Svinica – St Anne’s Church


   The romanesque church was erected in the middle of the 12th century on the edge of a medieval village in the place of an older cemetery, part of which was used to build church’s foundations. The village was first recorded in written sources in 1269 as the property of the mighty Abov family. Perhaps in the last quarter of the 13th century, the church was rebuilt in the romanesque-gothic style. In the first half of the fourteenth century, the interior was decorated with murals. In the second half of the fourteenth century, a chapel was placed to the north wall of the nave. During this period, the original village was moved from the church area to the present, lower position. In the fifteenth century, the church underwent a wide late-gothic renovation, when the romanesque apse was replaced by a polygonal chancel. In addition, the tower was raised and modified for defense purposes, perhaps in the 16th century in relation with Turkish dangers. In the seventies of the last century, the church underwent a thorough reconstruction. The murals were restored in 1992-1993.


   The original Romanesque building had a rectangular nave and a semi-circular apse on the eastern side. The entrance to the church led from the south through a portal with a semi-circular tympanum, originally covered with colorful paintings. The interior was illuminated by small, splayed windows, closed at the top in a semicircular arch.
   At the end of the thirteenth century or the furthest at the beginning of the fourteenth century, the nave was expanded to the west, where a massive bell tower was added, but only of two floors. According to another interpretation, the tower was initially a free-standing building, perhaps of a defensive and residential nature, only in the second half of the fourteenth century attached to the church and transformed by inserting a gallery. The newer and older parts of the nave on the southern side were separated by a single buttress, the whole nave was illuminated by larger ogival windows.
   The entrance to the tower led from the ground floor from the west through an early Gothic stone portal with moulded jamb. At the beginning of the fracture of its arch, on the sides, two Romanesque stone heads were placed – masks made of shallow bas-relief. Inside, the tower received a stone gallery, which opened on the first floor with two pointed openings, between which was a semi-circular niche from the inside, probably a place for a separate altar. Through the above two openings you could get to the wooden gallery supported by beams embedded in the holes in the wall. The interior of the ground floor of the tower, also open to the nave but by one large arcade, was topped with a cross vault with heavy ribs with bevelled edges, mounted on corner consoles of a pyramidal shape. The ribs were fastened with a round boss with a plastic relief cross. The entrance to the first floor originally led from the outside through a simple portal with a semi-circular crown and through a roofed, steep staircase located at the southern facade of the tower. Its stone structure received outside two blind arcades, covered with paintings in the Middle Ages.
   In the second half of the 14th century a chapel was attached to the northern wall of the nave, while in the 15th century the tower was raised by four upper floors and adapted for defensive purposes. It was illuminated by narrow slit openings, except for the third floor, from the north equipped with a larger Gothic window with a quatrefoil tracery. At the end of the 15th century, the Romanesque apse was replaced by a polygonal, Gothic presbytery with buttresses attached from the outside. It was covered with a rib vault with two carved bosses: one with a hammer and a crescent, the other with a heraldic animal, wild boar. The ribs rested directly on the perimeter walls with an oblique undercut.

Current state

   The present appearance of this valuable monument is the result of several medieval stages of expansion, with the southern wall of the nave and a stone portal of a semicircular tympanum and a small window with a semicircular crown from the Romanesque period. The interior of the church has preserved valuable frescoes from the mid-fourteenth century in the Italian-Byzantine style, while the sgraffito decoration of the external façades, particularly clearly visible on the tower, dates from the sixteenth century. Among the painting decorations inside the church, the most impressive are the scenes of the tortures of the damned, for which the painter probably found examples in the illuminated manuscripts from around 1330, created for Hungarian magnates by Bologna masters.

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Mencl V., Stredoveká architektúra na Slovensku, Praha 1937.
Tajkov P., Sakrálna architektúra 11 – 13 storočia na juhovýchodnom Slovensku, Košice 2012.

Website, Svinica.