Sazdice – St Nicholas’ Church

History

   The village of Sazdice (Hungarian: Százd) was first recorded in documents in 1261. The small, early-Gothic church located in it was built around 1330. The owners of the village in the fourteenth century were important figures in the royal court: the court physician of Charles I of Hungary named Gekmin, probably from Wallonia, then the royal physician of Louis I the Great and the financier Jacob Saracén from Italy. Probably to one of them can be attributed the initiative of decorating the interior of the building with frescoes. This was done in the 70s of the 14th century by an unknown Italian artist, distinguished by very high artistry. Then, at the end of the 15th century, the church was slightly rebuilt in the late Gothic style, but the paintings may not have been completed.
   Around 1700 the church was baroqueized, probably then the original chancel vault was destroyed and replaced with a new one. The renovation of the interior fittings was carried out in the years 1865 – 1866. In 1885 the roof truss was replaced, but in 1897 the church was closed due to another renovation. During it, medieval polychromes were discovered, which were later restored, and a gallery was installed inside. Despite renovation works, the condition of the building deteriorated significantly in the following years. In 1927, an initiative was taken to expand the church, fortunately this project was not implemented, and only in 1932, a small porch was placed on the west side. The renovation of the church was also carried out in the years 1988-1993, and in the years 2000-2007 the medieval frescoes were restored.

Architecture

   The church was built on the slopes of a hill descending towards the east, where the residential buildings of the village were located along the north-south route. It was built as a small, aisleless building with a square chancel on the eastern side, narrower and lower than the nave, to which a sacristy was attached from the northern side. The latter received quite impressive dimensions for such a small church. Erratic stones were used as a building material, and the corners were reinforced with ashlar.
  
The entrance to the church was placed in the southern wall of the nave, in a pointed, Gothic portal with only the upper part moulded. The interior of the church was illuminated by small, ogival, lancet windows with splays on both sides, slightly larger and decorated with trefoils only in the chancel. Inside, the nave was covered with a flat, wooden ceiling, while the chancel and sacristy were crowned with cross-rib vaults. In addition, sedilia were placed in the southern wall of the chancel, embedded in a semicircular niche, the inner surface of which was decorated with a figural painting. In the eastern wall of the chancel there was a stone niche in the shape of a pointed recess filled with a trefoil tracery in the archivolt.

   The interior of the church was covered with wall paintings. At the time of the domination of the Gothic style, the Italian artist already brought to them elements of the rising Renaissance. The artist used the fresco technique of precise, geometric sketches before painting. Their exceptional qualities were evidenced by the originality of the concepts of the shown scenes, which were not, as was most often the case in medieval wall painting, taken from a template, but had original, unique motifs.

Current state

   The church in Sazdice is one of the best preserved rural Gothic buildings in Slovakia. It has survived practically unchanged with all the window jambs, the entrance portal, the vault in the sacristy as well as the recesses of the sedila and the pastophorium in the presbytery. The early modern transformations were limited to the western porch, turret on the ridge of the roof and the rebuilt vault in the presbytery. A very valuable example of wall painting of an exceptionally high artistic level have partially survived. The frescoes are best preserved on the southern and eastern wall of the chancel and on the chancel arch. The church regained its former splendor after the renovation carried out in the 21st century.

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bibliography:
Podolinský Š., Gotické kostoly, Bratislava 2010.
Slovensko. Ilustrovaná encyklopédia pamiatok, red. P.Kresánek, Bratislava 2020.
Žažová H., Kostol sv. Mikuláša biskupa v Sazdiciach vo svetle archívnych prameňov, „Dějiny staveb”, Plzeň 2012.