Levoca – St James’ Church


   The construction of the church on the site of the older, 13th-century building, was started during the reign of the Hungarian king Charles I (1307-1342), and completed before 1370. It is known that today’s sacristy is founded on foundations from the 13th century. In 1474, king Matthias Corvinus visited Levoca, and it was probably on this occasion that a southern porch with a chapel called the Oratory of Corvinus was established. After this visit, the church was intensively equipped with more altars, both main and lateral. This was due to the economic development of the city and its income, as well as successive parish priests, often eminent humanists, who tried hard to make their temple one of the best in Europe.
The church successfully survived two city fires in the 16th century, and the Reformation did not cause any serious damage to its interior. In the years 1706-1710, two religions managed the church jointly, and from 1710 to the present day only Catholics. In the eighteenth century, the great fire of Levoča penetrated the three southern entrances inside, but did not cause any major damages. After this event, however, it was decided to wall the entrances to the church, except one. In the years 1852-1857 a new tower was built and two chapels next to it. In 1923, during the next fire, the roof of the church burnt down. This forced renovation, which lasted until the 1930s. The re-work was initiated after the Second World War.


   The church is a three-aisle hall structure with a short, pentagonal chancel. The length of the church is 49,5 meters, width 22 meters and the height of the central nave is 22 meters. Outside, the church is clasped with buttresses and covered with a gable roof over the nave and chancel, while the side aisles are covered with mono-pitched roofs. To the church adheres from the north the sacristy and the chapel of St. George. On both sides are added porches with Gothic portals. The northern portal from 1380 is one of the best examples of Gothic stonework in Slovakia, and the southern portal is also interesting. The interior of the church is covered with rib vaults supported on four-sided pillars, while the porch has been stellar and net vaulted.

Current state

   Much of the late Gothic equipment has survived in the church, and a set of Gothic polychromy from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries has been preserved on the walls. Particularly noteworthy is the altar of St. Jacob set in the presbytery,  made of lime-tree in 1508-10 in the workshop of Master Paul of Levoca. This is supposedly the highest altar in the world, 18,62 meters high. Next to the north aisle is the altar of St. Peter and Paul from the end of the fifteenth century, and right behind it, the altar of Our Lady of the Snow founded by four Jagiellon brothers who met here in 1494. In the altar, the Polish Eagle, placed in the predella, is noteworthy. At the pillar between the naves is set the altar of St. Nicholas, made in 1507 in the workshop of Master Paul. Near the presbytery, there is the altar of St. Catherine, in whose predella there is a Gothic triptych from 1400, the oldest in Slovakia example of blackboard painting. An interesting monument is a late Gothic senatorial bench from 1494, filling the whole space under the choir, probably made on the occasion of the congress of four Jagiellonian brothers.

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Website zabytkowekoscioly.net, Lewocza, Lewocza, kościół św. Jakuba.
Website wikipedia.org, Kościół św. Jakuba w Lewoczy.