Mining Town of Banská Štiavnica (World Heritage)

By | October 27, 2021

Banská Štiavnica was founded by German miners in the 13th century and was an important center for gold and silver mining. Gunpowder was used here for the first time in the construction of tunnels in the 17th century, and a hundred years later steam engines drove the water pumps. The Mining Academy, founded in 1763, was the first university of its kind in the world.

Mining town of Banská Štiavnica: facts

Official title: Mining town of Banská Štiavnica (Schemnitz)
Cultural monument: City monument with an irregular settlement in the form of a Ypsilon with the center on Trinity Square, including monuments such as the Old Castle, a parish church converted into a fortress, the New Castle on Frauenberg, another fortress, St. Catherine Church, “the Slovak”, so called, since the preaching in Slovak has also been used since 1658, the former Dominican church, Church of the Assumption of Mary, the town hall, the chamber courtyard, the former seat of the mining academy, the former mining court, knocking tower, open-air mining museum
Continent: Europe
Country: Slovak Republic
Location: Banská Štiavnica
Appointment: 1993
Meaning: once a major European center for gold and silver mining

Mining town of Banská Štiavnica: history

1238 Mining and city rights
1242 German miners move in
around 1310 Construction of the hospital church of St. Elisabeth in the poor district
1442-43 Damage from an earthquake and damage as a result of the power struggle for the Hungarian crown
1488-91 Construction of the single-nave St. Katharinen Church with late Gothic cross vaults
15./16. Century Stagnation of mine production
1500 Consecration of St. Catherine’s Church
1564 Baroque style of the city gates
1564-71 Construction of the New Palace in the Renaissance style
1681 Construction of the knocking tower
1735 Based on a decree by Maria Theresa, the Mining Academy was founded, the first university of its kind in the world
1806 Redesign of the Dominican Church in the Empire style
1950 Monument protection for the city complex
1994 final end to mining

From the call of gold

Exactly at ten o’clock the “knocker” sounds loud knocks on a wooden board when the knocking tower is put into operation for tourists from spring to autumn. Once upon a time, the unmistakable tones woke the miners to work early in the morning. The Celts had already found gold and silver around today’s Banská Štiavnica, known for centuries as Schemnitz, from which they minted coins. The high-yield ore veins are said to have reached to the surface of the earth. According to legend, a salamander dotted with gold and silver is said to have helped track down these treasures of the earth. Every year at the end of September this legend is commemorated with the Salamander Festival, an impressive open-air spectacle: The nightly procession through the old town is led by the shepherd with the “local” amphibian in hand. He is followed by the miners and the keepers of treasure, the goblins and dwarves. This parade has a long tradition and was brought into being by students who also celebrated with it the first entry into the shaft and the farewell to the graduates of the mining academy whose existence is due to the Empress Maria Theresa.

At the beginning of the 12th century the ore veins near the surface were mined. The news of the presumed rich gold and silver reserves in the depths attracted Saxon miners who had already gained a lot of experience in underground mining in the local Ore Mountains. The appointment as a royal mountain town was associated with privileges for Schemnitz: The town administered itself, its citizens were free to choose their religion and exercised their own jurisdiction. Thanks to the most modern mining technology at the time, the city developed into the most important European mining center and the third largest city in the country at the end of the Middle Ages. It was from here that the new mining methods began their triumphal march around the world: In 1627, gunpowder was used in the pits for the first time for peaceful purposes. The miners’ four-wheeled transport wagons, called “dogs”, were also devised in Schemnitz mines. Now the ore-containing rocks no longer needed to be carried in boxes on the back. A sophisticated system of artificial water reservoirs to drive the pumps and machines was built around the city. Over twenty of these ponds are still preserved.

Banská Štiavnica is like a gigantic amphitheater: the buildings nestle like terraces on the slopes of the Schemnitz Heights. The narrow valley location encouraged builders to refine their architecture. In the 19th century the ore deposits were exhausted and the city sank into provinciality. Unaffected by modern traffic routes, the historic cityscape has been almost completely preserved. A high path leads around the city with ever new views of the Kalvarienberg, the old and the new castle. The old castle on the Glanzenberg was transformed from a Romanesque basilica into a fortress in the time of threatened Turkish attacks. The new castle on the opposite hill served as a guard castle after the renovation. Today the gleaming white festival is a popular photo opportunity. The town hall clock still understands.

Two kilometers south of the city, below the Klingersee, the open-air mining museum is a reminder of what was once the city’s most important source of income. In the 16th to 17th centuries, miners penetrated the Andreas and Bartholomäus shafts to a depth of over 400 meters in order to mine the precious ore. Dressed in miner’s outfit, today’s visitors curiously descend into the dark to sniff a little miner’s air for themselves underground. Above days, the Sophien winding tower and a last winder with a water column drive are a reminder of the heyday of mining, which at the end of the 19th century had become more and more unprofitable.

Mining Town of Banská Štiavnica (World Heritage)