Spišská Kapitula – St Martin’s Cathedral


   The construction of the church began in 1198, as a representative temple of the Spiš convent, perhaps in connection with the settling on Spiš of Coloman, son of king Andrew II, on the Spiš. The work was completed in the years 1245-1275, after the Tartar invasions and when the damages were repaired. In the years 1288 – 1289 subsequent damages caused the invasion of Cumans, and additional work on the expansion was carried out in the fourteenth century. In the second half of the fifteenth century, the church was transformed into a gothic style, among others, then the chancel was enlarged and from the south a mortuary chapel of the Zapolya family was added. In 1776, with the creation of the Spiš bishopric, the church was raised to the cathedral’s dignity and subjected to numerous late baroque alterations, which were later removed in 1873-1889.


   The oldest romanesque church was a three-nave pseudobasilica with two towers on the western side, a transept of equal height with the nave and chancel ended with a semicircular apse. The west façade was erected as a westwork with a representative inter-tower room equipped with its own stairs. A chapel was to be placed there for the royal family.
   During the destruction caused by the Tatar invasion, the south tower was again built, supplying it with two small arrowslits. The westwork was dismantled and transformed it into a matroneum (inner gallery). In the ground floor, the gallery was covered by six fields of rib vaults, supported by segmented pillars, two of which also carried the inner corners of the towers. Their presence in the ground floor was practically invisible, the towers had full, internal walls only on the level of the first floor. The impressive, large matroneum (almost 100 m2) opened to the nave with a wide arcade.
   In the 14th century, the need to increase the capacity of the nave led to the addition of two chapels to the space between the eastern wall of the transept and the north and south walls of the nave. These changes must have been accompanied by the transformation of the entire building’s roof.
   The great gothic reconstruction of 1462-1478 caused the removal of the eastern apse, replaced by a polygonal ended chancel. The space of the church was also unified by demolishing the eastern walls of the transept, as well as the walls between the central nave and the side chapels. Finally, the romanesque pseudobasilica changed into a hall church, consisting of a three-nave corpus, preceded from the west by a two-tower façade and a gothic chancel ended on three sides.
Only the western part of the church has a romanesque form, covered with a groin vault, with a choir supported by huge pillars and a semicircular main portal. The west façade is divided by arcaded friezes, and in the four-sided towers, covered with pyramidal helmets, a romanesque biforia are placed. The remaining parts of the church are gothic. The massive chancel is surrounded from outside by buttresses, between which there are pointed windows with traceries. The whole church is covered with a joint gable roof.
On the south side, the late gothic Zapolya Chapel is added to the church. It is built on a rectangular plan with four bays, ended on three sides, with a vestibule from the west and covered with a high gable roof. It has a relatively rich architectural detail from the outside, the windows are filled with traceries, and the buttresses are topped with pinnacles.
After entering the church, attention is drawn to the stone, late-romanesque sculpture of the Lion from the second half of the 13th century. In the chancel is set the main altar of St. Martin, composed of gothic fragments from 1470-1478. Other gothic, wooden altars are located in the side aisles. The church has also preserved fragments of a gothic polychrome from 1317 depicting a scene from the coronation of Hungarian king Charles I.
The church and small town are surrounded by fortifications. Their oldest fragment, dating back to the 14th century, is located on the west side, the others were erected in the 17th century and were adapted to powder guns.

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Tomaszewski A., Romańskie kościoły z emporami zachodnimi na obszarze Polski, Czech i Węgier, Wrocław 1974.

Website apsida.sk, Spišská Kapitula.
Website zabytkowekoscioly.net, Spiska Kapituła, katedra św. Marcina.