According to the documents of archbishop Thomas of Esztergom, in 1311, the consent for the construction of a defensive church in the village of Zolná was given to Bychor and Zubrat, sons of Zvolen zupan Tobias. However, the building is older, and experts date it from 1260-1280. The document is probably related to a large reconstruction of the church, which dates back to 1310-1320. In the period 1360-1390, the interior of the church was decorated with frescoes, and others were painted at the beginning of the 16th century. Thanks to the unique inscription, it is known that a certain Tomáš, Mikuláš and Ján together with their colleagues participated in the works.
During the Reformation the temple passed into the hands of Protestants, Catholics regained it in 1709. In the sixteenth century, the chancel was reinforced in the corners with buttresses, and the entire building was surrounded by a stone wall. At the end of the 17th century, a wooden matroneum was built in the western part of the nave, and the interior was equipped with baroque furnitures. In 1773, the church underwent further baroque adaptations.
At the end of World War II temple suffered serious damages, when the artillery fire hit the southern wall of the nave and destroyed the vault of vestry. In the 1970s the church was completely renovated, the buttresses were removed and the medieval frescoes were restored. Archaeological research was carried out in 1993, and in 2011 a comprehensive renovation of the building began.
The original church from the 13th century was erected as an aisleless building with a polygonal chancel on the eastern side and a four-sided tower on the west. In the years 1310-1320 the nave was raised, the presbytery was vaulted and a sacristy was erected on the north side. The church’s façades were then painted white and decorated with red squares.
The church received an intermediate form between the Romanesque and the Gothic period. The latter was represented by a polygonal chancel, rib vaults of the interior, fastened in the sacristy with a decorative boss, ogival portals and a large window with a tracery in the southern wall of the nave. On the other hand, the Romanesque character was characterized by narrow windows with semicircular finials and minimalist buttresses in the bends of the chancel wall, although they no longer had the classic cylindrical shape, but Gothic, polygonal.
The interior of the church was covered with colorful polychromes in a style with visible Byzantine influences. The largest painting on the northern wall of the nave consisted of the Passion cycle, while St. Valentine and St. Nicholas were placed at chancel arch. In the lower part of the northern wall of the nave there was also added a small representation of St. George, reportedly serving as a trial painting for the founders, before deciding to hire an artist. Apart from the dragon, it also shows a cave with two more dragons and a Norman shield, no longer used in 14th-century Europe.
St. Matthew’s church is today a picturesquely situated, very valuable monument from the transitional Romanesque-Gothic period, fortunately devoid of major early modern modifications. Inside, there are medieval paintings on the northern wall of the nave and on the chancel arch, a stone piscina in the northern wall of the sacristy, and a Gothic bell with an inscription from 1514 in the tower. Due to recent renovation works, the original colors of the external façades of the church have been restored.
Website apsida.sk, Zolná.