Šivetice – rotunda of St Margaret

History

   The rotunda was built in the second quarter of the 13th century, probably in the 1240s, perhaps from the foundation of the then village owners, the Zach family. It is believed that along with the smaller rotunda in nearby Prihradzany and the non-existent castle under the hill Muteň, it created a defense system, in addition to its original sacred function. In addition to location and visual contact of all three, the narrow windows of the building also show defensive function.
   Around 1270, the interior of the rotunda was decorated with romanesque frescoes. The pressure of the roof on the vault led to the first renovation in the first half of the 14th century. During it, a stone lantern was demolished on the roof of the building. In 1750, next to the rotunda, a baroque belfry was built and the perimeter walls were raised while replacing the roofing. Artistic, architectural and archaeological research took place in the 70’s and 80’s of the last century. In 2007, the renovation started, thanks to the support of the Ministry of Culture of the Slovak Republic.

Architecture

   The rotunda was situated on a hill above the village, surrounded by a cemetery. The building received a cylindrical form with an outside diameter of almost 14 meters, with façades decorated with pilaster strips, which created motifs of blind arcades around the perimeter of the rotunda. Inside the simple shape of the building, the division into a semi-circular apse and a semi-circular nave has been hidden, between which a transverse wall was built, creating a massive chancel arch. An conch of a apse rested on it from the east and a semi-cylindrical vault of the nave from the west. Both vaults having the same height formed a dome vault over the entire circular shape of the church. The diameter of the inner apse was 7.8 meters.
   In the southern part of the nave, a large semicircular, stepped portal with a profiled archivolt and a simple tympanum (although covered with figural paintings in the second half of the 14th century) was pierced, on the sides flanked by a pair of narrow, semi-circularly closed windows. The third window was in the west part of the nave, illuminating the western gallery, and the apse was lit by three windows of the same type. An interesting fact was the arched space above the apse, which according to more original theories had a special use as an observatory, although it was rather connected with the defense system. This is evidenced by slit holes with splayed internal recesses.
   Inside on the west side of the nave was the above mentioned gallery. It was supported by pillars with a round cross-section and ending with stone heads. The gallery was tied to the perimeter walls and covered with a conch. Its front part opened to the nave with semicircular arcades, and in contact with the northern part there were stairs leading to it.
   The interior of the rotunda was originally decorated with Romanesque wall polychromes from the end of the 13th century, forming two horizontal stripes running around the perimeter of the apse. In the upper lane there was the cycle about St. Margaret, while in the bottom seven basic scenes of the Christological cycle. At the beginning of the second half of the fourteenth century, further Gothic paintings were laid, but older Romanesque ones were respected.

Current state

   The rotunda in Šivetice is probably the largest building of this type in Central Europe, although the original height of the perimeter walls as a result of later Baroque interventions is not known (therefore it is not known whether there was any decorative frieze running through the upper part of the wall). There is no Romanesque gallery inside now, but the building has survived in very good condition, making it one of the most valuable medieval monuments in eastern Slovakia.

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bibliography:
Tajkov P., Sakrálna architektúra 11 – 13 storočia na juhovýchodnom Slovensku, Košice 2012.

Website apsida.sk, Šivetice.