence the castle was several times strongly damaged and consecutively rebuilt and its current appearance has acquired in 17th century. The whole castle complex consists of the castle itself and primarily baroque styled buildings in so-called Upper town. The oldest preserved part is Romanesque church of St. Emmeram dating back to 11th century, however the castle hill was settled even earlier. After massive damages to the castle, caused by Matus Cak of Trencin, was built new Upper church finished as late as in 1355. This Cathedral was completed by bishop Jan Telegdy who built in 1621 - 1642 Lower church and these three churches are interconnected.
Next to the Cathedral is two-floor Bishop´s palace which was found in the Middle Ages and rebuilt in 18th century. The Palace is the office and the residence of the bishop.
The castle is fortificated by massive walls, which also underwent a number of reconstructions. The first walls underwent a number of reconstructions. The first walls seem to have been done during the period of Great Moravia and later several times reconstructed. An extensive works were carried out from 15th to 17th century owing to development and use of fire-arms and defensive system was modified. Also the castle was damaged several times during anti-Turks wars and revolts. Present appearance has been obtained in 17th century after the Turks were expelled from Nitra in 1664 and star-shaped baroque fortification with bastions was built. There is one south-oriented entrance gate in the castle.
In 18th century a boom in building occured and several baroque buildings were built which are up to this day precious architectural monuments.
Pribina - (800? - 860/861) The first ever known Slavic ruler - duke coming from Slovakia. He seated in Nitra and built the first church in Slovakia. After he was forced to flee from Nitra, he was baptised in Traismauer - today´s Austria. Then he shortly stayed at Bulgars and Croatians. In 840 king Louis The German granted to Pribina a part of his territory called Pannonia. Pribina ruled as a duke here and built a dosen new churches.
Koceľ - (? - 876) - Pribina´s son, born in Nitra. After Pribina´s death he ruled in Pannonia principality. He was zealous supporter spreading Slavic liturgy.
Svätopluk - (? - 894) - When Rastislao ruled over Great Moravia he was apanage duke in Nitra, in chronicles regnum Zuentibaldi. Later he became king of the whole Great Moravia and during his reign was GM of the largest territory.
sts. Cyril a Methodius - They are co-patrons of Europe along with St. Benedict of Nursia. A part of the relics of St. Cyril are kept in Nitra castle.
st. Gorazd - born close to Nitra in Močenok. He was a Great moravian priest and Methodius appointed him to be successor at teaching young clergymen. Later he was expelled from GM with his disciples and his next steps are not known.
st. Svorad-Andrej - (? - 1032) - a hermit, known also as St. Andrew Zoerard. Svorad might come from Liptov (a northern part of Slovakia) in benedictine monastery in Zobor and adopted name Andrej. He became a hermit living near Zobore monastery. There is a small cave at the foot of Zobor hill above former monastery which is called Svorad´s cave. The famous hermit might live here.
st. Benedikt - (? - 1043) - a monk of Zobor monastery and follower of Svorad. Svorad and Benedikt were canonized in 1083 as the first saints of Hungarian kingdom during the reign of King Ladislao I.
Maurus (1001 - 1070) - born probably in Nitra. He was abbot in Pannonhalma monastery and in 1042 became bishop in Pécs. He is the author of the first hungarian legend - Legend of Svorad and Benedikt.
In time of creating Hungarian kingdom Nitra turned to be an administrative center of Nitra zhupa (county) and first men at the head between 1029 - 1111 were:
Bukven of house of Poznan, Poznan was a famous Slovak family
Zachariáš Mošóci - Mošovský - Bishop in Nitra in 1582 - 1587. He was one of the most educated people of his era. He is the author, along with Pécs bishop Mikuláš Telegdy, of Hungarian body of laws, published in 1584.
Ján Telegdy - eminent Bishop in Nitra (1611 - 1644) in 17th century . Since Bishops in the previous era applied for the townsfolk new duties and charges, took care of confirming royal privileges to the town at Emperor Ferdinand II and regulated relations between burghers and Bishopric. He also gave massive finances into building. In those years Bishop´s Palace, Middle Church with spire was built. Also he built a new church with a monastery for Franciscans in 1630.
Juraj Pohronec Selepčéni - (1595 - 1685), being born in Slepčany close to Nitra. Bishop and zhupan of Nitra and Hungarian Chancelor (1644 - 1666). In 1666 he became Archbishop of Esztergom. He ranked among the most prominent people in then Hungary.
Alexander Rudnaj - (1760 - 1831), studied in Nitra, too. He was archbishop in Esztergom (1819-31). The foundation stone of the present building in Esztergom was laid by Alexander Rudnay. He always pointed out he is Slovak, supported publishing Slovak books and was a prominent member of Slovak Society of Scholars (see below).
Since the half of 18. century many Slovak intellectuals had worked in Nitra and in 1792 the third branch of Slovenské učené tovarišstvo (Slovak Society of Scholars) came into existence in Nitra. They supported slovak national, cultural and economic revival and propagated slovak literature. Head of Society was Anton Bernolak. At the turn of 18. and 19. centuries worked for Society about 40 members. Some of them were:
Anton Ďateľ, Jozef Nejedlý, Alexander Alagovič, bishop František Hábel, later bishops František Fuchs, Jozef Vurum, officer Martin Bielik etc.
F. A. Lang - pharmacist in Nitra in 1832 - 1852. For his scientific research and publications was a member of many professional associations abroad. In 1848 he launched issuing of the first pharmaceutical periodical in Hungarian Kingdom called Lekárnické listy - Letters on Pharmacy.
Dr. Ľudovít Okánik - the first Nitra zhupan after Czechoslovakia came into existence, being appointed in 1919 by Minister dr. Vavro Šrobár.
Dr. Ján Jesenský - last Nitra zhupan, 1923 - 1928, famous Slovak poet. In 1928 zhupa administrative system was abolished.
Karol Cobori - a long-time mayor of Nitra between WWI and WWII
Edmund Massanyi - (1907 - 1966), a famous painter born and worked in Nitra. He studied in Prague, Vienna and Munich. He created a great deal of fresco painting in the churches over Slovakia and worked as an illustrator and portraitist as well.
Julius Bartfay - (1888 - 1979), great sculptor having lived in Nitra. Founder of Slovak sculptor.
Benedictine monastery of St. Hyppolite in Zobor
At the foot of Zobor hill still lies in ruins former monastery. Its foundation is not known yet. It is believed that the origin dates back in the 9th century in the great moravian period, but at the end of the 10th century stood at the latest. Whenever built, it is the oldest monastery in Slovakia.
In Zobor monastery lived monks ruled by an abbot. The benedictines are an agricultural order which teach people living near their possesions to proggresive farming. They planted vineyards on Zobor and lay the foundations to winegrowing and viniculture which became famous later in Nitra. Abbey property stretched discontinuitly over west present-day Slovakia. The monastery was involved in "Zoborské listiny", Zobor documents, the oldest and the most precious well-preserved documents of Slovakia. They were written in 1111 and 1113 and now are kept in the Castle. The first document solves a dispute between the monastery and royal collectors taxes about ownership of the tolls. The latter document of 1113 contains the inventory of the Zobor abbey and describes more than 150 villages. The monastery provided shelter for the marchents and their goods which were safe here during the night, before going on. The monks had lived here until 1468 when administrator of the see Ján Vitéz took over the monastery and asked the king Matthias Corvinus to revert to the Pope to confirm this state. The Pope Paul II issued the Bull, on 17 September 1468, and handed over the possesions of the monastery to the See. In 1471 the building was destroyed by Polish troops of Kazimír.
Bishop Blažej Jaklin built a new monastery on the same place in 1692 - 1695 for the Camaldolese Order. Beside praying and manual labour, the monks dealt with the trade and the science. Philologian, the author of Latin-Slovak dictionary P. Romuald Hadbavný worked here. The monastery served as the only one noviciate for the Camaldolese order in Hungarian Kingdom. In 1782, the Emperor Joseph II abolished numerous monasteries and "Zobor" was among them. The building later served to several purposes. The cloth manufactory had worked here since 1786. However, a couple of years later turned bankrupt. In 1850 the building was bought by Bishop Roškováni. As the building was set in agreeable ambient conditions, Bishop constituted here the facility for people with lungs diseases which was visited by the guests even from Balkan. The tavern here was a famous place for the trips. In 1930´s the mansard roof was built and on July 1, 1953 the sanatory was opened.
The orders in Nitra
Order - (lat. Ordo) - a community of persons living in seclusion from the world, under religious vows and subject to a fixed rule, as monks, friars, nuns, or in general as religious. A specific offshoot of the orders were the Military Orders.
Benedictines - Ordo Sancti Benedicti - The Benedictine Order is the oldest in western Europe and comprises monks living under the Rule of St. Benedict. St. Benedict of Nursia, is the founder of western monasticism, born at Nursia, in 480, died at Monte Cassino, 543. He founded the celebrated Abbey of Monte Cassino in 529, which eventually become the centre whence his Rule and institute spread. They seated in Nitra between 9th or 10th century to 1470.
Camaldolese - Camaldulensians - A joint order of hermits and cenobites, founded by St. Romuald (951 - 1027) at the beginning of the eleventh century. About 1012, after having founded or reformed nearly a hundred unconnected monasteries and hermitages, St. Romuald arrived in the Diocese of Arezzo in Tuscony, seeking place for a new hermitage. There the famous hermitage afterwards known as Campus Maldoli or Camaldoli was built. The order officially come into existence when the Bull "Nulli fidelium", of Alexander II, in 1072 was issued. The Camaldolese Order had worked in Nitra in Zobor monastery from 1695 to 1782.
Franciscans - a mendicant order founded by St. Francis of Assisi in 1209. They appeared in Nitra in 1230 or 1238 having their monastery at the edge of then town until 1552, when their monastery was destroyed by the Turks. The Franciscans came back in the town in 1630 and new monastery and church built Bishop Telegdy for them which are still standing.
Piarists - called also Clerks Regular of the Pious Schools, Scolopli, Escolapios, Poor Clerks of the Mother of God, and the Pauline Congregation, a religious order founded in Rome in 1597 by St. Joseph Calasanctius. The Piarists have won distinction in the sphere of education. Their first care is to provide education. They had a province in Hungary and in 1698 they came from Prievidza in Nitra and established a higher Catholic Grammar school. Later a church was built and is still one of the landmarks of the town.
Nazarenes - Spanish order, founded by Ján Varela in 1750. There were called to Nitra in 1766 from Spain by Bishop Gustíni who built a monastery for them at the church on Marian hill to look after the church and people traveling here regularly for pilgramage. One year later the monks left, because the order was not confirmed neither by the pope nor by the monarch and the Nazarenes were abolished by a royal decree.
Vincentians - Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul (1580 - 1660). A congregation of women with simple vows, founded in 1633 and devoted to corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Their full title is Sisters or Daughters of Charity (the founder preferred the latter term), Servants of the Sick Poor. The term "of St. Vincent de Paul" has been added to distinguish them form several communities of Sisters of Charity, animated with a similar spirit, among whom they rank in priority of origin and greatness of numbers. They were called to Nitra by Bishop Palúcky on September 9, 1861 from Graz. Their mission were upbringing of girls and established the schools of all levels for girls here. A church for them was built in the half of the 19th century in th centre of the town.
Premonstratensian Canons - (Canonici Regulares Prémonstratenses). Founded in 1120 by St. Norbert at Prémontré, near Laon, France. At first they were not bound by any fixed rule, charity being the bond of their union, and the example of their founder their rule of life. They appeared in Nitra in 1939.
In the 9th century there was not a big difference between a farmer and a craftsman. However, some of the specialised craftsmen such as arms manufactures or jewellers may have worked in major fortified settlements, where was demand after their products. Beside them, pottery, glass makers, smiths and stonemasonry was in existence.
In the 12th century Nitra had flourishing farming and was a prominent market place, where the craftsmen sold their goods in regular markets.
In the 13th century Nitra had a municipal spirit and September 2, 1248 was chartered. This enabled even deeper development of crafts and trade.
However, in 14th century Nitra was several times plundered by various troops and the situation in the town only slowly was getting back to the track. As for the crafts, smiths, millers, butchers, weavers, furriers, shoemakers and tailors manufactured their goods there. Craftsmen had respect in the town and since the second half of the 14th century some of them had been appeared in the town council.
In the times of the Turk wars Nitra became antiturkish fortility and demand after products of local craftsmen increased remarkably, because of the presence of the soldier. An another important part of their goods was sold at weekly markets and four seasonal fairs. In this era craftsmen got started to join in the guilds.
Guild - associations of the craftsmen of one craft in one town. Their operation was run by articles which determined scope of production and trade as much as quality, quantity of products and education of apprentices. The guilds appeared in Europe at the beginning of the 14th century.
The first guild in Nitra was that of shoemakers, in 1583, and followed in
1585 - smiths, locksmiths and butchers
1593 - buttonmakers
1630 - furriers
Until the end of 17th century there were thirteen guilds in Nitra.
In the 18th century the following guilds worked in Nitra :
those connected to farming - millers, bakers, butchers
for household - stonemasons, smiths, locksmiths, jointers, pottery
for cloathing - weavers, blousemakers, tailors, furriers, buttonmakers, shoemakers, ropemakers, bootmakers and hatmakers.
The rest of the crafts (about 40 in Nitra), having just a few members, associated in joint guilds.
The crafts in the Middle Ages were surprisingly specialised and there were 150 - 220 crafts in existence. The master worked in his workshop with journymen and apprentices and sold their goods predominantly at the markets. Only a few of them a shop of their own possesed. The most profitable craft was butchery.
In the19th century the guilds fell into a deep crisis. Since the guilds fixed the costs and quantity of the products and disqualified any competition, they became the brake of the progress. In 1872 the guilds were abolished. The craftsmen established various manufacturing corporations to protect themselves against those not being corporated and craftsmen from countryside and at the same time took care of the sick, the old and the youth. Nitra Industrial Corporation was founded in 1885.
Town Nitra - www.nitra.sk